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Old A food truck pilot program to end Sept. 29

September 21, 2017 - 10:24am

KAILUA-KONA — Kitchen’s about to close.

Kona Street Eatz, a pilot program that gave local food trucks an opportunity to boost their business at Old Kona Airport Park, will cease serving up at the spot on Sept. 29.

The program has been at the park for just over a year and gave mobile food entrepreneurs a place to set up shop off the side of roads.

Hawaii County Research and Development director Diane Ley said the pilot program was meant to give food trucks searching for a legal location a short-term chance to get their start. As a pilot program, the operating permit agreement had a deadline of one year. That was ultimately extended by one additional month.

But now, it’s end is near.

Vendors were made aware of the closing date when they signed up for the program, Lee added.

“We trust that the vendors were able to further their business skills, establish a following of customers and took the opportunity to explore other business leads that may lead to future vending sites, such as shopping centers, large construction site or applying to county or state entities for available facility concessionaire permits,” she said.

Ley said the number of vendors participating at Kona Street Eatz varied throughout the year, with an average of four routinely participating.

“The vendors were happy to have the opportunity, and the patrons like the food options,” she said of feedback about the program, saying it was intended to support the growth of small businesses.

Andrew Fisher, Cool Runnings catering and food truck, was a consistent presence at Old Kona Airport Park during the Kona Street Eatz program.

He spoke about the program from the spot where he first started out his business: the Dixson 76 gas station at the south-makai corner of Kuakini Highway and Hualalai Road.

Fisher said that while he and other vendors initially hoped to get some exposure from the Street Eatz program, he felt the program could have been executed better.

“It was a place to be, put it that way,” he said. “So a few people knew about it; word of mouth was getting around, but, you know, if the county, or if there was more advertising going on — I’m sure we could’ve done a little more advertising on our part, too — but I’m sure if there was more initiative taken as far as if they wanted the program to succeed, it would succeed.”

Fisher added that he believes the program likely did something for his business, though its full impact would be assessed later down the road.

“You know it did get us some kind of exposure,” he said. “People are talking about it. But people expected a lot more.”

That said, he added, the program needed more buy-in from those involved, and more time to get going.

“You need the time to build it and you need the effort also on both parts: the county and the people who are actually running the food trucks,” he said.

Ley said the department doesn’t have any plans to launch another pilot program at this time but that the department continues to offer vendors leads to alternative opportunities.

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