CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Amid the buzz of generators and engines, it’s not hard to hear the sound of hungry people placing orders or chowing down.
This is Food Truck Friday in Charlotte’s South End, located in an empty grass lot, adjacent to Common Market. This is one of two popular rallies in the Queen City, where an average of 10 trucks dish up everything from ice cream to grilled cheese.
With more than 2,500 customers on any given Friday, and lines of up to 90 minutes long, it’s not surprising that success has parlayed into storefronts for some.
“We wouldn’t have opened the café if it weren’t for the success of the food truck,” said David Stuck, one of the partners behind the popular truck, 'Tin Kitchen.'
Stuck just moved into a brick and mortar restaurant in uptown. After a year of success with the truck, it acted as a springboard for his ultimate goal of creating a concept like a café.
The truck just made economical sense.
“Well, I didn’t have half a million dollars when I started, and a food truck was a lot more feasible. You go where the customers are,” Stuck said.
It wasn’t an easy road though.
With Charlotte being slow to catch on to the food truck movement compared to cities like Seattle, Portland, New York and San Francisco, there were times when Stuck wanted to give up.
“There were no lines at the beginning. We’d be luck to get 15 or 20 people. We would sit there in the cold and just when we were about to give up, it blew up. We’ll do 250, 300 people a night, as opposed to 12 a year ago,” said stuck.
Tin Kitchen isn’t alone in expanding their business. Other trucks, like Turkey And, along with Autoburger plan on adding a second truck to their fleet to keep up with demand. The Southern Cake Queen is looking for a commercial baking space, and Cupcake Delirium just purchased a truck for special events.
“Charlotte tends to be the last on the list of cool things that are happening. Once it happens, we really embrace it,” said Robery Krumbine, of Charlotte Center City Partners.
Krumbine has seen the mobile eatery movement take off and believes the success of Tin Kitchen and other trucks moving into storefronts, or adding additional vehicles, is an indication of Charlotte business as a whole.
“It’s going to be a catalyst for new things and new and exciting ideas. You’re going to see it grow in our urban neighborhoods, and that’s where we’re going to keep growing,” he said.