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Virginia-Highland Food Truck Wednesdays Are Back

Weekly event kicks off May 9

The popular food truck event in Virginia-Highland is back.

the event would not return for its second year, Smyrna resident Bettie Cagle took matters into her own hands.

Cagle — an event planner by trade — heard through a friend the event was cancelled and decided to take on the project.

The Wednesday food truck event will be held in the same location, 841 N. Highland Ave., across from , from 6 to 9 p.m.

“I’m really excited,” Cagle told Patch on Tuesday.

A wide-range of trucks will roll into the parking lot each week, she said. From American cuisine to Tex-Mex to Asian Fusion options, the trucks offer something for everyone in the family.

Cagle estimated about 10 trucks will be on hand Wednesday, May 9, for the kick-off event.

Ten-percent of the proceeds from each weekly event will be donated to Atlanta Flux Projects, a nonprofit that supports local artists.

What's your take on Food Truck Wednesdays? Share your opinion in the comments.

Come join the rest of the VaHi-Druid Hills Patch fans on Facebook!  It's Patch and Facebook together. Doesn't get much better than that.

Scott Allen May 09, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Food trucks, while trendy and very popular these days, do not compete on the same playing field as the restaurants that are the cornerstone of Virginia Highland. Brick and mortar restaurants must comply with stringent health codes, provide restroom facilities, maintain compliance with Watershed Management, and either directly or indirectly pay property taxes to support essential services. Those who say that these trucks bring business to the community are dead wrong. They draw business away from established restaurants, and make a difficult economic environment even more challenging. Call me a community snob, but I resent that a Smyrna resident (really--Smyrna?) can exert such influence into our neighborhood. So, buy your next meal from a kitchen in the back of a converted Chevy van and walk across the street to wash your hands and use the restroom facilities.
Terry May 09, 2012 at 02:58 PM
I do not find the argument that food trucks take away business to be a valid one. In fact there are countless areas of the country that have been revitalized by food truck and local business have reaped the benefits. Food trucks are in fact required to have a brick and mortar kitchen to receive and prep products. Food truck collect and pay taxes on the sales they generate and also pay taxes on the faculties they are require to rent in order to operate. Thus all the comments from Scott above are basically just opinion rather than fact. There is one correct statement, you will not be able to use a bathroom on a food truck. However every truck is equipped with hot water and a hand wash sink and has to be by law. So if food trucks are so wrong then please tell the folks in Austin, Nashville, NY, Portland who have a huge number of them as well as twice as many restaurants.
Bettie May 09, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Hi Scott, I understand & am sorry you feel this way. Food Trucks are trendy & popular all our the country, most cities are embracing it and have been years we just happen to be behind. The popularity has increased for several reasons, I personally feel & have heard from others that the "community experience" and variety is what people are drawn to. You're correct they don't compete on a level playing field with restaurant owners & that is also why they make significantly less profit, are only at locations a short time & are only invited back based on demand from the public. The food truck owners do have to go through a lengthy process to get approved, also require a brick & mortar kitchen, comply with strict health codes, receive a health score inspection/score, require running water & hot water heaters among many other requirements similar to restaurants. They also require a business licence for each location that they are vending. While the City of Atlanta is in support theoretically, the process is still being worked out. I am not a Virginia Highland resident, I have been a Georgia resident my whole life, I did live in town for years but landed in Smyrna. Communities mean a great deal to me, I am honored to be a part of this event & to be giving money to a non profit that serves the community & supports the arts. Thankfully everyone I spoken with in the community has been supportive & friendly. Please come by on any Wednesday, I would love to buy you dinner!
Scott Allen May 09, 2012 at 03:54 PM
