Mobile food vendors’ ever-increasing presence in Provo

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The street vendors common to big cities are now on the rise in and around the Provo area.

The atmosphere of Provo is beginning to transform as construction ensues and restaurants develop. Food trucks and other mobile food vendors are adding a “big city” touch by starting businesses in the downtown area.

C.J. Gandolph, owner and operator of Rocco’s Tacos, recognizes Provo’s changing atmosphere.

“We’re big-city people,” Gandolph said. “We’re originally from New York City. This area has a big-city feel to it, which is funny because this is dead center, downtown Provo. It’s never really had an inner-city-type feel.”

Rocco's Tacos its surroundings. (Photo by Brett Steele)
Rocco’s Tacos (Photo by Brett Steele)

Rocco’s Tacos has been open since January 2013, and Gandolph believes the establishment is helping Provo.

“It’s definitely adding to what Provo is turning into, which is a good place,” Gandolph said.

Adam Terry also believes in the good that street vendors bring to Provo. After struggling to find a job, Terry decided to start Waffle Love.

“Food is my passion,” Terry said. “I’ve always been really passionate about lots of restaurants around, and they’re super capital-intensive to start. Restaurants are really risky. … I had been looking for a job for a while and couldn’t find one so finally I decided to chase my dream. I didn’t have any money to start a restaurant so it would’ve been really tough, capital wise. With the food truck, I was able to scrape it together and do a lot of it myself so we were able to start the business.”

Waffle Love has been in operation since July 2012. The food truck moves to various locations throughout the week. Customers can find the truck by navigating to any of Waffle Love’s social media accounts.

Terry has had to work with the government and property owners to obtain permission to park and sell waffles.

“As long as everyone is doing the proper health permits and getting permission from people to park in their lot, I don’t see anything negative that could come,” Terry said. “It has allowed me to provide for my family.”

The number of food trucks operating in Provo can be counted on one hand. The city of Provo is trying to find the correct way to increase the low number of street vendors without upsetting any of the current businesses in the area.

Jared Morgan is the executive director of Downtown Provo, Inc., a nonprofit entity that promotes business in the downtown area. Morgan has been assigned to figure out the right way to implement mobile food vendors while overcoming the red tape and hurdles.

“There’s no ordinance saying food carts aren’t allowed,” Morgan said. “The issue is the Utah County Health Department has established guidelines that need to be followed. It’s allowed, but people don’t do it because they get scared of the parameters.”

Morgan works with the 53 independently owned restaurants in downtown Provo and fears the negative repercussions that could occur if more food trucks operated regularly in Provo.

“I think that (food trucks) are a good thing at certain venues — at events and things,” Morgan said. “Our downtown restaurants would have some reservations about having them full-time, because they are competitors.”

When Provo Mayor John Curtis heard about the increasing demand for mobile food vendors in Provo, he wrote on the “Provo Insider” blog and asked residents what they thought about more food trucks operating in Provo.

Of the 21 commenters, 19 responded favorably toward the presence of mobile food vendors in Provo.

“If you look at downtown Provo, we want (street vendors) to be a part of it,” Curtis said. “It’s really just a matter of figuring out how to fit them in and make it good for everybody.”

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