Not every food fight occurs in a cafeteria.
Since first arriving in 2012, food trucks have swept Knoxville, leading local brick and mortar restaurant owners to raise concerns regarding competition.
To resolve tension, the city of Knoxville has begun piloting a program to regulate the food truck business.
Food trucks must obtain a Mobile Food Vending Permit in order to occupy one of seven dedicated zones during predetermined operating hours. To obtain a permit, vendors must possess a business license from the city and pass inspections by Knoxville Utilities Board, a certified electrician and the health department.
The policy, approved in November by the city council, is the result of meetings between city policy makers and an advisory group of restaurant and food truck owners or representatives.
Patricia Robledo, the business liaison of Knoxville, said she and other city officials traveled throughout the region to observe and research what had and had not worked in other cities while keeping the unique needs of Knoxville in mind. The final version of the program borrows heavily from the process in place in Nashville, but Robledo said Knoxville's policy may adjust as needed.
After one year of operation, the food truck policy, designed to adapt to the needs of vendors, will undergo an evaluation.
"The pilot program will allow us to make changes deemed necessary in a timely manner," Robledo said. "We will be attentive to feedback from business owners City of Knoxville inspectors and the general public. We suspect mobile food vending zones may change in relation to construction projects and other factors."
Byron and Kiki Sambat, owners of the Savory and Sweet food truck, are founding members of the Knoxville Mobile Restaurant Association.
"We wanted to give the city of Knoxville a contact when we were working through questions and concerns," Byron Sambat said. "We've been working with the city of Knoxville since last March on food truck pilot program. They've done a good job with the policy; we're trying to work with city to make it a reality."
Robledo said she views the regulation of food trucks as an opportunity to welcome new businesses and add flavor to Knoxville.
"Our hope is to support these entrepreneurs that add to the vitality and culinary diversity to the city," Robledo said.
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