CVG may soon welcome food trucks

Posted at 7:00 AM, Feb 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-11 07:00:07-05

Leaders at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport are exploring a rule change that could open the door for food truck service on their grounds, as mobile vendors gain in popularity in the southern reaches of the Greater Cincinnati region.

Airport officials say they want more flexibility in allowing food trucks to serve passengers — and employees — at breakfast, lunch and dinnertime. Designated service spots could include CVG’s cellphone lot, airplane viewing area and front curb, if feasible and out of the way.

The airport originally drafted its rules to restrict so-called “roach coaches” from serving prepackaged meals at construction sites or non-terminal buildings. But, given food trucks’ devout followings these days, successes at other airports, and availability of more upscale options, change is in the air.

“It would give us another weapon to (enhance) the customer experience,” Dave Kellerman, of CVG concession management, said. “There’s a vast array of different types of upscale food trucks … so we could have a constant variety of things coming in and out of the airport.”

CVG has had minimal food truck service in the past — Covington’s Harley Dogs served up hot dogs, bratwurst and melts in the summer of 2013 via the airport’s cellphone lot, which was the airport’s first and only experience onsite, Kellerman said.

The change could remove a required $50 permit fee — as well as several other stipulations now in place — and allow airport officials greater flexibility to enter into short-term license agreements or long-term leases with food truck vendors, if successful. For example, the airport would be able to negotiate a percentage rent payment based on gross sales. The Kenton County Airport Board, which oversees operations at CVG, will consider the proposal later this month.

Corinne Reynolds, of concessions management, CVG, said food trucks have proved increasingly popular in Greater Cincinnati. More than 30 are listed as members of the Cincinnati Food Truck Association, which was established in 2013. While differing regulations may create an issue for Cincinnati-based trucks interested in serving at CVG, she said, they could pull from a broader region of Kentucky.

“There’s a following. I think people will come if they know they’re going to be here, and we do get a lot of requests for food in the cellphone lot,” Reynolds said. “We have folks from Lexington, Louisville, Western Kentucky that are willing to come up for a day or two a week in order to operate here. Some of the larger airports have been successful in food truck operations.”

Marty Meersman, owner of Marty’s Waffles, an Alexandria-based food truck, said he’s been approached about vending at CVG, and is open to the possibility. Traditionally, his truck has served up sweet-tasting Belgian sugar waffles, but with the recent addition of a new griddle on board, Meersman says, an expanded menu would be a good fit for such mealtime crowds.

“We think it will be a great idea, not only for the people who are coming and going from the airport, but the businesses that are around that area, too,” Meersman said. “But we’ve never been out there, so we’d have to give it a try to see how it goes. We always try to give a new place a couple weeks to figure it out.

“It’s got to be a high-traffic area. Otherwise, it would fail pretty quickly, I think,” he said. “We’re looking forward to the potential.”