Food trucks: A good or bad thing for Hilton Head?

Food trucks on Hilton Head? Locals and tourists chime in

A few locals and tourists comment on if they would mind the Town of Hilton Head allowing food trucks to park at some of the beaches away from Coligny Beach Park.
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A few locals and tourists comment on if they would mind the Town of Hilton Head allowing food trucks to park at some of the beaches away from Coligny Beach Park.

The national food truck trend could be rolling into Hilton Head Island’s beach parks next summer.

That turn of events is stirring excitement for some and fear for others.

Over the next several weeks, Hilton Head officials will consider allowing the trucks at northern and mid-island beach locations as a way to draw people away from the Coligny Beach area and lessen traffic woes on the south end.

Reaction by residents and visitors to the truck plan has been mixed.

Some say the vehicles could liven up the island. Other worry they could ruin the natural setting the island is famous for.

“I have wondered why they haven’t done this for years,” Emily Bowen, a native of the island, said last week as she took a break from a work-out routine at Burkes Beach. “I feel like the island is getting tired, and we need something to spice it up.”

Maywood Davis coffee shop owner Alex Snyder also said he believes food trucks could add an energy to the food culture scene. His shop opened in November across from the public access to Burkes Beach.

“Food trucks done right can bring quality food for a decent price,” Snyder said. “It lets people show what they love to do without the initial costs of opening a restaurant.”

But others aren’t as excited.

Valerie Metsika of Massachusetts has been visiting Hilton Head beaches for years and said the lack of businesses crowding beaches has been part of the island’s charm.

“I like the quiet,” she said. “I want to keep things like this.”

Town Council member Marc Grant worries that brick and mortar businesses could be hurt by food trucks.

“There are businesses on the north side of the island that you have to take into account,” Grant said. “They pay taxes and utilities and are invested in this particular community. Food trucks can pick up and shift to another area when tourist season is over.”

Ted Huffman, owner of Bluffton BBQ, and others expressed similar concerns as Bluffton Town Council began discussions earlier this month about allowing the trucks there.

On Hilton Head, though, some businesses are embracing the idea.

Vito LoGrasso, manager of Hudson’s Seafood, said he doesn’t see food trucks as competition.

“It is different to go to the beach and buy food,” LoGrasso said. “It is a whole different market. Personally, food trucks are pretty awesome. They can do a lot of good stuff.”

Food trucks done right can bring quality food for a decent price.

Alex Snyder, coffee shop owner

Terri Lewis, town land management ordinance official, said the town currently has no codes that apply to food trucks. She said the vehicles can operate on private land through a case-by-case town approval process. She said the town has received very few such requests in recent years.

The town has no permanent food trucks operating, Lewis said, but there are trucks at selected events.

Amber Bryson, owner of It’s Only Fair food truck, said she would love a chance to work at Hilton Head’s beaches and across Beaufort County.

Instead, she said she is forced to travel out of the county to work.

“We originally wanted to be able to share our joys and passion for food in our community, and we have hit road blocks,” Bryson said. “Municipalities in Beaufort County seem closed off to doing so.”

Town Council member David Ames is on the ad hoc committee looking into food trucks and other ways to draw people to north or mid-island beaches. Details such as fees and regulations are some of the things the panel will look into, he said.

“I think there is work to be done to figure out the potential and ramifications of food trucks,” Ames said. “The nice thing about food trucks is that they can start up their engines and leave if you don’t have the demand.”

Matt Geller, president of the National Food Truck Association, said many towns and cities across the country have begun creating codes for trucks.

“It is like this: A city doesn’t have to commit to this,” Geller said. “They (the trucks) are not going to be brick and mortar. (The town) can do a pilot project for next summer and see how it goes.”

Teresa Moss: 843-706-8152, @TeresaIPBG