By Stuart Soffer
Food Trucks at the Menlo Park Train StationUploaded: Jan 2, 2014
I understand the incipient squealing from established restaurants that the food trucks poach customers. When the downtown Farmers' Market was first proposed the same refrains were heard (I recall that I was in the chorus at the time) health, non-regulation, noise but it was all about competition, or specifically, restricting competition. We now know with the years of experience the practical value of the Sunday market to our community as well as the vendors. I'd surmise that at least Trader Joe's gets bumper sales on Sundays as a by-product of visitors to the market.
For many years, my wife commuted to San Francisco and frequently lamented that there wasn't a cart or other option for picking up a quick dinner on the way home, or on the way onto the train. I always felt that the station area would be an ideal place for such an enterprise.
My experience with the food trucks is as follows. When I work in NYC trucks bring a variety of cuisines. Some have cult followings and you need to track down their locations on a day-to-day basis. I've also tried the trucks that sit in front of the Willows Market on Monday nights. It's somewhat a community event.
Food trucks are not likely to poach customers of the white-table restaurants such as Trellis, Vida, Left Bank and Carpaccio. We are more likely to frequent Santa Cruz Avenue restaurants. Over the years I've spent A LOT with these downtown restaurants, including hosting family and business events. The trucks and the downtown restaurants address different markets, provide different experiences, and different timing. And alcohol. You don't need reservations for the food trucks.
The only restaurant that I can see with a legitimate potential beef with food trucks is Café Borrone. They are about to open a take out pantry next to the café. Borrone is usually closed Sunday and Monday nights. I propose restricting the permitting of the food trucks to those nights. If Santa Cruz Avenue restaurants wanted counter the truck phenomenon I suggest that launch some Very Happy Happy Hours. I'd be pleased to consult on their menus.
Bring 'em on.