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Austin Food Trucks Get Politically Organized

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The number of food trucks and trailers in Austin continues to expand rapidly. Now a new organization has popped up aiming to organize the hundreds of mobile food vendors in the city to confront issues ranging from permitting issues to what to do with used grease. 

The Food Trailer Allianceis largely organized by Tony Yamanaka, a marketing guy at Austin's Better Business Bureau. We called him up to find out more about his organization.

KUT News: Before the Food Trailer Alliance, you started the websiteFood Trailers Austin. What stoked your interest in starting up that website?

Tony Yamanaka: I was in Portland and saw a large food trailer community, and thought that Austin needed something similar to help people know about their business and help it grow. It started as a website for fun, and now it is more than a database.

KUT News: Now you have your non-profit, the Food Trailer Alliance. Can anyone join?

Yamanaka: Eligibility is based on, if you are a trailer owner or operator in the region, and if you have a valid Mobile Vendor License.

KUT News: What are some of the challenges food trucks face?

Yamanaka: Food trailer owners were having similar issues, not food related, but rather business related, [like] getting rid of waste products like grease. I thought holding a meeting would be a good option for them.

KUT News: The alliance was launched about a year ago. Why did it take a year to hold their first meeting?

Yamanaka: (laughs) That’s a good question. Well I’m not in the food industry and I’m not a trailer owner, I’m just someone that is facilitating. It takes a long time to get recognized.  To become the resource that helps food trailers get in touch with other people, they have to know who you are . They know that my intentions behind it are good and that it is for them. Really, they are helping me build it. They are the ones with all the valuable information.  I’m just helping them share it.

KUT News: Who showed up at the first meeting?

Yamanaka: It went really well, I had expected about 15 people to be there but we actually had a rough count of 50 and only three of them were vendors, which is great. The rest of them were trailer owners or people that operated trailers. It was supposed to run an hour and ended up running three hours. Everyone was sharing information, socializing and exchanging numbers.

KUT News: What is the goal of the organization?

Yamanaka: There are three main points to the alliance. The first is to share information with in each other. The second is to get opportunities to grow their business, whether is to share about trailer rentals or events, etc. The last reason is to give the food trailers in Austin a voice in city council and in negotiation for parties.

Meetings have an open forum either at the beginning or the end, with speakers, like vendors, sharing solutions for the trailer food business. We also want to have guest speakers, alliance members get discounts on graphic design, social media solutions, all volunteer based.

KUT News: How often are meetings going to be held?

Yamanaka: On a monthly basis. The next meeting is scheduled for Friday, June 20. Having it monthly will give us time to prepare for the next meeting, to know what we are going to talk about basing it on the forumson

Karina Vallejo is a summer news intern at KUT. She currently studies Mass Communications and Spanish at Texas State.
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