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Food Trucks Rule!

By D. Aileen Dodd Contributing Writer | 6/21/2013, 8:10 a.m.
Food trucks, such as the one pictured above, offer a budget-friendly solution for folks looking to eating out, with cheap eats and convenient locations. (Photo by Vincent Christie).

Vendors who want to open food carts or trucks in metro Atlanta must get licenses, permits and follow health departments guidelines for the safe preparation and storage of food. 

Municipal laws also restrict where food carts can do business.

“There is no vending on city streets in Atlanta,” said Melissa Mullinax, a spokeswoman with the City of Atlanta.

Food trucks can do business at festivals and visit private properties including office buildings and housing developments.  A food truck “food court” was established off Howell Mill Road and Interstate 75 to give food trucks a location to do business 7-days a week.

The investment in a cart, according to industry estimates, can cost about $3,000. A truck can cost $50,000  to $100,000 or more. Permits and business licenses are needed in every city a food truck serves a plate in Georgia.

When Yumbii first began serving gourmet food from its rolling restaurant, its customer base was small. It only had two office buildings that it could visit to sell food.  

“Now we have routes,” Young said. Its stops and menu are listed on its website, yumbii.com. Each week the truck rolls from the Cobb Galleria Office Park to the Mall of Georgia, stopping off at locations in between. “Each one of those locations requires a separate business license and permitting process. I think it’s always kind of funny when restaurants complain that food trucks aren’t paying their way.”

The Anglins say the challenges of the industry - the cost of permits, the over-saturation of food truck parks, and the sweltering heat - can be daunting at times.

“There is a lot of red tape,” said Mia Anglin. “There is no one-two-three step to getting started.”

Anglin estimates that it took six-to-eight months and “52 trips” between the City of Atlanta, the Atlanta Police Department and the Fulton County health department to get all of the permits they needed to sell food on a cart and truck.

And once you have the permits, you quickly have to learn by trial and error how much food to prepare, said Mia Anglin. 

“The object is to sell out so you don’t have to throw food away,” she said. “You also have to pay for the gas to move the truck around.”

One Love Jerk Grill sells 400 pounds of jerk chicken each week. It’s made the traditional way; fresh on a grill.

“Most restaurants do it in the oven,” said Troy Anglin. “Ours has the smoke to it. You can really tell it’s coming off the grill. You can taste the difference.”

A $10 plate includes an enticing serving of jerk chicken, rice and peas and steamed veggies. The rolling Caribbean restaurant also sells curry chicken, ox tails and beef patties. Island-imported sodas cost $2. Food is cooked daily. Exhaust fans protect the Anglins from the intense summer heat. 

The Anglins said their business is growing and customers are pushing them to open a sit-down Caribbean restaurant.

“We wanted to make a name for ourselves,” said  Anglin. “Now we have a loyal customer base.”

The Food Truck Park is located at 1850 Howell Mill Road, NW. To learn more, visit: www.atlantafoodtruckpark.com.