Phoenix Street Food Coalition offers food trucks a chance to network locally

(Lillian Reid/DD)
The Phoenix Street Food Coalition, comprised of more than 54 food trucks, offers the chance for the trucks, the community and other local businesses to better each other. (Lillian Reid/DD)

Food trucks have become a stitch in the fabric of downtown’s culinary culture, a growing market in a rapidly expanding industry that pairs outside-the-box creations with mobile eateries.

As food trucks rise in popularity and number, many have banded together over the past two years to create the Phoenix Street Food Coalition.

The coalition’s main goal is to bring food vendors, local businesses and the community together and to shed light on how street food can help cities and local businesses.

Brad Moore, owner of the food truck Short Leash Hot Dogs and chair of the coalition, said he and his wife, Kat, wanted to create an association that would enable all the like-minded individuals in their industry to band together and have strength in numbers.

“(We) wanted the kind of power in numbers and the voice type deal,” he said. “We have a pretty formal organization now. We have bylaws and we have application requirements for people to become members.”

He said the coalition, founded in August of 2010 and made up of at least 54 trucks, wanted to be a business that was about supporting other small businesses.

“One of our requirements is that 30 percent of the menu has to be sourced locally or at least something that is made from scratch,” Moore said.

In addition to sourcing locally, members have to submit their menu and a list of the vendors they use in order to apply.

“They can use local farms or local meat shops or local bakeries that they work with to purvey some of their products,” Moore said.

Scott Schraml, owner and founder of Mojo Bowl, which is part of the coalition, said he thinks it’s important to source products locally for the same reason he hopes people would buy from him—it keeps everyone going.

“We’re local, we’re not franchises or big companies,” he said. “We’re little mom and pop operations and we wanna keep it all in the family so to say.”

Schraml said he sources products used in his salads and parfaits locally.

“Not everything is 100-percent sourced,” he said. “But at least a portion of it is, like the granola which is made by Laura’s Gourmet Granola in Tempe.”

Moore said Short Leash uses some local meat shops and local farms to create their popular menu of hot-dog creations.

“Just kind of a variety of different things,” he said. “Like sometimes you will have some seasonal things that will be available to you, so you use things like that based on seasonality and what’s available.”

He believes that people underestimate not only the marketing power behind sourcing locally, but also the relationships that are forged through it.

“It’s kind of a win-win for everybody and obviously the more local business we support, the stronger economic impact that occurs,” Moore said.

Gwen Smith, owner of Smitty’s, said it’s very important for her to use fresh, local products.

“Everything I cook is fresh,” she said. “The chicken is grilled. I use fresh herbs and veggies and no frozen food.”

Moore said the coalition wanted to build and focus its organization on this small niche market for aspiring entrepreneurs and restaurateurs, which is why one of the other requirements for applicants is that they cannot be a part of a national franchise.

“We’re going to build this organization, so let’s make it about small businesses and let’s try and leverage that,” he said. “We really cater around small, locally owned business and not big national franchises because in my opinion, that’s not what food trucks are about.”

Moore also said that the coalition is continuing to grow and the wait list to be a part of it keeps growing as well.

Smith said she had been trying to become a part of the coalition for almost two months before she was finally allowed to participate in the Wednesday night Open Air Market.

“We kept trying and taking samples,” she said. “There’s no African-Caribbean food here yet, so I figured, they have to let me in.”

The coalition provides more opportunities for food trucks and creates a larger network to work with, Moore said.

Smith and her husband, who is the namesake for the food truck, run Smitty’s as a catering company and she said it was important for her to try be a part of the coalition because she knew the kind of status and opportunity it could give her business.

Schraml agreed, saying, “The Phoenix Food Truck Coalition is the premiere food truck group and the best of the best are a part of this group. I wanted to be in a situation where I would have the greatest exposure.”

Correction: April 24, 2013

A previous version of this article implied that Smitty’s was a recent member of the Phoenix Street Food Coalition, based on the information the reporter gathered from the owner of Smitty’s. According to members of the Phoenix Street Food Coalition, Smitty’s is not a member but has been allowed to attend some of the coalition’s events.

Contact the reporter at Chantelle.Patel@asu.edu