CAMDEN, NJ — Say you’re a food truck owner in Philadelphia hoping to set up shop across the Delaware River. Or someone who has already doubled up with trucks on the Rutgers Newark and New Brunswick campuses, and are hoping to make it a trifecta.
Well, the path hasn't exactly been laid out in Camden.
Despite being the home to large companies like Campbell's Soup, Subaru and American Water, there is not currently a way for food truck owners to create a more permanent home in the city.
“We don't have something on the books as it stands. But yes, we have worked with food truck owners and vendors in the past and coordinated with them for special event permits,” Camden spokesman Vincent Basara told TAPinto Camden.
“We understand it’s a trend,” he continued, “and have had legislative conversations about a new ordinance that would allow them to set up somewhere more permanently."
In Camden, outside of special events food truck vendors can apply for a one-day pass. They would have to adhere to certain parameters, such as not infringing on private property and passing a health inspection.
Framework for it
Market research company IBISWorld projects the food truck industry to be worth $1.1 billion by 2022. This particular culinary brand was initially thought to grow at 7.3% up to 2017, but now — due to increased competition and enforced municipal regulations - that growth is set at 3% two years into the new two decades.
IBISWorld estimates that the industry made $1 billion in revenue in 2019, and is made up of nearly 24,000 businesses nationwide.
Basara noted that the city will have to be mindful of certain factors as when the time comes to welcome food trucks, such as some sectors of the city still having physical parking meters.
“We also want to keep in mind the sidewalks in the city that can be narrow and places where we don’t want to make it harder for drivers to get around,” he said.
Kris Kolluri, CEO of Cooper’s Ferry Partnership CEO which is working in other ways to boost business in the city, thinks that it’s time to have the conversation about bringing in food trucks.
“I think there is absolutely a place for food trucks in Camden,” Kolluri said. “Number one, it would provide more options to the people living and working here, and Number 2, it would help create a more vibrant scene in the city. The question for policy-makers is how to do it safely and in a proper manner.”
City officials said that when considering the legalese surrounding food trucks, it will look to established frameworks from other urban cities.
In Philadelphia, aspiring food truck owners need apply for a Food Establishment Retail, Non-permanent Location License.
The mobile food application comes with such requirements as an overview of all food equipment, a food establishment plan review application, a description of the menu and preparation process that is pre-approved by a licensed facility, a mobile food unit commissary verification, and a city-issued food safety certificate.
Applicants are also required to prepare their food on site and pay a $165 processing fee.
Although Basara said the city has it in mind, he did not specify when exactly Camden would officially consider such an ordinance.
Rutgers students weigh in
Whereas Temple University across the river had as many as a dozen trucks lining a street Tuesday morning, students at Rutgers-Camden fresh off winter break braved 30-degree weather at just one of two vendors on each side of campus.
“Oh they would definitely be popular if we had more,” said 22-year-old junior Ryan Price, an accounting student waiting in line for lamb over rice. “The two we have here always have lines...regardless of the weather.”
Price said he prefers the food trucks to the food served at the Rutgers Welcome Center. The trucks near campus serve an array of breakfast and lunch options such as egg sandwiches, hot dogs, and chicken with rice.
Mike Sepanic, Camden-Rutgers spokesperson, agreed that food trucks have, “become part of the community life across the nation.”
“I believe that Rutgers-Camden students would enjoy the ability to access food trucks among their dining options,” Sepanic said.
If Mike Rosenthal, a 23-year-old freshman studying law, could have it his way, Rutgers-Camden would have an authentic Mexican food truck.
“It’s not like I wake up in the morning and say, ‘Man we’re missing this,’ but yes it’d be great to be able to eat Mexican food for lunch,” Rosenthal said. “These guys have been established here for a while so don’t know how they would feel, but then again, competition is a good thing.”