Food Truck Fridays help strengthen Tuscaloosa's food truck communityBy Serena Bailey | 07/25/2017 10:26pm
Preparing for Food Truck Friday takes Laurie Hubbard anywhere from eight to twelve hours of baking. Her truck doesn’t have an oven, so all of her cookies, gingerbread, yeast rolls and other bakery confections are prepared at home beforehand, unlike some other food truck vendors around town who prepare on site or in a commercial kitchen.
“I have to just guess how much I can sell you know,” she said. “Nobody wants leftover cookies or stale cookies that are two days old, so it's always pretty risky and a guessing game as to how much to actually prepare.”
Held weekly, Food Truck Friday brings together food truck vendors from across the city at lunchtime. The event, sponsored by the Tuscaloosa Parks and Recreation Authority, runs from 11 a.m. to 2. p.m. at Annette Shelby Park on 15th Street.
“Everyone has some sort of lunch hour between those times but most of the time it's other people who have had my baked goods or that follow me on Facebook or Instagram and have like a special have a craving for something,” Hubbard said. “They'll just run by because they know that I'm going to be there.”
It’s also helped newer food trucks like Lolly’s Sugar Shack get to know other food truck owners in town and help build their brand.
“We’ve talked about the ups and downs of it and we talked about other things we could try to get together,” Hubbard said. “It's nice to have other vendors to talk to about the issues that we all face together like only being able to set up in the food truck zones and what we can do about that to make the food trucks in Tuscaloosa a bigger presence. A lot of the big cities they've had them for many years and it seems like they're just now catching on in Tuscaloosa.”
While business has been good, Hubbard said the heat has had a negative impact on attendance as the summer has gone on.
“June was really really a great month for it and I did really well in June but then July it sort of dropped off a little bit,” Hubbard said. “It's just been so hot and all the Food Truck Fridays in July didn't do as well as they did in June because clearly people just don't want to go outside. I hope that when it cools off it'll pick back up but it's just a matter of it was too hot outside. Nobody wanted to come out in the middle of the day.”
David Bounds, the owner of T-Town Snow, said he’s brought his shaved ice truck to three or four Food Truck Fridays so far. He said he believes the event has helped customers better know how to find their favorite food trucks.
“Making it a regular thing like they've done, that way people just know ‘hey on Friday I can go to the certain park and we know food trucks are going to be there' without having to try to keep up with it on a Facebook page or whatever is good,” Bounds said.
According to Bounds, the weekly meet-up has also helped strengthen the food truck community.
“When we all kind of come out every Friday, we get an opportunity to talk some other food trucks, see how they're doing and kind of keep up with what's going on with them,” he said.
Bounds said that he thinks that if the Food Truck Fridays continue into the fall, business will continue to grow. It’s something that Bo Hannah, who works with the food vendor that partners with PARA, hopes to see as well.
“With the fall coming up, all the RVs coming into town, the football fans and all that we just thought it would roll great from the summer into the fall for the downtown clientele and football clientele coming down,” he said. “We just thought [Shelby Park] was a great location to do Food Truck Friday and invite whoever wanted to come to set up and serve the community.”