CHAMPAIGN, IL — City officials say they are learning a lot from a fledgling food-truck program, and the city’s newest mobile restaurant says it is enjoying the business.
Three businesses have gotten food-truck permits since the city started making them available for a one-year pilot program that began earlier this summer: the Crave truck was the first to operate on public property in the Champaign side of Campustown and downtown. The Burrito King and Cracked food trucks were not far behind.
“I think people are starting to notice them more,” said Rob Kowalski, Champaign’s assistant planning director.
The city council in June green-lighted the trial program that allows food trucks to operate on public property. The existing city ordinance treats food trucks as peddlers — meaning if they want to operate on public property, they have to move to a different location every five minutes or so.
At the time they approved the program, city officials said the ordinance was not conducive to expanding a food-truck market and adding more options and vibrancy to the downtown and Campustown areas. They will have to decide next year what tweaks they want to make to the program or if they want to permanently allow food trucks.
“It’s going pretty well overall,” Kowalski said. “We’re learning a lot about how they operate and how they want to operate.”
The Cracked truck set up on Church Street just west of Neil Street on Tuesday. That is one of four downtown areas and three Campustown zones where the trucks are allowed to operate.
Business has been good, said co-owner Jeremy Mandell. Every time the crew was ready to close and head off from the spot, a new wave of customers would show up.
And Mandell said he has very few complaints about the rules of the pilot program itself.
“I think the only thing I would change is the two-hour limit,” he said. The rules of the permit require that food trucks not stay in the same place for more than that amount of time.
Mandell said he realizes brick-and-mortar establishments would not necessarily want a food truck just steps from their entrances for much longer than that.
“We want to comply and help everyone out,” Mandell said. “We’re not trying to step on anyone’s toes.”
Kowalski said the city has heard “concern” from one restaurant, “now that the trucks are getting noticed more and getting more business.”
Find the entire article by Patrick Wade at news-gazette.com <here>