Trading Spaces: Food Truck Association Unveils Exchange Tool for Vendors
A new tech platform, provided by the DC, Maryland, and Virginia Food Truck Association, will allow members and nonmembers to trade city-assigned vending spaces.
To help its members exchange assigned parking spaces, the DC, Maryland, and Virginia Food Truck Association (DMV FTA) will unveil a new, one-of-a-kind digital trading platform at its first annual convention this week.
The platform comes after DC adopted a lottery system for food truck vendors in which truckers are assigned spaces in the city’s specified vending zones where they can set up shop for the day. But, occasionally, vendors need to change assignments.
“As soon as we had a lottery system in DC, it became really apparent that we needed a way to trade spaces,” said Che Ruddell-Tabisola, executive director of DMV FTA and co-owner of the BBQ Bus food truck. “For our industry, there are a number reasons why some folks may want to trade a space. Maybe you book a private catering job on a day you had elected to go out [and sell in your space]. Maybe you take Monday off because it’s administration day.”
Vendors began trading spots and days via curbside conversation or through DMV FTA’s listserver, which is limited to association members. The new trading system will allow for a greater number of trades among vendors—as opposed to one-for-one—which will provide greater control and flexibility for food truck operators as well as improved efficiency for the city. “You’ll have fewer spaces going unused,” Ruddell-Tabisola said.
The driver of the project, Ruddell-Tabisola said, is Karen Wrege, DMV FTA board secretary and the mother of a food truck owner. With a background in assigning programs, Wrege approached a friend and professor at George Mason University about the possibility of developing a trading platform, according to the Washington Business Journal.
Together, the GMU professor and a group of students created a program that reassigns vending spots based on the truck operators’ preferences. The newly assigned spaces are then reported to the DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, which enforces assignments.
After it launches this week, the tool will be available to all area food truck operators for a fee—$5 a month for members with one food truck, $7.50 a month for members with two or more trucks, and a currently undetermined, slightly higher rate for nonmembers.
“It’s a really important role for us as a local trade association to play,” Ruddell-Tabisola said of the new service. “We look at our agenda and everything we have to do in a day, and a lot of times a question I ask is, ‘Is this going to make every day vending better?’ And the answer is 100 percent yes.”