The food truck season is heating up for Chris Remrey. “We’ve got a pretty good reputation with our food. … We have a loyal following of people who follow us all over,” said Mr. Remrey, who runs the Creative Catering Caravan truck in the Clinton, Iowa, area. That loyal following of foodies is helping keep […]
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The food truck season is heating up for Chris Remrey.
“We’ve got a pretty good reputation with our food. … We have a loyal following of people who follow us all over,” said Mr. Remrey, who runs the Creative Catering Caravan truck in the Clinton, Iowa, area.
That loyal following of foodies is helping keep a red hot food truck industry popular across the Quad Cities region. Some food truck owners and operators say their business has never been better. Many food fans love the trucks for the convenience, prices, but mostly for the almost instant gratification of good food.
Perhaps the most popular item on the Creative Catering Caravan’s menu is the birria quesatacos, said Mr. Remrey. They are described as a chile braised pork shoulder grilled in a corn tortilla with queso blanco, onion and cilantro. (And if that sounds like too much, Mr. Remrey also serves up the old favorites of Gringo style tacos and street tacos.)
A quick trip down the food trucks’ menu lane finds these offerings by other trucks: woodfire pizza, Jamaican jerk chicken, nachos, burgers, sliders, ribs, shrimp and fish, root beer sundaes and a lot more.
The growing popularity for food trucks could be seen on a recent day at the K&K Hardware store’s parking lot in downtown Bettendorf. A La Flama food truck was attracting a crowd of customers around noon, even though the day was rainy and cool.
“The quality of the food here is great,” Sam Kruckenberg, of Rock Island, said after purchasing a burrito from the truck. “You get a real decent amount. I see they had to raise their prices, but the food is still great.”
Another food truck fan there said he liked the fast service. “It’s quick and relatively cheap,” said Tom Wilson of Moline.
The food truck frenzy in the region has also been noted by business and community advocates who are looking to bring the trucks to various events.
“Our community has embraced food trucks because it’s a great way to taste a wide array of unique menu items, and at the same time support your neighbor,” said Steve Ahrens, executive officer of the Davenport Riverfront Improvement Commission. “We are truly fortunate for the diverse food options offered here.”
The food trucks and their diverse food options have become so popular that it has become a challenge to find trucks for various events and venues, some business advocates say.
Kyle Carter, executive director of the Downtown Davenport Partnership (DDP), recently told the QCBJ that the demand for food trucks is greater than the supply.
“The truck owners operating are so busy and fully scheduled it can be difficult to get them for any event,” Mr. Carter said. “That’s amazing news for our friends in the industry, but we could use a few more trucks. Trucks are booked solid for the year and businesses in the region are lucky to get one routinely on site. That’s why you tend to see food trucks at special events and particular businesses; not random corners of town out of the blue.”
Here are some locations where food trucks in the region will be in the coming weeks:
- Food trucks will once again be a featured part of the every Friday night Mercado on Fifth marketplace in downtown Moline, which is open this year from May 27 to Sept. 30. Starting this year and beginning the first week in June as many as three food trucks also will take advantage of Mercado’s new Fast Food Lane and serve up lunch every Wednesday, said Anamaria Rocha, executive director of Mercado on Fifth.
- The annual Food Truck Fight is set for noon to 8 p.m., Saturday, June 18 at a new location at the Isle Parkway, Bettendorf.
- Food trucks will be regular features at the Freight House Farmers Market, Davenport, which opened for the season on Saturday, May 7.
- Clinton has several food trucks parked along the riverfront during the warm weather months, according to the new Grow Clinton organization.
- City of Davenport officials report food trucks will be at the Riverpalooza event at Quinlan Court, 330 Brady St., at 7-9 p.m., Thursday, June 2.
- The “Be Downtown” event is set for 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday, June 4 in the lot at 15th and State streets in downtown Bettendorf. Food trucks will be serving food from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Also, a new Food Truck Park has been established on 44th Street, between 4th and 5th avenues, in Rock Island. Trucks are expected to be at the park on weekends and many weekdays.
- That new Food Truck Park is becoming another popular place for food fans. Chavaras Trice of Rock Island bought the empty lot at the beginning of the year with the goal of establishing a permanent place where truck owners and operators could rent a space to park and do business.
“I had been looking for the perfect lot. And this it is. It has massive traffic and is near a lot of businesses,” Mr. Trice said. “It’s been amazing. There’s a lot of people who are excited about this.”
He added that his new Food Truck Park location is advantageous because it is near businesses, homes and Augustana College is just a few blocks away.
Even though much of this spring has been cold and rainy – terrible weather for food trucks – the park is off to a fast start, he said. The food truck called The Big Cheese was the first to use the new park in mid April. It was a great debut as the truck sold out of food in a few hours.
“A lot of people schedule on the fly,” added Mr. Trice, who was working with about eight food truck operators in early May. “I will get a call from somebody and they will say ‘Can I set up in an hour?’ And if there’s nobody on the schedule, they can.”
If business continues to go well, the Rock Island man may expand and establish more food truck parks in the area. He might open a park in Davenport if the right lot becomes available.
“But there has to be a beautiful balance of a good location and the right cost (for the lot),” he added.
The popularity of food trucks in the region is more than the beautiful balance of good food and a good location, said Missy Carter, president of the Quad Cities Independent Food Truck Alliance.
She adds that this era of social media has helped spur that popularity. Food fans – along with food truck owners – can get on social media and tout the food menus and notify customers when and where the trucks will be open for business.
The alliance’s Facebook page helps keep foodies updated on truck times and locations, and helps schedule food trucks for various events. Ms. Carter said the alliance membership includes about 15 to 20 food truck operators to date.
In addition to social media posts, movies featuring food trucks have also helped spur the industry in the past few years. “There are different movies that glamorize food trucks. That has attracted the entrepreneurial types to this business,” she said.
Ms. Carter adds that people thinking about getting into the food truck business need to be aware that it is hard work – very hard work.
“People come into this thinking it’s going to be hard work, and they find out it’s ten-fold hard work,” she said. “You have to be your own mechanic, your own chef, your own customer service representative and do marketing.”
Mr. Remrey echoed that people considering a food truck career need to be prepared for hard work. But they also need to do their homework before they get in the business including choosing a site where customers can find and get to your food truck. Also, don’t put too many items on the menu. Keep it fairly simple and limit the menu to your top five or six items, he said.
“That’s the number one mistake I see people do – they put too much on the menu,” he added.