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Columbus Mobile Food Vendor Program (A new way to find mobile food on city streets)

26 Mar

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In 2014, the city of Columbus formed a Mobile Food Advisory Board including a mix of city government officials, members of the mobile food community and some members of the general public. The purpose of the group is to update and revise rules and regulations for mobile food vendors in Columbus. It is an ongoing process but one of the initial results was to provide spaces in the public right way for mobile vendors to set up to serve the public as well as a way to schedule and locate these vendors. This program, known as the Columbus Mobile Vendor Program launched in March of 2015 and will continue to expand. The program web page lists locations where you can find mobile food vendors with information on the name of the vendor and the hours they will be at the designated site. Additional locations will be added over time and more vendors will participate as the program proves itself (and more people become aware of it). You can find a link to the website below.

Columbus Mobile Food Vendor Program – http://colsmfv.com

And you can also find some information on current locations via twitter – http://twitter.com/Colsmfv

Sites include locations by the City of Columbus Courthouse, Nationwide Arena, The Brewery District and elsewhere in central Columbus (downtown and The Short North). Shifts are currently 10 – 4 pm (Lunch), 4 to 10 pm (select locations) and 10 pm to 3 am (Late Night). In addition to sites listed on this new web page, there are parking areas in the city which have been reserved for mobile food vendors to park during off-peak traffic times.

We look forward to watching this program grow and evolve over time and we hope people will embrace it as a way to show the country that Columbus is the most cutting edge mobile food community in the nation.

The Food Truck / Brewery Connection

6 May

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Inside the various subcultures in Columbus, there are two groups that stand out for working together within their industries and partnering with others to promote the best of our city. Well, we are obviously biased, but we are more than casual observers of how the craft beer community of Columbus continually pulls together to help and promote each other. We also see this in the world of mobile food. And for these two groups, we are happy that their worlds have collided.

After spending a fortune to open a brewery, few new brewers have the time, square footage, cash flow (for staffing or equipment) and energy to open a restaurant or brewpub at their brewery. Food Trucks make a living by being mobile, but they benefit from being able to have a stable place to consistently set up. The food trucks need a place in the afternoon and evening to practice their craft and breweries would like to have food to pair with their drafts. The solution – pair these two micro businesses together.

It has been interesting to watch how these two small business types support each other. Zauber Brewing Company was the first microbrewery to offer consistent schedules for food trucks. Today, Zauber features food trucks up to seven days per week. Seventh Son Brewing Company in Italian Village has been running a consistent schedule for food trucks for almost a year, offering dinner service on Thursday and Friday as well as lunch and dinner on Saturday and brunch on Sunday. Buckeye Lake Brewery features food trucks on most Thursdays during the warmer weather. While not a brewery, the Ohio Tap Room also serves as a home to food trucks from time to time. Four String Brewing and The Actual Brewing Company also use food trucks for special events. This is more than a fad or trend, it is almost a necessity to pair good food with good beer to keep customers happy. We think this is great for the community too and we know we will see more pairings of these businesses in 2014 and beyond.

Columbus Brew Adventures visits the breweries mentioned above and they are happy to make food truck suggestions along the way. Their sister company, Columbus Food Adventures has rolled out their Food Truck Tour for another season. Both companies showcase how the Breweries and Food Trucks support each other. Eat Local and Drink Local – we can get behind that.

Community: Mikeguyver

5 May

If there is something wrong in your food truck world, who you gonna call? MikeGyver!

Who is this Mikegyver and why he is respected more than Chuck Norris and MacGyver combined? Read on.

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Mikegyver, aka Tyvek, Metal Mike and Bearded Mike is known in other parts of the world as Mike Lauletta. He first came to the attention of the mobile food community while picking up some hours at Dinin’ Hall where he was known as Dinin’ Hall Mike. This was a convenient gig for him because he uses studio space at 400 West Rich so in between creating metal works, crafting Rube Goldberg style devices and working on various artistic outreach projects, he could hop over to Dinin’ Hall to help out and make a bit of spending money.

