Southaven residents tired of waiting endlessly in line at the drive thru on their lunch hour will soon be able to check out a faster option by ordering from a food truck.
The Board of Alderman passed a resolution that will allow food trucks to set up shop once a week on two city owned properties starting in October.
Mayor Darren Musselwhite said residents brought the idea of food trucks to his attention and after doing some research, his staff concluded that it was doable to have them in the city.
“We are very receptive to ideas our citizens have that may seem like small things, but bring a lot of value and a lot of fun to some of our citizens,” Musselwhite said. “So we listened to that. If there is anything we can do to put a smile on one of our citizen’s faces and we can do it, I say do it.”
Musselwhite said he had no idea that food trucks were so popular - especially with Generation Z.
“I had to Google that,” Musselwhite said. “I am definitely not Generation Z. One of the things that is among the most popular crazes in America right now is food trucks. I understand that it is Generation Z, and Millennials too. But it is Generation Z that are really, really excited about food trucks.”
Generation Z includes anyone born in 1997 or later. According to studies, Generation Z has over $29 billion in spending power and made 14.6 billion restaurant visits in 2018, or about a quarter of all people who eat out.
The National Restaurant Association reported that consumers ages 18-34 were the most likely to purchase a meal from a food truck, followed by those ages 35 to 44. About 47 percent of Millennials have eaten from a food truck at some point, and over 80 percent rated the quality of their experience as “fun,” “exciting,” “new,” or “different” and “unique.”
In 2020, there were 28,873 food trucks in business nationwide with revenue totaling over $2 billion per year - a 300 percent increase from 2014 to 2017.
Musselwhite said as part of his homework on the topic, he went to Court Square Park in Memphis where they have food trucks every Thursday and was impressed by what he saw.
“It was really neat,” Musselwhite said. “It’s a great place to have a mini-carnival atmosphere. People get outside. They walk. They’re talking and socializing. While they are getting their food they’re sitting on a park bench and enjoying the outside while they eat their food. It’s just a fun thing.”
Musselwhite said he met with staff to get their feedback and believes they came up with a workable policy that will allow food trucks on city property without harming the city’s brick and mortar restaurants and give residents another quick food option.
“As far as competing with our brick and mortar restaurants, if you are in a hurry and you try and go through a drive thru at any restaurant in Southaven, you understand you better get ready to wait,” Musselwhite said. “There is tremendous lunch demand in a hurry in Southaven. So I think this is something else that will give people a different option if they don’t want to wait.”
He added that some brick and mortar restaurants also have food trucks of their own.
Under the new policy, food trucks will be allowed to set up one day a week on Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at two locations - the Springfest paved parking lot at Snowden Grove Park and The Arena on Hwy. 51.
Each food truck will be charged a $100 permit fee and $25 per day or $75 for the entire month and meet the definition of a food truck.
“So no El Caminos with a trailer on the back with hot dogs,” Nothing like that.”
Food trucks will be allowed to operate starting on Oct. 8.
“We believe we can do it and keep it simple and fun,” Musselwhite said. “It’s really a cool thing. I think it could be a good new tradition for our city.”