The Concord Visitor Center is about to get a taste of something new: A food truck out back.
With a dearth of downtown dining options for large afternoon and evening tour groups, the Select Board has approved a pilot program for a single truck to operate from 4 to 7 p.m. on five upcoming Thursdays: September 28 and October 5, 12, 19 and 26.
It’s the first time Concord Center will play host to a rolling “restaurant” that’s not part of a larger event, says town Economic Vitality Manager Mimi Graney.
The pioneer food truck is proposed for a single spot in the town parking lot off Keyes Road. Graney said the idea is to give Concord’s fall visitors a place to pick up something to eat late in the day.
“We’re getting a lot of tour groups in through the foliage season, and a lot of the food businesses in Concord Center are closed then,” she explained.
At this point, Graney added, “We’re going to be lucky if we can get one this late in the season,” but ultimately, she hopes there will be a larger pool of vendors to consider.
It’s not yet clear what fare the first truck will serve up, but the plan is the soft launch won’t involve soft serve: “We’re wanting something that’s kind of like a dinner, so not an ice cream — something [like] barbeque or sandwiches or salads; something that will hold people over, assuming they’ve been on the road and walking around,” Graney said.
Ultimately, there will be an annual town food truck license, Graney said. Vendors who pass food safety inspection and successfully acquire a license could then get on a list of trucks approved for business in town.
Board Member Terri Ackerman asked if other Center restaurants had expressed worry that they’d lose Thursday business to trucks.
Graney said that so late in the day, “Part of why they’re bringing in a food truck is because most of the food businesses are closed. So if [they] were open, that would be our preference — to support the brick and mortar businesses.”
If late-day tourists are looking for a sit-down meal around the Center, Graney said, they have some options, such as the Colonial Inn and Fiorella’s Cucina.
But some visitors are “really looking for a grab-and-go sort of situation,” she said, and “when it’s a whole busload of people coming in that really just want a sandwich, they’re not able to meet that kind of need.”
Board Member Mark Howell cautioned that food trucks can get unpleasant because “they often have some kind of gasoline or liquid propane-powered generator both making noise and producing fumes… I hope we might ask these truck operators what kind of electric hookup might enable them to leave the generator off — or at home — when they come to provide services in Concord.”
Voters gave the thumbs up to food and ice cream trucks on public land — with a permitting process — at May’s Town Meeting, ending a ban dating back to 1981.
Ahead of the vote, a group of local restaurateurs objected to the trucks, saying they could swoop in at will and undermine Concord businesses with longstanding ties to the community.