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Brick And Mortars Receive Benefits From Food Trucks

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Guests wait in line at Wholly BBQ Café during the Original Gainesville Food Truck Rally held on July 25. The rally doubles Wholly BBQ’s daily business, according to Richard Lugo. Scott St. Lifer/WUFT News

Anticipation for an influx of customers awaits Richard Lugo as he braces for the neighboring food truck rally.

Once a month, Lugo, the operations manager at Wholly BBQ Café, prepares for the flock of people going to the Original Gainesville Food Truck Rally held in the parking lot of High Dive, adjacent to Wholly BBQ’s location at 204 SW 2nd Ave.

Since the rally brings a crowd to the area, Lugo pounces on the opportunity to bring customers to his brick-and-mortar Wholly BBQ.

He doubles his typical three-person staff to a six-person crew on rally days because the café averages double the business of a normal day, he said.

“I wish they were weekly,” Lugo said. “But they probably wouldn’t be as attractive weekly.”

He acknowledges the essence of the rally since it only occurs once a month, but this does not stop him from seizing the moment. Lugo will stand outside of the restaurant to hand out menus to rally goers in hopes of swaying them to dine at the café instead.

“This is the bonus of the food truck rally,” he said. “ People have to cross my area.”

Lugo admitted that some people take menus but don’t consider eating there initially. After experiencing the long lines at the rally, they come back to Wholly BBQ.

The restaurant has covered seating and provides live entertainment on rally days.

“The rally has nowhere to sit,” Lugo said. “They can buy food here and enjoy it.”

Wholly BBQ Café is not the only restaurant in the community that sees the positives that food trucks offer for the permanent businesses nearby.

Mutual Benefit

Cymplify benefits from the food trucks’ presence like Wholly BBQ Café does. One notable difference is Cymplify hosts the trucks to create mutual benefits between both parties.

The brick and mortar establishment hosts the First Friday Food Truck Rally each month. Like Wholly BBQ Café, Cymplify anticipates the increased traffic.

“The rallies can bring up to 500 people,” said Gina Britton, the manager of the gift store, ice cream shop and custom screen-printing at Cymplify. “Usually on a Friday night (the crowd) might be, you know, 30 people.”

During the rally, the shops on Cymplify’s grounds remain open to sell ice cream, pizza, beer and wine. She said the ice cream shop prepares for the rallies by purchasing more ice cream and increasing the staff from one employee to five.

“People come out to try the food at the food trucks,” Britton said. “And then they come in here and have ice cream.”

Business crossover

While some businesses benefit from their proximity to food trucks and others from hosting rallies, there are some businesses that operate a food truck in addition to their brick and mortar restaurant.

Bono’s Pit Bar-B-Q franchise operates a food truck in the Jacksonville area, and Chris Stramel, the general manager of the Gainesville location, feels a Bono’s food truck in Gainesville would be beneficial in the midst of booming business.

Stramel said that a food truck would make it possible to set up shop near the University of Florida campus on game days without having to travel back and forth to the restaurant for more supplies.

This differs from Lugo’s view at Wholly BBQ Café because of its proximity to the Original Gainesville Food Truck Rally. He said he would not invest in a full food truck, but rather a hand truck to set up during rallies.

Lugo said the hand truck would be used as a gimmick to attract people to his business; he feels people would think of it as part of the rally. This is as far as he would go to owning a mobile vendor.

He likes the utilities his kitchen has to offer over that of a food truck, and most importantly Lugo likes his location.

This view of positivity from neighboring restaurants has made its way back to food truck owners. Off the Griddle truck owner, Michael Musoke, acknowledged this.

“Restaurants that used to think trucks would take away business now welcome them,” Musoke said.

About Scott St. Lifer

Scott is a reporter for WUFT News who may be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news @wuft.org

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