As the food truck scene’s prominence on Thayer Street continues to grow, so does the dialogue among truck owners and Thayer restauranteurs as they seek to find their niche.
Frustration among food truck owners has cropped up as some owners have accused other trucks of parking illegally or in a manner that is discourteous to Thayer restaurants – specifically, parking near or north of Waterman Street, according to tweets reported in BlogDailyHerald. Some managers of restaurants near the intersection of Thayer and Waterman streets voiced concerns that trucks sometimes park illegally, in addition to siphoning off business while paying no rent. But other restaurant owners said trucks have not posed a problem.
According to some food truck owners, reminders about where to park are aimed at strengthening the food truck community.
“We’re a community – bad behavior reflects on all of us,” Plouf Plouf Gastronomie tweeted Nov. 15. Plouf Plouf owner Mario Molliere said the newer food trucks “park illegally everywhere,” even in places where private vehicles cannot park. Molliere added that his concerns stem from complaints received from nearby restaurants as well as situations in which Providence Police Department officers have told trucks to park elsewhere.
Rocket Fine Street Food employees have voiced their concerns on Twitter as well. The food truck tweeted at fellow truck, Radish, Nov. 11: “Respect the restaurants, keep your distance.” Co-owner of Rocket Patricia Natter said tweets between the trucks are the owners “watching out for each other.”
Natter added that Rocket supports other trucks through Twitter as well. “We retweet a lot of the other trucks’ tweets. We always say, when we’re in a location, the other trucks that are with us,” she said.
But some truck owners said they have experienced no difficulties with rival trucks.
“I don’t know of any competition between food trucks. And it would be great to see every entrepreneur succeed,” wrote Hyun Kim ’01, co-owner of the Mama Kim’s food truck, in an email to The Herald.
Food trucks, or “peddlers,” as labeled by the code of ordinances set by city officials, have certain location regulations. Food trucks can only remain in the same place on public property for 60 minutes at a time. They may not park in areas labeled as “no parking,” metered parking spaces or “parking space defined by painted lines,” according to Article IX of the Providence Code of Ordinances. Food trucks also cannot park within 300 feet of entertainment venues – specifically defined as the Providence Performing Arts Center and the Dunkin’ Donuts Center – when an event is being held.
Though keeping distance between food trucks and restaurants is not mentioned in the ordinances, to some, this is an unwritten rule. “To me, it’s common sense. You don’t park your truck right in front of a restaurant,” Natter said.
Regardless of how close the trucks park to Thayer restaurants, “I’m sure some restaurant owners aren’t happy about it,” said owner of food truck ClamJammers Brant Santos, adding that restaurants likely lose business to trucks. “They pay really big rent on Thayer Street,” he added.
Restaurant managers near the area on Thayer where food trucks tend to park offered varied opinions on trucks parking in the area.
Better Burger Company manager Natalie Sussikis said that food truck parking has been an ongoing issue for the business. She said she has observed trucks parking in metered spaces – a violation of city ordinance – and has complained to both the trucks and the board of licenses, which licenses the trucks.
Sussikis said she has also called the police about illegally parked food trucks, but “they don’t do anything about it.”
“There will be a line (at the food trucks who are) paying cents to a meter, and people are paying thousands and thousands in rent,” she said, referring to Thayer businesses. Sussikis said that BBC is most affected because they are the closest restaurant to where the trucks park.
Food truck owners noted the positive aspects of parking their businesses on Thayer Street.
“We have provided advice and shared information to other food truck owners in the interest of supporting small local businesses like us and our belief that Brown students should have access to good food at affordable prices,” Kim wrote in an email to the Herald.
Radish owner Timothy Silva said food trucks in the area help restaurants thrive. “I know that food trucks bring people to Thayer Street, so it actually helps the other businesses,” he said.
Having more food trucks makes Thayer “a lot livelier, and people have more options,” Silva said. He also supports restaurants in the area by eating there, he added.
Santos said the community of food trucks happens naturally. “A lot of times it’s not even planned” that food trucks tend to cluster in one area, he said.
Natter highlighted the positive atmosphere that food trucks bring to Providence, especially in locations like Kennedy Plaza. “The food trucks are helping to revitalize that area,” she said.
The trucks will hopefully continue to work together, Natter said. Several owners of the trucks met in the spring to discuss their businesses, she said, adding that she hopes the owners of the trucks will “formalize things a little more, set our own guidelines and rules of the road.”
Most students interviewed who frequent the food trucks on Thayer Street had no opinion on where they parked or how they affected local business. Sean Curran, MD/PhD said he has not witnessed any problem with the trucks except for parking enforcers asking them to move.
Dong Qing GS commented on the convenience of the food trucks. “After they showed up here, I came here quite often,” he said.