I interviewed Mike to find out how he became a mobile food icon.

“I got my start on a food truck from Laura Lee, chef/owner of Ajumama. We met at Dinin’ Hall and she needed some part-time help on her truck. I have a lot of experience cooking in restaurants, everything from steak houses to authentic Louisiana Creole.” After working on Ajumama, Mike started to work with other food trucks based at The Food Fort including OH! Burgers and That Food Truck. In addition to cooking and working the window, Mike has also helped clean out trucks, repaired damaged equipment and assisted with updates and modifications to design. In between that, he also started picking up some hours working with a caterer based there. There are countless Mike’s involved in the Columbus Mobile Food scene so to keep this Mike straight from Pizza Mike, Mikey’s, Mike and Other Mike from Flattop Pizza, Mike G and countless others….Mike was initially known as Bearded Mike. As his skills became more renown and in spite of the fact that he does not have duct tape holstered to him, as astute individual started to call him Mikegyver so the moniker stuck.

So what else does he do? “When I’m not living the dream working on a food truck, I am a sculptor. Mostly work in Cast Metal and Concrete, but no material is off my pallet/palate/palette. I can make anything you can imagine.”

I asked Mikegyver a few questions about what he has observed and learned in the Food Truck world.

Any interesting observations about the Food Truck world?

All I can say is if I had a dollar for every time a food truck owner told me ,” don’t tell anyone else this, but ….”

Any advice for food truck customers based one what you have learned?

Read the whole menu before you ask any questions and of course we take credit cards…. it’s the future.

Any Advice for Food Truck owners based on your experiences?

My advice for truck owners, if you are in it for money quit now. And don’t let anyone push you around. It is your burden/business so be open to advice but do what you want.

Being the hired gun / High Plains Drifter / Lone Ranger of the Food Truck world, if someone needs your services, how do they contact you? Is there a Mikegyver signal like Batman?

If someone would like to contract my services my email is Mikesinside@gmail.com

Sharon Square Food Arcade

13 Apr

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So here is the thing. Well one of the things. While the whole concept of mobile food is being on the move, if an owner wants business people need to find the truck or cart. The best way to do that is to pick a spot, go there consistently for set hours, “train” the community to seeing you there and wondering what you do. Then with some luck, a lot of marketing, a good product and plenty of word of mouth….maybe you get enough business to keep going there. Investing that much time and risk into one spot is a lot to ask a new business and being stationary is contrary to mobile food right? Maybe not.

Someone on the move in the mobile food community is Rosa Huff, the owner of Crepes a la Carte. Full of Chutzpah and ideas she often a whirlwind of chaotic energy. She and her husband own a computer business at Sharon Square, a small retail strip right on the line between Worthington and Columbus….actually the line runs almost exactly in the middle of the parking lot. Long ago, Sharon Square housed a pizzeria. There is a hard to see walkway in the middle of the building which has an arcade feel to it. Rosa’s mind started to churn and she wondered…”maybe I can set up in the parking lot and serve my own community”. She tried it out on the late fall/early winter of 2012 and took the winter off to tweak the concept.

OK let’s track back a paragraph to this sentence Investing that much time and risk into one spot is a lot to ask a new business and being stationary is contrary to mobile food right? So how about teaming up with other mobile vendors to get more attention and building a following for the spot by offering a diversity of foods and making sure the hours that are committed to the community are covered. Somewhat unique to the world of business is mobile food, at least in Columbus. Most food trucks and carts view themselves as a community, not hardcore competitors but collaborators. It is their job to grow their own business and one of the best ways to do that is to make sure that like-minded businesses do more than survive, they need to thrive so they can be sustainable and legitimize the “brand” of mobile food. So with all this being said, Rosa looked for someone to partner with to build her concept in 2013 and she choose Matt and Lyle from Swoop.

Together with some other guest star mobile fooders, they have been quietly growing the Sharon Square Food Arcade over the winter. I contacted Lyle from Swoop to get some scoops on what is going on now and what we can expect to see in the future.

