All trucked up

Reno is a really peculiar town sometimes.

This food truck imbroglio is a pretty good example of that. It’s borderline hilarious, but also serious in that people of similar interests, who should be walking shoulder to shoulder, are fighting, looking to divide communities that are by nature stronger when they collaborate.

It’s all very childish, and coming from us, that’s a pretty serious allegation. Readers can get the specifics from Brad Bynum’s cover story this week, “Totally trucked.”

Let’s get one thing straight: Food trucks are not a new phenomenon. They are a fixture of industrial areas, such as those east of the Reno airport, and have been for decades. There are few of the gray-haired set who don’t recall those ice cream trucks driving around playing “Turkey in the Straw” a.k.a. “Do Your Balls Hang Low?” There are also few people who ever worked a job where their fingernails got dirty who don’t remember the roach coaches coming around about noontime. And who doesn’t remember Woody’s Hot Dog cart?

What’s different now in Reno is this concept of customers coming to the trucks instead of the trucks coming to the customer. How many among us ever got in the car saying, “I’d sure like a rocket pop. That Ding-Dong truck is usually over off Greenbrae this time of day.” However, more sophisticated cities in the West, like Portland, Seattle or Los Angeles, have had places for food trucks to gather at particular times of day for years.

Not even the idea of using that old bus station to add a cultural component to East Fourth Street is new. This newspaper started advocating for that back in July of last year. It’s the most logical spot for an event like this.

At least one member of this staff attended a recent “Food Truck Friday.” It was fun enough. Lots of friends to chat with. Music playing. Joe DeLappe’s group did an art “installation” show with students who gathered litter and made a fashion statement. Except for the fact the evening took a sudden turn for the frigid, the scene was a blast.

The problem wasn’t the scene. The problem was the service from the trucks. The food was great, the prices were good, the servers were nice. It was purely a service problem: The event was so popular that people could wait up to two hours to have an order taken, and then another 20 minutes to a half-hour to receive their food.

Somehow in the rush, the customers, we Renoites who were spending our money, had been completely forgotten. The only ways to alleviate the problem before people who would be regular customers became completely alienated was to 1) increase the number of food trucks, 2) increase the hours (why, oh why, must it close down before midnight?), 3) increase the days of operation.

All those factors align to make it incumbent upon food truck operators to put aside their differences. Sure it’s fun to take petty accusations to Facebook, to call upon various media outlets to highlight the quarrel, and to divide factions, but the bottom line is that the customers are being poorly served by the spat. The food trucks are going to make money, and there are still four Saturdays and four Sundays every single month where independent operators can profit using a taxpayer-funded property. The city of Reno can certainly open that property to food trucks 24/7 with no organizers necessary.

We customers don’t care who had the idea first—it certainly wasn’t anyone in Reno. We just want to eat and have a good time.