Provo balances between food trucks and restaurants

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The rising popularity of food trucks across the country has brought a fear that the mobile food industry could negatively affect local restaurants. However, downtown Provo restaurants don’t feel threatened by the competition.

Ari Davis
People gather at the Food Truck Roundup in Provo to purchase food options unique to each venue. (Ari Davis)

“I actually have a lot of respect for food trucks and I eat at them every chance I get,” said Station 22 owner Richard Gregory in an email. “I like weird foods and the trucks have no end of crazy concepts.”

Many Provo restaurants haven’t noticed any negative affect on their business from the food trucks.

Vector Chacon of Two Jacks Pizza said he is still getting his regular business, despite the increased presence of food trucks.

“Business is booming downtown,” Gregory said. “Our business is growing so fast now that I couldn’t possibly guess what negative/positive impact the food truck roundup might have.”

Provo City has helped keep the peace between both food service entities by passing regulations that prevent food trucks from selling too close to the downtown area, thereby taking food trucks out of direct competition with the restaurants on Center Street.

However, food trucks are allowed go to local events on Center Street and they can still have their weekly food truck roundup.

Currently, most food truck owners seem to be happy with the current policies in place. Karen Zimbelman, owner of Mama Z’s food truck, said she believes Provo has created a unique balance between the two types of restaurants.

“Food trucks can supply a needed service to the community,” Zimbelman said.

She said she recently attended a bike race in Genola Utah, where there were no restaurants to supply food, but food trucks provided food options for bikers and attendees alike.

“Location, location, location is great, but what about a crap location where a restaurant would never make it?” Gregory said. “A truck might be perfect to roll into a parking lot once a week and give the neighborhood something to be excited about.”

Just like restaurants, food trucks can bring new life to areas of the city.

“The food truck roundup on Thursdays is in a great spot,” Gregory said. “It’s helping revitalize an area that has gone totally unnoticed for a long time now.”

The city’s food trucks gather together every Thursday from 6 to 9:30 p.m. at the large parking lot near the Startup Building, just north of Provo’s UTA Frontrunner station.

Despite the balance that Provo has recently developed between these two restaurant genres, some business owners believe that there is always room for improvement.

“Provo used to be a more food truck friendly place and with the recent regulation from the Downtown Provo Association, it has become a much less friendly place to food trucks,” said Adam Terry, owner of Waffle Love. “But initially I started there and got Waffle Love rolling there, so I am very grateful for that.”

After he lost his job, Terry decided to chase his dream of owning a restaurant by fixing up an old truck and creating Waffle Love. The truck was a huge hit and quickly gained popularity. Waffle Love is also featured on the show The Great Food Truck Race featured on the Food Network.

Today, the business is much larger, running multiple trucks and a restaurant across Utah and Arizona, showing the potential growth and success that owners of a food truck can reach.

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