What is the current schedule for Sharon Square Food Arcade?

We are currently opening on Tuesday and Wednesday from 6pm to 8pm as follows

4/16/13 TBA

4/17/13 Ajumama

4/23/13 Cheesy Truck

4/24/13 TBA

4/30/13 Paddy Wagon

5/1/13 Kenny’s Meat Wagon

How many vendors are there now? Are there plans to expand the number of vendors?

We have 9 vendors but would like to expand that if possible its just a matter of making sure everyone involved has a good experience.

Are there plans to expand the number of days or times of service?

Right now we like the hours of 6pm to 8pm for dinner. It is a good second shift for any mobile vendor to tack on a few extra dollars to a lunch day. We also know how hard it is on the body to be in the truck or standing in the sun for too many hours so that will probably stay the same.

In May we will probably introduce Fridays and Saturdays (Saturdays probably extended lunch hours 12pm to 3pm)

What inspired the name?

There is an old arcade in Sharon Square that is hopefully a part of the future of the pod (maybe a place to go inside and eat during the hotter/colder months) Ultimately if the old arcade never becomes of use to the pod we still like the name a lot!

How did Swoop get involved?

Rosa and her Husband Tom have a computer shop in the strip mall and live nearby and became very conscious of the fact that the food in the area needed a little more variety and because of Rosa’s connection to mobile food she saw a very easy way to give her neighbors and friends new food to try (bring the restaurants to them!). Swoop! wanted to add a couple more dinners to their schedule in the winter months and saw this location as perfect place to test for a future pod. Swoop! boosted the mobile food awareness for the neighborhood and now that its getting warm wants everyone to share in the square (get it Sharon Square…share in square).

How can people find out more about the Sharon Square Food Arcade?

Facebook: facebook.com/5594NHigh

and email inquires: Sharonsquarefoodarcade@gmail.com

Anything else that you want to add?

We brought out the food that we felt best fit the feedback we got from the neighbors but we encourage everyone to like the Facebook page as well so that we can continue to poll everyone and schedule the vendors that the people in the area want the most and in turn create a place for mobile food to always have a good and profitable service.

Note: You may see the lack on Swoop in the schedule and some TBA’s. The Swoop Food Truck was hit by a car in early April and will be out of commission for a short while, in the meantime, they may make some appearances in food cart form so people don’t suffer lackofswoopitis.

Where to find the Sharon Square Food Arcade:

5594 North High Street (1 mile south of SR 161, 1 mile north of Morse Road)
Columbus not Worthington….but almost

Kudos to That Food Truck. Watch the story of their Freshman Year on Nightline

21 Mar

Congratulations to Steve Concilla and Dan Kraus for their appearance on Nightline. Thanks for making the Columbus Food Scene look great!

The link is -> HERE

Ray Ray’s Hog Pit Takes a Swing at Wings

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The subtitle of this post may be mythbusters. This writer has heard two mobile myths perpetuated of late: Mobile food is a fad and food trucks can’t make a living year round. Enter Ray Ray’s.

(Note: Ray Ray’s moved to Ace of Cups Bar in late Summer 2012 – 2619 North High Street) Open Friday to Sunday Noon to 7 pm

Jaime (Ray Ray) Anderson continues to prove that a good product, a little business sense and a lot of hard work, a person can make a good living from a mobile food truck or trailer. Ray Ray’s has served BBQ from the same location for over two years. Ray Ray’s stays open through the winter, serving 52 weeks each year. Jaime takes opportunities to try out new menu items such as smoked turkeys for Thanksgiving and Christmas as well a grass fed beef special on Sunday’s. For Superbowl Sunday, he decided to serve wings and the results were……take a look for yourself. When I visited, the line was fifty people deep and still growing.

If you grill it, BBQ it or cook it right, they will come. You might have to wait for the next superbowl for wings….but maybe not, seems like it would be a good item for fall tailgating.