While the grand opening is still a couple weeks away, business is up and running at the Moab Food Truck Park. Located at 39 West 100 North, the food truck park is trying to add some variety to dining options in Moab. Currently, nine of the park’s 14 lots are filled. As of June 20, the park is home to Hokulia, offering Hawaiian-style shaved ice; Delicate Donuts, with mini donuts made right in the truck; Red Wok Kitchen’s Chinese food; the Krusty Krab, which specializes in burgers and fries; Big Don’s Pizza Bus; and Tacos del Gordo, serving Mexican cuisine. Hermanos Tacos, Moab Waffle Company, and Downtown Dogs have all signed leases but are yet to open for business.
The food truck park was born from a partnership between JJ Wang and Justin Mabey, both hotel owners. According to Mabey, their involvement in the hotel business allowed them to recognize the demand for more diversity in Moab’s local food scene. “Our guests were looking for additional food options that were still great food but fast. Guests to Moab are looking for unique experiences,” said Mabey. Rather than start another restaurant, they saw a slightly different niche to fill.
Mabey’s inspiration for starting a food truck park came from the 11 years he spent living in Austin, Texas. Seeing the wide variety of food trucks in Austin gave Mabey the idea that such a venue is a great way to provide a “fun, funky, fast, but fabulous food experience.”
Aside from tourist demands for more culinary variety and his own love for the city, Mabey listed a few factors that make Moab a good location for what he says will be “the largest food truck park in Utah.” Moab’s growing economy presents a lucrative business opportunity, but Mabey also thought creating the food truck park would help ensure Moab “continues to have balanced growth…We wanted to provide various options, so that when guests come to town they can have a lot of options with hotels but also with food.” Mabey predicts the park will attract locals and tourists alike, noting that, “we feel that the people that live in Moab and the people that visit Moab very much support local entrepreneurs and like to try new experiences.”
For aspiring entrepreneurs, food trucks offer a unique chance to break into the restaurant business. According to Mabey, a positive aspect of food trucks is the “lower barrier to entry to get into the business and fine-tune your menu. It’s a great way to test the market and see how your idea is received.” Mabey noted that the lower investment cost of a food truck can offset the risk associated with starting a restaurant. “We all know that restaurants have one of the highest potential failure rates, so anything we can do to help lessen that failure rate would be great,” Mabey pointed out. Once a certain formula has proven successful, the entrepreneur can expand with more trucks or move into brick and mortar.
When discussing goals, Mabey said the guiding principle for the park’s development is that the collection of food trucks will strive “to become part of the must-see places when you come to Moab. We want the experience to be top-notch, both by the taste of the food and the way that it’s received.”
Mabey lives in Salt Lake City, so he hired Leti Perez as the on-site manager to oversee daily operations. Perez has a lot of ideas for landscaping and how to transform the park from a barren lot to a prime destination.
After they finish adding lights to the shade structure, the next step will be to add misters. Putting in a new fence will come later. Perez is also looking into hiring a local artist to construct pedestrian access arches over the entrances to add some character to the park. Scraping out an area to put in a lawn, perhaps with horseshoe pits and a small volleyball net, might come later. But getting all the trucks moved in and working through logistical kinks is taking priority for now. “We just wanted to have the basics in and then [make improvements] as it develops and grows,” Perez said.
Besides just beautifying the park, Perez has plans to turn the location into an entertainment venue. They would like to begin hosting live musicians and other types of performers on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. By moving some picnic tables to form a space in the center of the shade structure, Perez plans on creating an “intimate setting” for families to have fun after they’re done adventuring for the day.
It is still early, but Perez claims initial reactions to the park have been positive. She’s heard lots of complaints about long wait times at restaurants and she thinks the park will be a good way to alleviate that problem, especially for families or large groups that may not want to eat the same thing. The park certainly hopes to draw its share of tourists, but according to Perez, “locals seem to be really excited; they’re the ones who have given me the most positive feedback.”
Muriel Miller, owner of Delicate Donuts, echoed some of Perez’s positivity: “It’s going to be a fun atmosphere for families and friends,” she said.
“It just has so much potential,” Perez added.
At the time of publishing, the Moab Food Truck Park is still looking to fill its vacant spaces. “We’d love to talk to any other local entrepreneurs that are interested in moving their food truck onto the lot or opening up a new food truck,” said Mabey. Those interested can text 512-825-3434 to inquire about leasing options. For general information and updates, follow the food truck park’s Instagram page @moabfood.