Thursday Evening Food Trucks in Orinda Remain a Hot Topic

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(Andrea Madison, Photographer)
Taste of the World Market brings a variety of food trucks to the Orinda Community Center parking lot Thursday evenings.

    Thursday evenings in the Orinda Community Center parking lot provide an opportunity for locals to sample a variety of international cuisine, with a selection of food and drink trucks coordinated between the City and Walnut Creek-based Taste of the World Market.
Orinda City Council approved the food truck contract with Taste of the World (TOW) in a May 2019 council meeting. The agreement is set to expire November 2022.
    Local brick-and-mortar restaurants weigh-in on the impact the weekly food truck gathering has on them.
    “I wouldn’t say it was a big effect,” said Danny Koenen, an employee of Baja Cali Taqueria & Grill, located across the street from the Orinda Community Center and Thursday evening food trucks. “I would say it’s kind of a hit or miss because we get a lot of [recurring] customers and a lot of word of mouth.”
    Taste of the World Market aims to “provide an inclusive space for makers and creators to share their passion with the local community,” according to the market’s website.
    “What we do is make a deal with the City. Every single month, we give them a cut,” said TOW market’s founder, Javid Ebrahimi.
    Every single city a food truck visits, he said, the truck’s bookkeeper does their taxes, and those taxes get distributed within that city.
    TOW Market pays $200 to $300 a month to the City, depending on how much revenue the food trucks generate. This monthly fee “offsets city staff time to negotiate and administer the contract,” said Mayor Dennis Fay.
    The food truck contract with the City allows Orinda’s brick-and-mortar restaurants to participate in the Thursday night event, but according to Arno Kober, one of the owners of Theatre Square restaurant Shelby’s, joining Thursday’s gathering is “too much hassle.”
    Kober acknowledges that Thursdays at Shelby’s have been slower when the food trucks visit Orinda Way. While businesses such as Fourth Bore Tap Room & Grill are “obviously not that slow” on Thursday evenings and maintain a clientele for their cocktails and beer selections, Kober said that the dining aspect of his business has been affected by TOW Market’s food trucks.
    “It definitely needs to change,” he said, saying the discussion has been ongoing for many years.
    “The [City] Council understands that the food trucks do compete with our brick-and-mortar restaurants to some extent,” Mayor Fay said, adding he has heard that Thursday is considered a prime evening by some of Orinda’s restaurants.
    “I would be open to another evening for the food trucks,” Mayor Fay said.
    According to Food Truck Nation, a project of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, food trucks represent a $2 billion-plus industry in America. San Francisco ranks number 18 on the site’s top 20 cities.
    Mobile vendors are active in more than 300 cities in the country, Food Truck Nation says, and has seen a 300% increase in revenue in the past three years. The roots of the modern food truck can be traced back to 2008. Los Angeles-based Kogi Korean BBQ wound up raking in $2 million in sales during its first year of operation, “spawn[ing] gourmet imitators of an altogether different breed.”
    TOW Market’s Ebrahimi noted the food trucks are from various localities – Brentwood, Pleasant Hill and Pittsburg, all within Contra Costa County and one participant was from the Orinda area. “I try to keep it as local as possible,” he said.
    Ebrahimi mentioned the food trucks have a camaraderie with farmers’ markets, speaking about an Açaí bowl (Brazilian dessert) food truck that buys its supplies from local farmers at the market.
    Ebrahimi spoke about the percentage of profits given back to the community as well.
    “We go and we take 10% from the trucks, my company and turn around and give 10 to 20% back to the schools that we work with, and nonprofits.”
    Taste of the World Market’s food truck gathering is held at the Orinda Community Center parking lot Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
    TOW Market offers “rotating food trucks serving a unique take-out experience.”

Andrea Madison can be reached at drea.madison.05@gmail.com.

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