Project Update: Wheaton Innovation Lab and Food Trucks

On July 8th, the Wheaton Innovation Lab launched. It has two components: an Autism Technology and Innovation Pilot and a Food Truck Catalyst Pilot. The latter is discussed below.

The county to assist a work-study group geared toward creating a food truck friendly environment has recruited Wheaton High School students. The students, along with the guidance and supervision of several Innovation Fellows, have immersed themselves in one of the first steps of this process– identifying optimal locations for the food trucks.

Although this program is in its infancy, food trucks have been around for a while and this is the time to welcome them as an integral part of our business community. For the past few years, the rise of food trucks in nearby cities D.C. and Baltimore has shown to be a boon for their communities. However, this does not mean Montgomery County cannot offer an additional home to these small businesses. But there is a lot to learn from the experiences in both areas and even across the nation.

As a result of our research, we have noticed some trends in concerns among the public and governing bodies of various cities. Some of the major obstacles include interactions with established brick and mortar restaurants, public rights of way and pedestrian safety. In our role, we have taken these concerns seriously and incorporated these factors into choosing the best possible food truck sites. The guidelines we have created for spotting these sites include the following factors: distance to restaurants, proximity to foot traffic, vision of signage and access to unobstructed sidewalk or open space.

The objective of this initial stage is to meet these challenges by striking the right balance between food truck and restaurant owners. We want to attract a wider range of food options that would be successful on their own and not compete with already established food venues. The first week of scouting locations appears to have been successful, as we have produced a list of 20+ workable sites in just the Wheaton, Silver Spring and Bethesda areas.

The Fellows at Wheaton High School are helping drive this project. Ultimately, their findings will lead to the formation of a more stable and consistent operating environment for food trucks.  Updates will be posted—stay in touch!