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Survey finds overwhelming support for food trucks

Food truck survey graphic
Food truck survey graphic
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Food trucks in downtown Rochester is overwhelmingly popular idea, according to a recent city survey on the subject.

Of the almost 1,900 people who responded to the survey, 78.6 percent were "very favorable" about allowing food trucks in downtown Rochester. Only 3.59 percent were "Not at all favorable."

Given the more than 30,000 Mayo Clinic workers in downtown, many respondents were enthusiastic about having more and possibly inexpensive options for a quick lunch.

When asked if they would frequent food trucks in downtown, 91.9 percent said "yes" compared to 8 percent saying "no."

The spread between the supporters and naysayers was not as dramatic, when the question was "Do you think the presence of food trucks would enhance or take away from your experience visiting or shopping downtown?"

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Sixty-two percent answered that food trucks would "absolutely enhance" the downtown experience, while 3.4 percent said they would "absolutely take away" from it.

Food trucks long have been a fixture in major metro areas, though their popularity has exploded in recent years. One industry study estimated food-truck revenue grew an average of 9.3 percent each year from 2010 to 2015, to an estimated $857 million last year.

Food trucks become a Rochester issue last summer, when the BB's Pizzeria Truck was kicked out of downtown on a technicality. Downtown restaurant owners spoke about strongly against food trucks, saying they have an unfair advantage with all of the extra downtown Special Service District fee they are required to pay.

The Rochester City Council discussed the issue and decided to survey the public to discover the prevailing opinions.

The Rochester Downtown Alliance, which organizes popular events like Thursdays on First & Third and SocialIce, sits at the center of the debate. While the organization's goal is to make downtown a better place for residents and visitors, it is funded by downtown businesses through the SSD fees.

"We haven't taken any action on this," said RDA Executive Director Jenna Bowman. "We continue to encourage all of our stakeholders to be involved in the conversation. When the survey became available, we let our stakeholders know about and encouraged them to provide their feedback."

As far as the popular Thursdays on First & Third weekly street fair goes, it doesn't look like outside food trucks will be vendors in the near future. The downtown restaurants and bars are given "immediate priority and consideration" for the food vendor lineup. The result is that the restaurants and bars in the downtown district occupy all of the available vendor spots for Thursdays on First.

While downtown is the core of the issue at the moment, the survey also asked about allowing food trucks in serve in residential neighborhoods and public parks. The majority still supported food trucks in those areas, but it wasn't as strong as the feelings about downtown.

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The majority of respondents — 56.8 percent — supported trucks in residential neighborhoods, but "only during specific times, seasons and/or for special events." Only 29.24 percent supported the idea of food trucks having access to neighborhoods at any time. About 14 percent opposed having food trucks in neighborhoods at all.

The survey respondents supported food trucks in city parks by 55.98 percent with 4 percent opposing them.

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Jessy Dominguez works long hours cooking authentic Mexican food at the family food truck known as Lucy's Tacos.

Related Topics: FOOD
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