I am sorry, Terry, but my comments are factual, indeed. I have been a commercial landlord in Virginia Highland for over 25 years, and my restaurant tenants told me last year that they could see a noticeable drop in sales last year on Food Truck Wednesdays. If we lose the locally owned eateries that are the cornerstone of our neighborhood as a result of these "restaurants" that literally roll away in the evening, then we reduce our community to little more than a county fair. As you say, there is a place for them in neighborhoods that are being revitalized, but not here. As a matter of safety and cleanliness, how do we know that the food that is dished out in these vehicles actually was prepared in a compliant kitchen? Where do the operators use the restroom? Can we be sure they wash their hands? If someone becomes ill due to unsanitary conditions, what recourse does the injured party have when the foundation of the operator's establishment is a set of tires? I am biased for obvious reasons, but my despite your comments to the contrary, I can assure you that the tax, compliance, and legal environment under which my tenants operate are vastly more stringent than those under wish these trucks operate.
Sandra G. May 09, 2012 at 03:55 PM
I love the Food trucks and I am so happy they will be back! I think it's fun for the neighborhood. I still go to the local restaurants weekly, the food trucks do not impact how often I go to the restaurants. Sandra
A. Cruz May 09, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Completely disagree with Scott's comments whether fact or opinion. I AM a resident of the Virginia-Highland and as a consumer want the food trucks right where they are. Obviously the market should decide what is best for itself. I run daily through N. Highland and have never seen as many people in walking around and in the restaurants as I've seen frequent the food trucks (on a Wednesday). Therefore, find it hard to believe that there is revenue being lost. In fact, I've seen some who decided not to wait in line for the food trucks (and who otherwise not been out) simply go eat in a restaurant across the street. The beauty of the neighborhood we live in is that we have the influence and buying power to have such business come to us and ask for our patronage. Why would I want to go somewhere else. This is the same reason we have some the best public schools, people demand it. Everyone who lives in Va. Hi works very hard and this is just one of the benefits we reap. The overwhelming response has been positive. These are the same people that frequent the restaurants run by your tenants and therefore your customers as well. What is your response to us/them?
Katie May 09, 2012 at 05:04 PM
I live in Virginia-Highland as well and am glad the food trucks are coming back. While there are several excellent restaurants in our neighborhood, many of the brick-and-mortar restaurants have been serving sub-par food for quite a long time. Perhaps they need to reevaluate their food/environment.
MG May 09, 2012 at 05:28 PM
I would also love to see more restaurants in VaHi rather than little boutiques that cost to much money and no one goes to anyway.
David E. May 09, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Great scoop by Jaclyn, breaking this news! I spoke with the event organizer in two in-depth conversations today, and here's more info that you'll want to know about Food Truck Wednesdays returning to Virginia-Highland: http://virginiahighlandconnect.org/2012/05/virginia-highland-food-truck-wednesdays-back-on-and-returning-for-2012/ This report includes: - Which food trucks are scheduled to be there tonight; - Permit issues causing other food truck locations to be shut down recently; - How it came to be the event was reborn for 2012; - Perspective about impact on local restaurants; - And more Appreciate you stopping by to read that article, too!
dominiquec May 09, 2012 at 08:15 PM
Scott- I disagree with you as well, maybe you should take Bettie up on her offer to buy you dinner and get some valid "facts". I am very excited to have the food trucks back in our neighborhood!Thanks Bettie!
Scott Allen May 09, 2012 at 08:45 PM
Everyone I certainly knew that my position would be a minority one, but i did feel it was important to impart the other side of the issue. I repeat that it is an absolute fact that restaurants suffer at the hands of the food trucks. I spoke with one of my tenants a short while ago, and he emphatically repeated to me that during last summer he saw a fifty to sixty percent drop in business on Food Truck Wednesdays. He reminded me that he spends hundreds of dollars each month giving away gift cards for churches, and regularly supports neighborhood causes. THESE are the business that deserve your support--the ones you solicit for participation in Summerfest and Taste of the Highlands; the establishments that put your posters in their windows. the business about which you brag to out-of-towners. The Food Trucks contribute nothing to the community other than the exhaust of their trucks as they head back to the suburbs. My tenants are mostly single proprietors who must jump through a myriad of bureaucratic hoops that are not required of the Food Trucks. A. Cruz is correct--we all have choices to make where we spend our food dollar, but the next time you are downing your 99 cent taco, keep in mind the businesses that contribute to our neighborhood rather than exploit it. To those who say, "There is enough business for everyone", I vehemently disagree. The competition for restaurant dollars is intense, and Food Trucks are not good for our neighborhood.
