By Betsy Finklea
A local restaurant owner spoke to the Dillon City Council at their meeting last Tuesday night about the impact of food trucks and fairness to local business owners.
Richie Talbert, the owner of Breaking Bread restaurant in Dillon, gave some background on himself to start the presentation. He moved back to Dillon in 2019 with no intentions of opening a restaurant at all. Dining options were limited. He saw an opportunity and saw Dillon as primed for growth. So in the middle of COVID, he rolled the dice and threw his hat in the ring.
“It’s been a struggle,” he said. “I’m not going to lie.” The cost of overhead, the cost of goods, and inflation, have been a part of the struggle. A big part of his business is take-out and 90-95 percent of his dinner time business is take-out. Paper products, he said, have definitely not gone down during COVID which is a take-out expense. His expenses at dinner-time are far greater than at lunch when he has more dine-in business.
He said in the past year, there have been more food trucks in town. “I am not against the food trucks at all,” Talbert said. “I dine with the food trucks when my time permits me.”
Talbert feels in the last few months, there has been an unlevel playing field created in regards to food trucks and the business owners here in Dillon.
Talbert pays property taxes and employs people which in turn brings more money back here in Dillon. These food trucks, which he said the majority are not from Dillon, take all that money and all that revenue and go elsewhere.
He said he is understands that the vendor fee is $100-$125 at certain events. He says the way he understands it, Eats On The Street is a $350 flat fee for the year. He said to him it is a huge swing on what the city could be bringing in in revenue when you compare $100-$125 per event to a $350 flat fee. He said he didn’t know if that was just for Eats On The Streets or just whenever they want to come to town to set up. He said if the latter is the case that is less than $1 per day to come in and sell products in Dillon and compete directly with the businesses here in Dillon.
He wants Dillon to grow and he thinks they should keep as much money as possible in town. He wants to see Dillon prosper. He needs his business and his employees to prosper as much as possible and that “we will all see the benefits from that.” He emphasized again that he was not against the food trucks or competition. Talbert said competition creates drive and promotes creativity, but he does think it needs to be “reeled back in” and leveled out to benefit everyone. He said if everyone loves these food trucks like they say they do then these food trucks should have no problem paying a decent fee to come here and compete with the other businesses.
Dr. Phil Wallace asked how much the food trucks pay in the other towns. Talbert said he didn’t know, but he bet it was more than $1 a day.
Code Enforcement Officer Benny Genwright said the fees are guided by the state on a per year basis. The inside city rate is $170 and the outside city rate is $340.
The sales tax is collected the same way as the brick and mortar businesses. They must present a state retail sales license to get the business license.
The council continued the discussion and asked Genwright several questions about the process. Councilman Douglas Jackson said the complaints he hears is not about the special events, but about Eats On The Streets specifically. He said the business owners he has talked to feel like the city is promoting these food trucks through their social media page and are not doing this for the brick and mortar businesses.
Talbert said when Eats On The Streets comes, there are six more businesses to compete with on that day.
Mayor Tally McColl thanked Talbert for coming and assured him that there was nothing more important to the city than their local businesses. McColl said they will discuss it and get back in touch with Talbert.
By Betsy Finklea