On Saturday, the Food Network's "The Great Food Truck Race" filmed at the Fayetteville Farmers Market. "The Great Food Truck Race" is a reality show in which real food truck operators drive from coast to coast, peddling their wares in a new city each week. Each week the truck with the lowest sales is eliminated, until, at the end of the season, a single truck remains. The earliest the Fayetteville episode could air is August 19.
Some locals have pointed out the irony of inviting guest food trucks into a city where local food trucks have had such struggles. Alex Dickey (Me So Hungry in the Flyer comments) operated a food trailer called Hog Brats from Sept. 2010 till May 2011. He said the city's mobile food vendor ordinance was vague and only permitted push-cart sized operations on sidewalks. His trailer was significantly bigger, and it took him two years to secure an operating permit. Dickey, 25 and a Fayetteville transplant, termed the planning board a "crony system...with everyone allied to the brick and mortar restaurants who have high overhead and were scared of losing business." According to current ordinance, mobile food vendors in a truck or large trailer must park on private property and have to relocate every 90 days. There are also stricter rules concerning for-profit and not-for-profit vendors. For-profit vendors must cook in an enclosed environment, a requirement that is waived for non-profit vendors. Eventually Dickey gave up on trying to figure out the mobile food scene in Fayetteville. He moved to Dallas and began catering.
Jeremy Tate in the Fayetteville planning department said that the food truck ordinance is currently undergoing revisions to streamline the permit process. The new procedures should be in place sometime this summer. According to Tate, there are three different types of variance permits vendors may apply for. Sidewalk vendors (mostly pushcarts) are the highest regulated. If they apply for one of about a dozen spots already vetted by the city council, the permit could take a couple of weeks. If they want to have a new spot approved, it takes about a month and a half. Sidewalk vendors have to vacate between 2 and 6 a.m., but otherwise, they can stay in the same location year-round. They can be up to seven feet long and four feet wide — a change Dickey said he fought for, since when he first applied for a permit, the carts were limited to five feet long, three feet wide. The Great Food Truck Race vendors applied for event permits, which were essentially turned around in 24 hours. These are short-term permits that allow vendors temporary access to a public space.
Tate estimates that there are about a handful of food trucks and about two or three pushcarts working in Fayetteville currently, although there are about a dozen active permits. And if you're interested in sampling the wares of the Great Food Race contenders, a few of them are still around town.