Operating food trucks a challenge in Toronto, vendors say

ABOVE: (Jul. 22, 2014) New permits for food truck vendors was meant to make it easier for trucks to operate. But some say there are still challenges. Carey Marsden reports.

TORONTO – Summer is the season for food trucks, but many vendors say despite the new regulations it’s still a challenge doing business in the city.

“That’s the hardest part. There is nowhere to park cause there are restaurants all over Toronto,” said Bryan Siu-Chong who is co-founder of MeNU Food Truck.

Siu-Chong says the biggest snag in the mobile vending permits is the 50-metre rule. According to the permit, food trucks must have 50 metres between the truck’s location and a restaurant. Regulations also permit only two trucks per block and parked time to not exceed three hours at a time.

On Tuesday afternoon, MeNU Food Truck was parked along University, just outside Toronto General Hospital. When Global News was there, a security guard approached Siu-Chong at the truck to tell them they were not supposed to be there – apparently, because there was a food court in the hospital, they were violating the 50-metre rule.

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Global News checked with City Hall’s Municipal Licensing and Standards department. We learned that MeNU was in the right place and did not have to move.

Carleton Grant is the Director of Policy and Strategic Support for the department. He said the rule is only for restaurants that are facing a street, not food courts inside a building.

“Now we need to educate the businesses, the parking lots , the hospitals the security guards, what the rules are,” said Grant.
When the city introduced the permit system it allowed for 125 permits at a cost of $5000 each. To date, only 14 permits have been picked up by gourmet food trucks.

Zane Caplansky owns a food truck and a restaurant, Caplansky’s Delicatessen. He says he opted not to get a permit. “It is the most expensive mobile vending permit in the world, and it’s useless.” Said Caplansky.

Caplansky credits all the television cooking shows that are out there now that focus on gourmet food trucks.

“It adds vibrancy, quality, value and choice for consumers. But not in Toronto?” he said. “Our Licencing committee at City Hall has totally fumbled this file from the get go.”

Matt Basile also owns a food truck and restaurants.

He is also host of “Rebel without a Kitchen”, a show that takes him to different cities sampling food truck fares. Basile says the regulations put Toronto behind other cities.

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“Food is the language of the people. It’s what we all understand, and the fact that there’s such a segment in the street food world is kind of upsetting,” said Basile.

Siu-Chong says he and his partner are both graduates of McMaster University. They left office jobs to get involved in the food truck industry.

“It’s our duty to bring that scene to the curbside of Toronto,” said Siu-Chong.

“And once they see that we’re successful, they might re-evaluate the whole permit.”

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