IT SEEMS that Savannah has begun to understand the potential value an industry, such as food trucks, could have on our future. What has been over a decade of negotiations seems to be coming to a positive conclusion.
Food trucks are something almost every progressive city has added for locals and tourists. Food is at the core of culture and the epicenter of diversity. So it makes sense that food trucks would be a perfect proponent for a city attempting to spread its wings.
Savannah has been resisting this idea for quite some time, for reasons that seemed to shift with the wind. The politics behind wanting to preserve the “historic value” of downtown and not fill our streets with trucks always sounded like a generation full of pencil pushers attempting to hold onto the past instead of preparing for the future.
If we want to be a city full of culture and diversity, a city that strives to be ahead, we have to let go of what was and embrace what’s next.
Food is the perfect start to that journey, and street food is the current revolution in its own industry, dripping with anarchy towards the traditional Michelin structure.
There have been a few people who have attempted to organize and structure the foundation of this food truck industry in Savannah, but only one who seems as if he can actually pull it off, and his name is Ryan Giannoni, organizer of this past weekend’s Savannah Food Truck Festival in Emmet Park.
I had a chance to sit down with him to gain some insight on what it took to put this whole thing together and how he hopes the city will react to it.
And I made a friend in the process.
Ryan started selling popsicles for King of Pops, which is what got him initially interested in the food truck industry.
“When we came to set up in Savannah, we hit roadblocks regarding permitting. On one of my first days set up at Forsyth, I got shut down,” Ryan says.
“But, that’s when we started digging and found certain provisions which did allow food trucks to vend, one of which is a special events permit.”
After some due diligence, Ryan decided it was time to take matters into his own hands, and founded the companies that would be instrumental in making this entire industry come together.
The Savannah Food Truck association is the organizer and the backbone for all of the food trucks in the city. They act as middleman in helping connect customers to their favorite trucks, whether for lunch or caterings.
It is a brotherhood and entrepreneurs all wanting to help each other grown. And I believe that was the most shocking part to me.
In a capitalist society, where greed and material gains control the minds of most businessmen, these food trucks are flipping that monster on its head, and are actually helping those interested and ambitious see their dreams come through.
Another big task the Savannah Food Truck Association takes on is to actually build the guts of the truck, in order to save each other money in the long run. It truly is a brotherhood of people trying to better themselves and our community.
Which leads me into the next organization Ryan created, the Savannah Food Truck Festival founded in May of last year. Knowing the ins and outs of this special events provision for food trucks, Ryan partnered with a few nonprofits to have events that food trucks could attend, the first being last year’s Doggie Carnival.
Since then, there have been over 15 food truck events locally. From the Seafood Festival to the First Friday Art March, the Savannah Food Truck Festival has been doing as much as it can to provide food trucks opportunities while fundraising for local nonprofits and organizations.
Living harmoniously alongside and sponsoring the Savannah Food Truck Festival, is the last of the trio, Food Truck Philanthropy. The intention behind this nonprofit is to do research on local movements and organizations in need of fundraising, and they make sure that for every event thrown, there is a good cause which the trucks are raising money for.
“We are more interested in helping see through the growth we long for in our communities. We want to know our legacy is tied to more than money, but building an industry in a city that needs it,” Ryan says.
This past weekend’s festival goal was to serve as the first official big test run, in order to see if a food truck festival could exist on a large scale in our city.
And if you happened to miss out for some reason, it was absolutely incredible. Free yoga in the park, sunshine, and about 15 trucks to choose from.
One downfall was that the event may have been too well attended. It seemed as if there were not enough food trucks to meet the demand.
Thousands of people poured in throughout the afternoon, and lines began to wrap around the park and line the sidewalks of Bay Street. I heard tons of cries for vegetarian and vegan options that did not exist for some reason on Sunday.
As I listen to the feedback, I hear long lines and more options are what people will be looking for next. Being in these high pressure situations will separate the men from the boys, and figuring out what trucks are the most consistent and deserving of the money we make.
Paying $36 dollars for two lobster rolls, each no bigger than my hand, both of which contained cold “lobster” with pieces of hard shell still inside? I understand being rushed, and attempting to serve as many people as possible, but when you do it at the expense of your customers and your reputation, you will lose repeat business.
But, a highlight for myself would be “Chazitos,” which continues to be the most delicious and consistent truck I’ve seen in the area. And this festival was the grand opening of their second truck! The most delicious and authentic Latin cuisine you can get anywhere close. He does it with love and intention, and you can taste it with every bite.
All in all, I am elated with the turnout and what this means, if all went smoothly, for the future of food trucks in our city.
We are a foodie city in desperate need of more culture in that food. We have regressed to being a tourist city that only serves customers who come a few times a year. What that does to the culture and quality of a kitchen will be felt in the food, and customers will let you know quickly.
We need to sustain this movement, and allow this to usher us into the next phase of our food industry. Becoming more in touch with our roots, and allowing those to shine in our food.
If this is something you want to see, be vocal, be engaging, and be active. We need more outsiders to help us push this thing through the right way. Do your research, support your favorite local trucks, and continue to be a part of the evolution of our culture and diversity. Let’s keep stirring that pot, people.