March 20, 2018

OBX Food Trucks on the Menu

The Outer Banks Sentinel

Given the favorable consensus among those speaking at the March 19 Dare Board of Commissioners meeting, opening the door to food trucks seemed like an idea whose time had clearly come.

So, following a public hearing on the issue, the Dare Commissioners unanimously amended zoning ordinances in unincorporated portions of Dare County to allow food stands and mobile food units for the first time.

Brent Johnson, owner of Jumpmasters Trampoline Park in Manteo, said food trucks have evolved and improved in recent years, and are now part of a booming industry. "Food trucks offer a different and unique style of food that you're not typically going to see in a brick-and-mortar restaurant," he said.

They are often a stepping stone, he added, to traditional restaurants for entrepreneurs looking for a low-cost way to enter the business.

Kelly Macchia, owner of a business in Frisco, said the village is "a quality food desert, especially in the off-season," adding that her business site would welcome food trucks. She also noted that many food trucks use a commissary to prepare and store food while satisfying local health department requirements.

Eric Reese said he recently acquired a food truck to handle catering for his existing restaurant. He stated that he wanted "to dispel what to me is antiquated thinking — that restaurants desire to keep competition out."

Observing that competition "makes everybody's game a little bit better," he said the Outer Banks' problem of keeping up with the need to feed tourists called for alternatives to "take some of the heat off and also to give the tourists a better experience."

Some restaurant owners welcomed food trucks with the condition that they be operated properly.

Ten O Six Beach Road Bistro owner Toby Gonzales said the introduction of food trucks will provide an opportunity "to become a food mecca, as long as we can diversify the experience of eating on the Outer Banks…but please do it responsibly."  

Sugar Creek owner Ervin Bateman said he would be "grateful to be able to take my catering vehicle down to Hatteras...but cross your T's and dot your I's."
In approving the food trucks, the commissioners deleted a requirement that they needed to be associated with an existing restaurant, requiring instead that they meet all health department standards. The other requirements for the trucks include locating in the parking lot of an existing business with 10 available parking spaces, a maximum of eight outdoor seats and public restrooms available that do not include portable toilets.

At the meeting, Commissioner Danny Couch asked Dare County Planning Director Donna Creef about the timetable for food trucks getting approval to operate.

"If they have health department approval and bring me a site plan, they can get approved in two weeks," she responded, signaling that they would be able to operate in the coming tourist season.

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