Zimmern Chimes In On Mpls. Skyway-Vs.-Food Truck Debate
A group of downtown Minneapolis skyway restaurants are claiming that food trucks are hurting business, but celebrity chef and local food czar Andrew Zimmern is reportedly siding with the mobile eateries.
Bizarre Foods host Zimmern, who owns a food truck of his own, told the Star Tribune that “the fact is, half the restaurants in the skyway are serving some of the worst food in the city.”
“They are coasting on convenience,” he said.
Zimmern launched his truck, called AZ Canteen, last summer at the Minnesota State Fair. (To learn how he is morphing his hit Travel Channel show into a diversified, branded network of businesses, including AZ Canteen, read Twin Cities Business’ February cover story here.)
Meanwhile, local food trucks recently formed a group called the Minnesota Food Truck Association, according to the Star Tribune. The group was formed in response to skyway brick-and-mortar restaurants having formed a group of their own, called the Downtown Food Committee, through which the restaurants have been voicing their concerns and asking city leaders to limit the number of trucks that can be parked in a block.
The food truck group, which has on board about 25 of the roughly 60 licensed Twin Cities trucks, was formed to better respond to criticism and help the city shape future regulations or changes, the Star Tribune reported. The group, which is scheduled to meet Tuesday to discuss issues and respond to critics, is reportedly being led by John Levy, a co-owner of Zimmern’s AZ Canteen.
The Downtown Food Committee has argued that while food trucks are in operation during warmer months, they tend to concentrate on Marquette Avenue, between Sixth and Eighth streets, which cuts into sales at neighboring skyway restaurants.
Doug Sams, owner of D. Brians Deli, which has a skyway location inside Canadian Pacific Plaza on Sixth Street, told Twin Cities Business that brick-and-mortar restaurants have reported sales drops of up to 31 percent in the past year—with most in the 10 to 15 percent range.
Steve Barnier, whose family runs Dave’s Downtown Resturant located in the skyway at Ninth Street and Marquette Avenue, told Twin Cities Business that food trucks have an unfair advantage as they don’t have to pay property taxes and other fees that brick-and-mortar restaurants are subjected to. Barnier was among a couple dozen restaurant owners who met last month to discuss problems they’ve identified with food trucks and possible solutions.
Meanwhile, a number of local food truck operators are driving their businesses to brick-and-mortar eateries. Those include Chef Shack, World Street Kitchen, and Smack Shack, which after months of delays, is opening its permanent North Loop location on Friday, according to a Downtown Journal report.