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Food truck lottery fair to some, not to others

The Bon Me food truck parks outside the College of Communication several afternoons per week, offering students "bold, fresh, fun Vietnamese cuisine. BELEN CUSI/DFP STAFF

Running a food truck business requires taking risks, said Ron Sarni, co-owner of food truck Grilled Cheese Nation and president of the Boston Food Trucks Alliance.

He called Boston’s newest schedules for the city’s food trucks “very fair,” even though the city used a lottery system this year to parcel out prime time at the most highly coveted food truck spots in Boston.

The scheduling process took the form of a “random, draft-style selection” bid last week, according to a City of Boston press release, when 23 food truck vendors vied for breakfast, lunch and dinner shifts at seven spots around the city, including spaces outside of City Hall and the Boston Public Library’s main branch.

The city adopted the lottery system in response to feedback from food truck owners who requested the city make allocating times and spaces a more transparent and accessible process, said Boston Director of Food Initiatives Edith Murnane.

Sara Ross, owner of Kickass Cupcakes and secretary of the Boston Food Trucks Alliance, said the lottery gives vendors equal opportunities to gain access to the top-tiered location spots.

This way, “everyone gets a fair chance at what are considered the prime spots,” she said. “It’s open to the public – everyone sees what’s going on. It’s a random drawing.”

The result of the lottery, a schedule that bounces vendors from location to location over a week’s course, accords with the nature of food trucks, Sarni said.

“If the location isn’t working, move,” he said. “You’re mobile. That’s the beauty of the food truck industry.”

Most vendors were pleased with how the city handled the distribution, Ross said.

“I would say overall, 95 percent of food truck venders are pretty happy with the way it’s going,” she said, and added that the Boston Food Truck Program has been “trying very hard to make everyone happy.”

“The city has been really proactive in planning the program to make it fair to everyone,” she said. “They’re taking into consideration not only the nature of the food trucks but everyone else as well – the citizens, parking, different departments – [and] support[ing] businesses that the food trucks are around.”

In fact, Boston ranks as one of the more progressive cities when it comes to food truck policy, Sarni said.

“If you look at Miami, not one food truck is allowed on the streets of Miami, not one. Boston could have done that but they didn’t,” he said. “If you look around to other parts of the country and other models to see what’s going on, I think you will see that Boston is one of the most supportive food truck cities in America.”

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One Comment

  1. I think the climate might contribute to Miami’s decision, humidity + 90 degree weather & sanitary condition can’t co-exist well…

    What ever happened to survival of the fittest? First food truck at the location get the location for the day/afternoon… This is not what they teach you in SMG