It’s that last use that could benefit the District’s beleaguered food trucks, by creating whole new destinations for street eats. Vitarello has seen such transformations already. Before the mobile-vending era began in Washington in early 2009, L’Enfant Plaza and Franklin Square were relatively sleepy spots, with few options for lunch; now on any given weekday, they teem with trucks. The density of mobile vendors has been the key to activating those areas, although such density came slowly. With buses, it could materialize instantly.
“Everyone says that you need to go where everyone is. That’s not true,” Vitarello says. “We’re not going to be dependent on location.”
Korbel is in charge of marketing the buses and coordinating food vending events. He’s open to just about any use for the vehicles and, in fact, expects Fojol’s followers to direct his actions. “I really like the idea of crowd-sourcing,” Korbel says. “Seeing what people want this to be.”
Fellow food truck operators initially had a cool reaction to the new concept, remembers Doug Povich, co-owner of the Red Hook Lobster Pound DC truck and chairman of the Food Truck Association of Metropolitan Washington.
Povich doesn’t precisely recall why some rolled their eyes at the idea of a dining bus, but it could have been simply a matter of timing: Truck owners, after all, are locked in what many consider a life-and-death struggle with the city to maintain their presence on the streets. They don’t have time to consider another loopy idea from the Fojol Bros., whose carnival-esque shtick last year put the group in the cross hairs of hundreds Washingtonians who thought the truck employees’ fake mustaches and turbans were a slight against Asian cultures.
“Some people that I’ve talked to think it’s a wacky idea, but Justin is a pretty wacky guy,” Povich says. “I thought it actually was a good idea. . . . It brings another element of uniqueness of the food-truck dining experience. We are, I think, all about doing things a little differently.”