Keep on truckin'

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Food trucks continue to gain popularity

By Andrea Tritschler

Each week, customers gather around the Dumpling Deli food truck, peering at the menu and playing tic-tac-toe while they wait for plates of savory fried dumplings.
Dumpling Deli is one of the food trucks frequently parked on Main Street in downtown Brighton.

Owner Nick LaPanse, started the mobile-vending business after years in the culinary industry and a chance meeting with David Allegrezza, owner of Something Brewery in Brighton.

Since he began his food truck journey, LaPanse has considered Brighton to be the truck’s home, even if his food truck doesn’t technically have one.

In recent years, food trucks and mobile vending have been populating city streets, festivals and breweries across the Front Range. Northglenn hosts a popular food truck festival each year with live music, a carnival and other activities, but food was the main event. Brighton government officials often book food trucks for events.

“For the events put on by the Special Events division and the Downtown Partnership Committee, food trucks have allowed us to bring in a variety of different food options as well as keep up with the trend and popularity we are currently seeing with food trucks,” Gary Montoya, director of Brighton events, said in an email.

A 2012 study by the trade group Emergent Research projected the food truck industry to generate about $2.7 billion nationally in annual revenue by 2017. That’s a fourfold increase from the 2012 food truck revenue estimate of $650 million by the National Restaurant Association.

“My favorite thing is the mobility to bring my food to the people that would otherwise never get the opportunity to cross paths with our dumplings,” LaPanse said.
In the last 10 years, mobile vending has seen an explosion of popularity across both the Front Range and the country, said Josh Tetzlaff, associate planner with Brighton.  Because of the popularity, officials want to create more comprehensive rules regulating them.
“Across the country, more and more mobile vendors are opening for business,” Tetzlaff said.

In the future, food trucks may be allowed longer periods of vending – current policy allows trucks to stay in one location for just one hour.

In addition, permitted vendors in the future may need to partner with a business already established downtown, such as the Dumpling Deli and Something Brewery relationship.
New regulations could prevent food trucks near schools and in parks, other than for special occasions. New policies would also regulate vendors in residential areas. Other cities like Broomfield, Lafayette and Thornton have similar regulations and permitting requirements.

“Ensuring mobile vendors are able to operate helps to create a vibrancy and an energy in areas of the city as well as helps local businesses to capitalize in reaching new customers,” Tetzlaff said in an email.