David E. May 09, 2012 at 09:23 PM
Scott, which building do you own and which restaurants are your tenants? I wrote an article today that among other things, includes the point of view of local restaurants, and I'd like to expand upon that in a follow up. I'd invite you to contact me to share more about your perspective. http://virginiahighlandconnect.org/contact/
Terry May 10, 2012 at 01:33 AM
Scott- Every food truck must have the following: A brick and mortar kitchen that has to be inspected by the health department and awarded a health certificate. Then and only then can they apply of for the inspection of the truck, get a health certificate for it and then get their license. The only difference in the two inspections is that the trucks does not have a bathroom or a grease trap, both of which have to be up to code in the commissary kitchen. This process has to be completed for each county they are going to work in. The routes have to be filed with the health department so in the event that there is a food born illness it can be traced back to its origin. The location of the trucks kitchen has to be placed on the service side of the vehicle in two inch letters so customers can see it. All the trucks must have hot water, a triple sink that holds the largest cooking utensil they use, a grey water tank with 15% more capacity then the fresh water tank, hoods, screened windows and a serve safe manager on board. This is in addition to the vending permits for each location for the owner and all his or her employees. For any truck to vend they must have permission from the property owner as well as all the aforementioned in writing which lets the employees have access to restrooms. I would offer that looking for ways to help one another gives both parties the best odds of success. Hope you agree.
pmkatl May 10, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Totally agree with you Katie. I live in the neighborhood as well and have been disappointed at the lack of new culinary blood over the past few years. We definitely have some solid restaurant choices, but there are so many establishments that are essentially identical (bar food), especially in the southern section of N. Highland. Meanwhile, several available prime locations have either remained vacant (Ben and Jerry's/Starbuck's) or eventually leased to businesses that are geared to tourists in the neighborhood (so many high end boutiques, salons, etc...). It really would be nice to see a few more sophisticated restaurant/cafe choices in the area, as has been the case with the growth in Decatur and Inman Park. I know the neighborhood could easily support more of these types of establishments. My understanding is that the issue is zoning/parking restrictions, not a lack of interest from restauranteurs. For example, I was told that La Tavola wanted to open a pizzeria in the former Wired & Fired location but wasn't able to do so because of a lack of parking. Should parking be so much of an issue in such a walkable neighborhood? Maybe Jaclyn could do a piece on how these restrictions are hindering the growth/evolution of our neighborhood?
pmkatl May 10, 2012 at 02:04 PM
In the meantime, I say let the trucks force the multiple stagnant restaurants surrounding that lot to up their game. I'd much prefer to have the ability to choose between various ethnic cuisines all prepared by hungry, innovative chefs/entrepreneurs than burgers, burgers, or burgers...
Bryan May 10, 2012 at 02:08 PM
Well, if last night was any indication, I don't see how the trucks are cutting into restaurant business by 40 percent. It was well attended, but it wasn't exactly busy. I think the event is fun and gets people outside and walking. However, other than helping get the word out about their trucks, I don't really see how the group parking to directly compete against one another is a good strategy for the food trucks themselves. Also, it seems counter to the whole appeal of the food truck - the surprise and delight of catching one on the street, sort of like the equivalent of hearing the ice cream man's bell when you were a child. I'm curious to see how many of the trucks will survive the apparent Atlanta Food Truck Bubble. With a few exceptions, the offerings don't seem that unique. (Except for King of Pops, of course. But he's not really a food truck.)
VaHiRes May 10, 2012 at 06:04 PM
