The food cart business has exploded all over the United States. This is evidenced in the hit show, “The Great Food Truck Race” where food cart competitors race across the country selling their wares vying for the top spot as best street food. Many cities have jumped aboard welcoming the movement. In Portland, Oregon, trucks are usually left in place so customers know exactly where to go to find their favorite foods. Portland is also famous for its cart pods. A developer will set up basic services–electricity, water, a tent, tables and chairs, landscaping–in an empty lot and rent spaces. This city will soon have its first co-op minipod, where four owners banded together to rent and develop the lot. There are currently 440 active carts in that area. In Los Angeles, the food trucks move around tweeting their faithful followers of their locations throughout the day. In Madison, Wisconsin there has been a growing number of mobile food businesses over the years. The city imposes tough regulations and restricts the numbers and locations where businesses can operate so the growth may be slower than in some areas. The current count of active food carts in this city number 42. The most sought after spot for food carts in Madison is library mall in the heart of the University of Wisconsin campus. The students love the high quality and large variety of food at reasonable prices. The square around the state capital is another popular location catering to government employees and those associated with state business.
This weekend Madison chose to highlight and celebrate its food on wheels businesses by sponsoring the first and hopefully annual Isthmus ala Cart Festival. Wisconsinites love their food festivals and this sold out event was testimony to that. It was a colorful and tasty event offering everything from falafel, Laotian curry, smoothies to fried oreos to name a few. Music, beer, and a satiated crowd added to the success of the event. We were excited to see the variety of quality food and delighted that Madison responded with enthusiasm. I applaud the organizers for a fine event and applaud the vendors for their good food, friendly service and their stab at humor.
The food cart movement is thriving in Madison and across the country. I understand there is some controversy with some restaurant owners but here in Madison, many restaurant owners have jumped aboard and started their own mobile food businesses. I like to see the community working together and hope this exists elsewhere as well. We all look forward to the second annual “Food Cart Festival,” it is a great way to celebrate local business no matter how big or small their facilities.