Skip to Main Content

Local Food Trucks Offer More than a Bite to Eat

March 24, 2021 - by Brooke Wilson

Local Food Trucks Offer More than a Bite to Eat
Get to know the Washington State Food Truck Association

As a state industry association, the Washington State Food Truck Association represents the interests of mobile restaurants across county and demographic lines. It’s delicious work.

“We advocate on behalf of all our mobile food members to help them succeed in a very competitive industry,” Executive Director Lori Johnson said.

Positioned as a central hub for communication and information, the WSFTA team serves in a wide range of capacities: as an event and catering referral source, to facilitate connections between food truck entrepreneurs and government agencies, offer management training resources and connect people to the trucks closest to them.

While food trucks have the wheels and wherewithal to serve the community differently than conventional restaurants during the pandemic, Johnson has seen other hurdles emerge that bear uniquely specific challenges to the business model.

“Due to the stay-at-home mandate issued last spring, food trucks could no longer reach customers at their normal workplaces and had no regular functions to cater,” Johnson explained. “Most had to transition and search for alternative vending locations and outlets.”

Several have relocated to properties closer to residential areas, while a number of others have shuttered their windows due to a lack of revenue. In response to the closures and an unknown end to the drought in sustainable business, the WSFTA partnered with the City of Bellevue and a local nonprofit called Nourishing Networks. Together, they developed the Mobile Meal Alliance food truck voucher program, which  connects disadvantaged community members with freshly prepared, hot meals while providing food vendors with the physical space and opportunities needed to remain open. According to the most recent estimates, the initiative has now served over 13,800 meals to individuals.

Donations received by Bellevue’s Nourishing Networks chapter are equally disbursed among any church, school, food bank or nonprofit entity interested in reserving a food truck to extend affordable, nutritious food in the fight against food insecurity. Weekly updates are also promoted on the Mobile Meal Alliance Facebook page. Interested organizations simply need to contact the WSFTA to register and become a host!

The WSFTA is also hard at work to give food trucks more access to the Downtown core. In 2018, discussions with city officials would have granted street permits and designated parking spots , although, like every other plan gone awry over the past year, development on the pilot program screeched to a halt. Fortunately, Johnson and her team quickly pivoted and found a timely solution.

Throughout the pandemic, new residents have continued to flock to the newly constructed housing developments and lush apartment complexes in the Spring District. However, with few accessible and fully operational food options nearby, the property developers at Wright Runstad and Company agreed to lease the Spring District streets to food truck vendors on a rotating schedule.

With encouraging signs of improvement in COVID-19 cases and vaccines each week, Johnson realized that future growth and new possibilities for a larger food truck presence in the Downtown neighborhood largely hinges on two factors: whether Bellevue’s Parks and Recreation Department decides to allow other mobile food vending collaborations in the future, and the volume of employees who choose to reintegrate into the downtown core.

On Monday afternoon, the Seattle Times reported a potential seismic shift in workplace protocol that could lead to another employee migration since the pandemic struck.

Executive Vice President of Microsoft, Kurt DelBene, signaled the greenlight to nearly 57,000 Puget Sound employees to consider transitioning back to its Redmond headquarters and nearby campuses as early as March 29, according to the announcement.

“Although we cannot predict everything the coming months have in store, we are prepared to face them with a growth mindset – learning, reevaluating and updating our response as needed,” DelBene wrote.

As the first major local company to approve a general return to its offices, its seal of approval could likely expedite similar maneuvers among smaller enterprises, leading to a cascade of increased foot traffic, economic activity and social engagement Downtown and beyond. This is great news for the WSFTA!

“The City of Bellevue has been very inviting to work with us and we look forward to launching multiple joint projects in the future,” Johnson said.

Need a few personal recommendations to kick off your food truck frenzy? Visit the food truck finder to browse locations and suggestions. Personally, we can barely wait to try a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich from The Ultimate Melt! Follow @wafoodtrucks for the latest announcements and updates on site launches, access and activities.

This blog is part of the Heart of Bellevue: our campaign to showcase local businesses while connecting you with stories of activity, creativity and recovery. Find out about our campaign and explore more of what’s happening around Downtown.