Scott, The solution for your tenants is to offer Wednesday drink specials. There is no denying the fact that the food trucks brought out crouds of people, so the restaurants in the neighborhood need to take advantage of that reality. Food trucks cannot sell liquor, the brick and mortars can, and they make much higher margins on drinks than they do on food anyway. These guys are all entrepreneurs, they need to start thinking like the innovators they are and stop whinning about having competition.
Jack McCalister May 10, 2012 at 08:12 PM
I love VaHi and very much enjoy the area and it's restaurants. Unfortunately the sad fact is that our neighborhood's restaurants have suffered from an rather extreme lack of daring and creativity for a very long time. With some exceptions, VaHi restaurants tend to cater to the unsophisticated masses that visit from outside the perimeter on weekends and to families whose primary concern is finding their children something they will eat. This tends to result in solid, serviceable, and incredibly boring meals. In contrast, Food Trucks are targeted at the adventurous folks in the neighborhood that enjoy creative and inventive food items. Do Food Trucks offer competition to local restaurants? They absolutely do and god bless them for doing exactly that. The best restauranteurs will compete on food creativity, taste, and quality rather than whine about level playing fields. Our country is founded on the idea that entrepreneurial creativity is the engine that leads to better quality of life. It would have been a real shame if restauranteurs that had already arrived had been able to use their market power and inside connections to exclude these young up and comers from our neighborhoods. If it took someone from Smyrna to make it happen, then I say shame on us and go Smyrna!
A. Cruz May 11, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Scott, again I'll state that a free market must prevail. The food trucks are bringing something different that the area is ready for. I also truly believe we must support our local business that take care of us but to what point? Similar to bailing out the American Auto Industry that was offering an inferior product to foreign just because they were "local"? I work in Sales and give to my customers charities, take them to Braves games, dinners etc.. but under no circumstances do I think that this is the only thing I have to do to win their business. At the end of the day I still have to offer competitive prices and deliver a great product. So why should the way I choose to spend my money be any different. Would you continue to let your tenant stay in their space if they stopped paying their rent just because this person had been there a long time and they put up your signs in the windows and supported your church? I may be way off but probably not. Yet, that's what you are asking us to do?
A. Cruz May 11, 2012 at 08:28 PM
My response to the those business that are being affected is to find a way to make them relevant again. Get creative and whether it's a trend or not find a way to get a foot in the door; jump on the "lunch wagon". Why have so many businesses chosen to create Facebook page? Because that is how they are reaching their customers. Perhaps instead of Food Truck Wednesday we do VaHi Food Wednesdays. The restaurants could offer similar small plates, bites, drinks etc.. Are there any marketing people reading this that could offer some unique suggestions for our business to use?
A. Cruz May 11, 2012 at 08:30 PM
Here is a great email from the Atlanta Food Truck Coalition explaining the recent permitting troubles some vendors have had. http://us2.campaign-archive1.com/?u=74b8d79bef40c36b861138cce&id=a24c2c31c3&e=96e436946f
J White May 12, 2012 at 10:49 PM
I live in the neighborhood and as with any local business I want to succeed I regularly support the places I like, however food trucks have never been a substitute for eating at a local restaurant for me. For me, food trucks are about the weekly ritual of getting outside in the evening, seeing neighbors, and enjoying fresh air and little bites of yummy food that I can't get during the rest of the week. Sitting in a restaurant and paying for a full meal with waitstaff service is not at all the same experience. I think the presence of the food trucks actually made me spend more money at local businesses I passed along the way when I would otherwise not be out in the evening.
Klikit August 15, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Found out about Wednesday from a friend on FB. We use to live in the area. However, bought a home in Covington 11 yrs.ago. We are always looking for stuff to do. We are attending 2night. We are also bring another family from Conyers. We are very excited. I will keep you updated. Looking to make this "weekly wednesday":)
Bettie August 15, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Great to hear! We look forward to seeing you! Check out the FB page for weekly updates and a list of trucks! www.facebook.com/VirginiaHighlandFoodTruckWednesdays

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