Dalton welcomed its first food truck under a new state law earlier this month, and Whitfield County government is seeking other food trucks to celebrate Park Day at its new Civil War battlefield park.
Due to a recent change in state law, food trucks can now obtain permits that apply statewide rather than county by county. Dalton approved an ordinance that allows food trucks in early October.
Whitfield County government is seeking food trucks and vendors for events, including one at the county's new 1,000-acre Civil War park called Rock Face Ridge Park on April 15. Sponsored by the American Battlefield Trust, Park Day is an annual cleanup at historic battlefields and historic sites nationwide -- and Whitfield County is broadening the event.
"We're definitely looking forward to doing this (events with food trucks) more often," Valeria Molina, public information officer for Whitfield County, said in a phone interview. "This will be the first time we're doing it, and I'll be taking this list (of food vendors) and spreading it out to our department heads and chamber (of commerce). We have big plans for food truck vendors around here."
Molina said she's only had five food truck vendors reach out since the announcement was made and is wanting more. She said she could be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whitfield County's Park Day celebration includes a sunset mountain bike race to the top of the ridge and scavenger hunt organized by the Southern Off Road Bicycle Association. Bob Jenkins, a Civil War historian, will be on hand to give presentations on the battles that occurred there in 1864, Molina said. Other activities that may include cornhole and disc golf are also being planned, Molina said.
Lobster Dogs was the first food truck that set up in Dalton on March 1.
"They really enjoyed it," Stephanie Gross, owner of the Lobster Dog food truck franchise for the markets of Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina, said. "We actually sold out earlier than we hoped to."
The Tucker, Georgia-based food truck franchise's signature dish is New England-style lobster rolls, with fresh Maine lobster, mayo, butter and seasoning, Gross said in a phone interview. Whole avocado dishes with toppings like lobster, crab, shrimp and vegetables are also served, she said, or the Free Bird with buffalo chicken, bacon and ranch.
Gross said the truck is going back to Dalton on March 22, and its operators plan to visit Dalton every six to eight weeks. Lobster Dogs can be found in other North Georgia communities, and its schedule is listed on their Facebook page.
Molina said she reached out to Lobster Dogs, but already it was booked April 15.
The process to get a license in Dalton was easy, but Gross said it was a little bit costly. Dalton designated locations for food trucks, and they will be allowed at city events. A $300 license and parking permit for $50 a day or $200 annually is also required. Licenses aren't required for Dalton businesses bringing a food truck for an event on private property, according to the city.
The statewide food truck permit costs from $300 to $500, a price established by the county where the food truck is based, Gross said. Before the change in state law at the start of 2023, food trucks had to purchase a permit for every county they served -- and that cost from $500 to $1,000 each, Gross said.
Gross said she has two trucks in Georgia, one based in Tucker and the other in Savannah. She said she also has trucks in Tennessee and South Carolina and has been in business for three years. The Lobster Dog franchise is based in North Carolina, she said.
The best things about owning food trucks are that less staffing is needed to run them and that they're mobile, Gross said.
"If a community doesn't appreciate the food truck's concept, you can find a community that does -- giving your business more opportunity to be successful," Gross said.
Dalton seems excited about the opportunities for food trucks and has been very welcoming, she said.
Challenges to running food trucks include finding people willing to work in the trucks and the facts that a food truck has to have separate preparation space and that equipment in the truck runs on gas. Startup costs run from $50,000 to $100,000, Gross said.
"You kind of become an all-in-one," Gross said. "You figure out your own concept, your own marketing, what works for you, what doesn't work for you."
If Gross would give any advice, she said the food truck must be the owner's passion and full-time commitment because it's a lot more work than you think.
Contact Andrew Wilkins at email@example.com or 423-757-6659.