Food trucks are popular in Dallas and there’s a city council push to get more mobile food vendors in business and expand the number of places where they can be found.
But city staff members put brakes on the push Tuesday over concerns about food safety and the capacity for code inspectors to contend with vendors.
One of the best-known places to find food trucks in Dallas is Klyde Warren Park downtown where five food trucks were open for business Tuesday.
One of the trucks was Organic Fried Chicken, owned by Patrick Gibbons.
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He said he’s developed a good following with customers from as far away as Frisco and Fort Worth.
“It's my only truck and I've got about $110,000 in it,” Gibbons said.
Food trucks receive annual operating permits from the city of Dallas.
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But less expensive food trailers require daily operating permits along with other restrictions under current Dallas rules.
“You've got to go through hoops and ladders galore if you want to have a food trailer and food trailers cost much less,” City Council Member Chad West said.
The Dallas City Council Quality of Life Committee Tuesday discussed options for leveling the playing field to add more mobile feed vendors and more locations where they can operate.
“We are behind as a city on these. We are decades behind other major cities. So, let’s see how we can catch up,” Councilman Omar Narvaez said.
Council Member Paula Blackmon suggested White Rock Lake Park and other park locations as possible sites for mobile food vendor zones.
“We always hear people want to get on their bikes somewhere and walk and I think this could be a great opportunity,” Blackmon said.
City staff members recommended going forward with only part of a reform plan on Tuesday.
“I’m just kind of at a loss for what the wait is for,” Committee Chairman Adam Bazaldua said. “When policy work continues to get stalled, I like for there to be a reason behind it.”
Assistant City Manager Joey Zapata said code enforcement people have concerns that proposed ordinance changes and staffing are in line with best practices for healthy food service.
“I just want to know that we're looking at model cities where they have the scale that we do,” Zapata said.
Council members asked that staff return in March with a complete plan to be sent to the full Dallas City Council for a final vote in time for expansion of mobile food vendor services this spring.
Customers at Klyde Warren Park Tuesday supported more mobile food options.
“I believe if they could reduce the cost for people who want to start a business and be able to do so safely, then again that would be beneficial to everyone,” customer Stassa Johnson said.
Organic Fried Chicken owner Patrick Gibbons said there is room for more competition.
“When I was setting up about a year ago, I realized, the city's policies on food trucks are way antiquated,” he said. “It wasn’t geared toward modern food trucks. It was geared toward little popup vendors going to construction sites.”
Emily Williams Knight, a spokesperson for the Texas Restaurant Association, said brick and mortar eating establishments that have much higher operating costs are watching the Dallas mobile food vendor expansion plans carefully.
But she said some restaurant operators favor having the option of joining the mobile food vending method for sales so they are not automatically opposed.