Austin food truck scene still boasts competition, business owners say

Carlye Cook

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It was 2006 when the food truck trend exploded all over Austin, Texas. This back when the Frost Bank was still the tallest building downtown, way back before the population skyrocketed to over 2 million residents.

Over a decade later, Donald Trump is president, the Cubs won the World Series, and food trucks are still highly prevalent along the Austin streets.

Robin Putman, owner of Level Up ATX, said food trucks are “definitely not a dying fad.”

Pitman said that he believes food trucks are only going to establish more permanence in the coming years. However, he doesn’t foresee too many new trailers being able to withstand the competitive nature of Austin food trucks.

Owning a food truck is a risky business to start up here in Austin. Pitman noted that about 1/3 of the trucks that have come to Thicket Food Park, have since closed or relocated.

“This is a business. You have to go into debt to make it,” Pitman said.

Jose Lopez, owner of Taco Morphosis, agrees that this is a tough business to enter.

“I wanted to make a taco truck that is interesting and different,” Lopez said. “But now I realize no one really cares, there are already so many taco trucks.”

Lopez has only had his trailer opened for roughly a week. He already is having doubts.

He said, “There is not enough information for what you need to do with a business like this. It is going to be difficult to make it.”

On the other end of the spectrum lies Trace Holt, Co-Owner of Grilled Chi.

“I just started and have had a lot of success,” Holt said.

He claims that for not having to do too much work and with spending little amount on supplies, he and co-owner Cody Baker have made a considerable amount of money.

For some food truck owners, owning and running a food truck is more a way of life, than just a job. For Jason Glass, owner of Willie’s food truck, this has been his life for the past six years.

“It is not about the money for me,” Glass said. “This is all I do, I do my own thing out here. I am happy where I am at.”

So what is it that separates successful food trucks from all of those that struggle to make ends meet?

After speaking to several different food truck owners from all over Austin, Hilltop Views has narrowed down to two main things that seem to be the spark of success: location and offering something unique.

Everyone in the food industry understands that having a prime location is one of the main keys to success, same thing goes with having a food truck.

For example, The Mighty Cone, which started in 2002 as part of the ACL food court, is now a well known food truck located next to the iconic Zilker Park.

According to Devon Webster, an employee of The Mighty Cone, the truck is in such prime location that during their busiest times, people are willing to wait in a long line just to get a taste of what they offer.

Sundaze is a new food truck located off South Lamar. Unlike many food trucks in town, they offer vegan options.

Michael Reyes, full time employee of Sundaze said, “The key to success with a food truck is to have something no one else has.”

Sundaze is known for their phenomenal vegan fried chicken sandwich.

Co-owner of East Side Pita Sam Zakzok also agrees with Reyes. Zakzok said, “We offer something that nowhere in Austin really does, which is authentic Middle Eastern street food.”

According to the City of Austin, as the amount of food trucks increase, the amount of regulations also increase. However, this doesn’t seem to be stopping too many people. Since 2006, the number of mobile food trucks around town has nearly quadrupled.

The more the merrier for Austinites and tourists; the food truck fad does not seem to be going anywhere.