SRQ food truck alliance
Chris Jett, head of the SRQ Food Truck Alliance, has a message to Sarasota foodies: Support the food trucks operating legally so the mobile good eats can continue.
“If people want food trucks around—if they really, really do—then they need to support the people doing it properly,” says Chris, who alongside wife, Michelle, has been operating their food truck Baja Boys Grill in the Sarasota area for nine years.
As head of the Alliance, Chris has fought tirelessly for the last five years for less stringent regulations in Sarasota County regarding the operation of food trucks within its borders. In November, the Sarasota County Commission voted unanimously to approve the Alliance’s proposed regulations.
“People want it,” says Michelle. “Sarasota wants to be live and active and vibrant.”
Although patrons won’t see major differences in food truck whereabouts, under the new regulations one notable change is that food trucks can—with business owner permission and after obtaining a yearly-issued county permit—park in corporate parking lots to serve lunch breakers quick, fresh food without a side of seasonal traffic.
There are still some restrictions: For example, only one food truck can be in an area at a time without additional permitting, and they must be a certain distance from a brick-and-mortar restaurant. Still, the Jetts consider the new regulations a monumental step toward the overall goal of a thriving food truck culture in Sarasota. The small victory doesn’t come without concern, though, and going into the next year Chris is worried about companies that are operating illegally while only claiming to be permitted mobile food vendors.
“The problem now is unless these other food trucks—the people doing things illegally—unless they fall in line, we are gonna go backwards. Go back to old laws,” he says. “I’ve already been warned.”
By law, a mobile food vendor must have a state license to operate, and must undergo at least two inspections a year. Each licensed vehicle must display a sticker to prove this.
“If you don’t see the MFD license number on a food truck then they are illegal,” he says.
Also, follow the SRQ Food Truck Alliance’s Facebook page, where the Jetts will continually post real-time locations of its members, which must be legal and following regulations. The Alliance will continue to accept new members and through upcoming workshops and conversations, the Jetts are willing to help both existing and new food trucks navigate the regulations, as well as connect members with location opportunities— like, if someone is approached for an event or a wedding.
As for the common notion that food trucks could hurt brick-and-mortar restaurants, the Jetts instead say food trucks should be viewed as having a positive influence on surrounding businesses.
“While [customers] are in line they are looking at the surroundings,” says Michelle. “And they are seeing the art galleries, they are seeing restaurants; they are seeing things they wouldn’t even see if they were walking by.”
“It’s a proven fact that activity breeds activity,” says Chris. Bottom line, the Jetts want to see food trucks survive in Sarasota as part of the Live Local, Spend Local movement, and will continue to push to improve the conditions for their business and others’.
“There is enough business here for all of us,” says Chris. “As long as everybody just follows the law. If they follow the law we could see a vibrant food truck community here.”