Young and Hungry

Basil Thyme Food Trucks Closing Up for Good

Basil Thyme, whose pasta and lasagna trucks are the highest rated food trucks on Yelp, is putting the brakes on its operations.

Owner Brian Farrell says he'll close the trucks in the next month or two. Basil Thyme was among the first 20 food trucks in D.C. when it launched in June of 2011. But Farrell says his business is no longer sustainable, and he doesn't want to stick around to be a guinea pig for new food truck regulations.

"This isn't the life and money that people think it is," Farrell says. "I'm tired of living like an animal… I can hardly take care of my basic stuff, and I'm supposed to be one of the more successful trucks."

Farrell also says he's tired of putting up with the D.C. government, which he says has been super unfriendly to food trucks. "The city of D.C. has been nothing but a series of hurdles and difficulties … They're just painful to deal with."

He believes the latest proposed regulations, which would limit the number of food trucks in certain high traffic neighborhoods, could mean more food trucks will face the same fate as his. "I hope that I'm wrong," Farrell says. "Food trucking as it is, even for one of the highest rated trucks, is an uphill battle. With these regs on top, it's exponential."

Farrell says he plans to return to his previous career in IT sales.

Photo by Stephanie Gans

  • Guest

    All this because Cosi (through RAMW) thinks food trucks are the reason no one eats there. Sad.

  • GoDCGo

    Shameful. DC continues to be the worst place to start and grow a business.

    This "colony" has the most Byzantine regulations around and they cannot blame Congressional oversight. The DC Council loves to play "business"but NONE of them have ever run a business! They have no idea.

    All of the council have been nothing but employed, no body has ever had to sign the front of a check. But they pass the most unfriendly regulations around businesses that anybody has ever seen.

    The Worst Colony in the World!

  • Ombudsman

    Blindly supporting food trucks is ignorant, and the current attempts to regulate them have nothing to do with shameful DC policies. DC is an ever-improving place to live because of its growing tax base. Those taxes are generated by property tax, income tax, and sales tax. Food trucks owned by carpet baggers from Maryland and Virginia aren't contributing anything to the tax base, and are undercutting existing brick and mortar establishments. A successful brick and mortar restaurant that has paid top dollar for a good location, has also helped further the appeal of said location by its continued operation. For an unregulated amount of food trucks to park outside their location, and undercut their business, is unfair to the people who have invested in our city and neighborhoods, and is overall bad policy. Would you rather have hundreds of food trucks rolling around and vacant storefronts because they put the brick and mortars out of business, or fewer food trucks and a restaurant industry that continues to thrive. The restaurant and service industry has been a major economic engine in this city over the last 15 years, and it shouldn't be weakened so some cubicle dweller can feel better about their lunch options.

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  • anons

    Or it could just be that no one liked what he was selling. I could list another dozen food trucks off the top of my head that are doing ganbusters business and are even opening brick and mortar shops because their trucks did so well.

    The barriers to entry for a food truck are nearly non-existant. If your business is doing so poorly in a larger pool where everyone else is doing well, then perhaps you should point that blame where it belongs...at yourself.

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  • http://ConsDem ConsDem

    What a shame. Mr. Farrell is right. DC has a tendency to over-regulate or make it as difficult as possible for anyone to start a business or enjoy the pleasure of the city (parking fees).

  • Soraya

    I am so sorry to hear this, I loved their food and their value. I hope Brian Farrell considers opening a brick and mortar store because I know of a lot people who would come.

  • Rebecca

    Sad to hear this - they were consistently one of my faves!

  • Robert W

    If Guest knew anything at all, he would know that RAMW is made up of local restaurants (take a look at their website), not the likes of places like Cosi.

  • SW

    WTF? Basil Thyme was awesome. (Although not cheap, TBH.) Our city gov't is actually so bad that they're killing off the good trucks.

    But if Basil Thyme wasn't profitable, I wonder about other trucks -- I always thought the $15 lobster roll truck was raking in the dough.

  • BW

    @Robert W

    Local restaurants like Chipotle, Melting Pot, Morton's, McCormick & Schmick's, P.J. Clarke's, Ping Pong Dim Sum, Ruth's Chris, and Tortilla Coast.

  • Novatronic

    Hard work and ambition rewarded by draconian restrictions. Reasonable regulation is one thing. But making it impossible to provide a service is something else.

  • http://www.bestcalgarydrivingschool.com/ Calgary drivers ed

    D: NOOOOOO, why would they do this!?

  • aTrucker

    Real sorry to year about this. I really like Basil Tymes' food & Brian.

    There are several issues at play other than what has been stated in no specific order:

    If you have a huge crew, CHEF, a long commute, expensive rent, labor intinsive product that has expensive ingredients...its going to be difficult. All of which is a decision that D.C. gov. officials had nothing to do with.

    If your a food trucker and don't cook then your missing out. Lust for the food your cooking, sharing & getting to know your customers who often become friends is what its all about, money last. Sometimes you do need to "live like an animal," but its worth it.

