Salt Lake, UT: Food truck frenzy – Mobile restaurants become increasingly popular in Utah

By Caroline Connolly  | Fox 13
SALT LAKE CITY — In the heart of Sugar House, along 2100 South, shops and restaurants are always bringing in traffic. But, lately, customers have been turning off the main drag and stopping just down the road, where every Monday they can find a market that is only getting bigger.

“The food truck business, if you’re not doing well, you can move. A brick and mortar, you’re stuck there,” said Kym Taylor, who started a food truck with her husband last year.

The couple’s truck, A Guy and His Wife Grilled Cheese, is one of dozens that will be parked in Sugarmont Plaza every Monday this summer. It’s an event organized by the new Food Truck League, which helps establish and promote food truck events around the state.

“I actually was the manager of Holladay Oil, making real good money,” Taylor said. “But I would never go back to that.”

While food trucks have come and gone in the state over the last decade, they have taken off in recent years. Currently, 80 trucks are permitted to operate in Salt Lake County. Utah County comes in at a close second with 73. The next highest is Davis County, which has 15.

“When we started a year ago, the Waffle Wagon, there was like 5 or 6. And now, we’re up to 17,” said Jordan Keller, manager of the Waffle Wagon in Davis County.

The appeal of the industry stems, in part, from the cost. Building a food truck can range in price from $20,000 to upward of $90,000–depending on how it’s made. Outside of that, the overhead is minimal, according to business owners.

“I think it’s a beautiful business model because it’s simple,” said Denice Relyea, who co-owns the World’s Best Corndogs.

She and her husband operate one of their two food trucks out of an old Hostess truck. Because of their success, thus far, they plan to open a new one soon.

“I can’t keep up,” Reylea said. “It’s been crazy.”

The success of the trucks took other restaurants by surprise, initially, according to the Utah Restaurant Association. However, over time, that concern has disappeared. Due to regulations and friendly competition, both parts of the industry have done well.

“I mean, there’s plenty of room in the food industry for everyone,” said president Melva Sine. “They’re considerate of where they’re parking their trucks, and they’re going to places where restaurants aren’t.”

But even in areas where restaurants are located, the food truck business has proven to be helpful.

“It’s beneficial to everybody, all the businesses here,” said Austin Dombrosky, a server at the Annex.

Due to the success of the Food Truck League’s first event, area restaurants saw an overflow of customers who didn’t feel like waiting in line at the trucks.

“I think it’s always better to have more options than fewer options when it comes to dining out,” said Rich Vosepka, who works at the Wasatch Brew Pub.

The options within the truck world include dessert, barbecue, burgers and waffles–just to name a few. The range of menus has allowed new trucks to continually pop up in the market and excel.

About a year ago, a young couple from Sandy noticed the popularity and decided to get involved.

“I’ve had lots of different ideas,” said Landan Gollaher.

In March 2014, Gollaher and his wife launched the French Toast food truck, The Matterhorn.

“He’s not really much of a cook,” said Corin Gollaher. “So, it was like, ‘What can you make that you won’t ruin each time?’ It actually turned out pretty good.”

Their first year of business involved a large investment on a personal and professional level. They spent approximately $20,000 to buy and renovate a used truck. As they received a crash course in the county permitting process, the couple was also busy welcoming two baby boys into their family.

“There’s no such thing as easy money. You’ve got to work hard,” the couple said. “There’s nothing easy.”

With a steady following on social media and at events, Gollaher just purchased his second truck. While it still requires substantial work, he hopes to open it in the next few months. This time, offering lunch and dinner fare.

“It’s all up here,” Gollaher said, pointing to his head. “It just has to make its way to the slate.”

None of the restaurants FOX 13 News spoke with wanted to share how much money their trucks made annually. However, most were finding enough success, like the Gollahers, to launch more trucks. With the ability to open anywhere, any hour, the family has found that they can almost always gain business.

“This is what we do for our livelihood,” Gollaher said. “This is how we raise our kids. This is how we pay the bills.”