Chapel Hill Town Council considers changes to food truck restrictions

When Baguettaboutit sets up shop in Chapel Hill, a crowd of students and residents quickly surrounds the food truck in search of a fast and affordable meal.

“For me, it’s a dream come true,” said Gillian McLane, manager of sales and operations for Baguettaboutit. “The interaction with the people is amazing. Serving a hot meal to anyone rich or poor and seeing a smile on their faces is what we live for.”

Baguettaboutit — which serves baguette-wrapped sausages out of The Daily Tar Heel’s parking lot at 151 E. Rosemary St. — is Chapel Hill’s only food truck.

But after tonight’s Chapel Hill Town Council meeting, that could soon change.

At the meeting, the Town Council will consider two changes to the town’s stringent food truck regulations adopted in January 2012.

First, the council will consider decreasing the $600 regulatory fee for food trucks to operate in Chapel Hill.

It will also consider implementing a faster approval process so trucks can participate in more special events.

Council member Jim Ward said he supports the changes.

“I think that we just need to give this a try,” Ward said. “I think it’s pretty clear that we erred on the side of being too heavy-handed with the regulations and the costs the first time around.”

Just down the road, Carrboro is known for its thriving food truck scene — with offerings ranging from the Chinese treats at Chirba Chirba Dumpling to the French delicacies at Parlez-Vous Crepe to Only Burger’s Fried Green Tomato Burger.

Annette Stone, Carrboro’s community and economic development director, said food trucks positively contribute to Carrboro’s economy and community.

“They do add to the vibrancy,” Stone said. “They seem to add to the energy of the town.”

And she said food trucks add to Carrboro’s economy by promoting other businesses as well.

“It brings folks out,” Stone said. “They grab a sandwich at a food truck and then go to the coffee shop and get some coffee.”

While many food trucks differ from stationary restaurants because of their fast service and lower prices — which usually range from $3 to $10 — they are still held to the same health standards as brick-and-mortar restaurants.

Connie Pixley, environmental health supervisor for the Orange County Health Department, said inspectors use the same inspection sheet to enforce uniform safety measures for food trucks.

McLane and Alex Swearingen, the head chef for Baguettaboutit, said they hope more food trucks will find their way to Chapel Hill after tonight’s meeting.

“We like the idea of having more food trucks out there,” McLane said.

“So if the regulations were lifted, we think that it could be really great for business in Chapel Hill to bring in a whole new world of options for going out to eat.”

Baguettaboutit has operated out of Chapel Hill for about a year, but the food truck was first started in 2011.

McLane said the process of outfitting the truck took about six months and cost between $90,000 and $115,000.

“It’s exactly what we wanted to do. We get to travel around to different locations and meet new people every day. We couldn’t ask for anything more.”

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