    As far as the new regs.. we need them. its completely ridiculous out there. I have faith that they will make the right decisions. D.C. folks are smart and will walk blocks or hop the metro to eat what they want. We've been "guinea pigs" from the start why not wait & see if they do us right before quiting.

    As far as D.C... I'm proud to be here & love it. People that have problems with this town have no idea how much worst it can be.

    You should stick around Basil Brian! Make a few adjustments & stick it out. It's too early to quit. The winter was real hard on all of us.

    Peace.

  • food trucker

    @ombudsman first of all we are not "carpet baggers". Not to look down on hard working respectable carpet baggers, but I never bagged a carpet in my life, nor know how to do it. I for myself am a graduate of a highly accredited culinary school. I did my internship in Paris, I worked for almost 2 decades in the restaurant industry here in DC including 4 star restaurants. I got fed up with restaurant owners like yourself, who suck the blood out of their employees making Them work 14 hour shifts and give them a salary equal to minimum wage. I decided to start a food truck and I am the happiest I've ever been in my career. It's hard work yes, but the satisfaction I get from it is beyond description.
    @aTrucker you are right! To know that I'm doing it for myself and the wonderful customers that praise my food and come back for it makes it all worthwhile.

  • food trucker

    I'm sorry that we're losing Basil Thyme. I hope DC gov for their own good, is not going to force us to shut down with these new regulations. Because I'll just take my truck, my parking meter fees and parking tickets money and my business and sales taxes to another city that appreciates my money.

  • GOP

    Once again the DC governmental bullshit,and Obama lovers, have sucked the blood out of a hardworking individual that tried. Sir you did not fail but the city you served did fail you. More restriction and rules are life blood of the liberal agenda in this city.

    If the city had its way they would tell you how to wipe your ass. But if you need assistance and have to go to a DC office all you get is attitude and ignorance. The lack of education and skill from Ms. whoever at a DC office is outlandish. This city is not pro business. It's a shame. I wish you the best of luck Sir. Godspeed!

  • Andre

    Thanks DC gov, we'll go back to eating crap food now.

  • A Fan

    That's too bad because although their prices were a bit high, their food was delicious. This was probably the best tasting food truck.

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  • Justin

    I read this article and went to Basil Thyme today to try their lobster ravioli before they disappear. Brian was outside of the truck explaining all the menu items and ingredients in detail. The meal was terrific. This guy is clearly passionate about this - I hope he gets back into this industry in the future.

  • Living Socialist

    But hey, let's give an 8-figure tax break to the daily deal site that's almost out of cash and doing most of their new hiring at their call center in Tucson!

  • http://www.basilthyme.com Brian Farrell

    That's 100% accurate Andre. Here is why: Over 175 2.0 trucks, 75 1.0 trucks (hot dogs/egg rolls) you currently see on the mall. Those lottery 100 spots in CBD, mean each 2.0 truck has a 33% of getting <=3 days in the CBD. Misguidedly, Vincent Parker of DCRA and thus Mayor Gray's policy contends that allowing 2.0 trucks on the mall will make up for it. That is a huge and I believe erroneous assumption. Instead, I am sadly pretty sure that only low labor, low cost/quality foods will survive there, I.e. low Price. Here's why:

    Unfortunately, while DC office workers see value in our 2.0 trucker food, the transient nature of tourism, doesn't allow for the building of a reputation/the necessary factor to support $8, $9, $10 lunch off a truck. While many see the phonomena on T.V, it hasn't reached small or mid town America yet

    Its not greed that compels us into high traffic areas we need them to survive! My truck was built by a fantastic guy, who was an amazing cook. In a small town, his truck sold $2 gourmet hit dogs and failed due to not enough foot traffic AND people thought his price was too high! $2! The average passerby doesnt understand fully the quality that can be given from a truck. Mayor Gray and Vince Parker dont understand this will be a death blow, not to the trucks they are targeting (1.0 and illegal 'parked for too long trucks) but conversely, it will be for the better trucks who make high quality, and thus more expensive food. Tourists wont pay it. They dont know us/have a reason to trust us for a $40 meal for a family of four. And unlike cheaper food/hot dogs, we cant just pack up the unsold and re-hash it the next day.

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  • Cory Harris

    Are restaurants that of food trucks? This is America. There should br enough room for everyone. Its not the food truckers fault that restaurant owners aren't smart enough to own a food truck. Anybody out there got 10,000.

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  • SW

    So, it's June now and Basil Thyme is still on the streets -- did Brian Farrell change his mind about closing down?

  • Brian Farrell

    Yes and No. - we shut down a truck since April, while being told again and again by DCRA "wait and see".. so the truck is not sold and still belongs to us, in working order.

    Good news is : That truck will be on the roads again - hopefully by November 1st! (selling more lasagna, sorry folks - the fresh pasta thing just didn't pan out, not the economy of scale we needed).

    Secondly, we are looking to ADD a 3rd truck - a new concept. Well - not a new concept in food, but one that's new to us. Sometimes the best food is simple food, but executed to perfection. That's what we're striving for with truck #3! Hope that will hit the roads by EOM November at the latest! Thanks for all the kind words

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