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Winnipeg food trucks find creative solutions as pandemic continues to hurt business

The Churro Stop food truck in downtown Winnipeg. Churro Stop / Facebook

With COVID-19 restrictions in Manitoba meaning cancellations across the board for festivals and other large gatherings and events, the prime season for Winnipeg’s food truck operators is considerably less active than it would be in a regular year — and some business owners are looking for creative solutions.

Tara Garcia of the Churro Stop said her fried, sugary snacks are usually a big hit at large public events, but due to the pandemic, she’s relying on other local businesses to let her set up in their parking lots.

“I think what’s happened is, in our first number of years, we really relied on going to where people were gathering,” Garcia told 680 CJOB.

“It has for sure been a pivot. Last year — and what’s looking to be this entire season as well — we transitioned from focusing on these big events and festivals and being all over Manitoba, to going, ‘How are we going to keep our employees employed and not lose our business?'”

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Garcia said the Churro Stop, which purchased a second trailer last year, currently employs a dozen people and has transitioned in a kind of symbiotic relationship with local brick-and-mortar businesses — setting up shop in their parking lots, and in turn attracting customers to their stores.

“We’re pretty lucky that Winnipeggers, as customers, as really big at supporting our local small business.”

Read more: Manitoba food truck season stalls as coronavirus concerns impact industry

Steffen Zinn, owner of the Red Ember wood-fired pizza business, said he’s had the same experience, with local businesses reaching out to have his food truck park in their lots.

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“It’s really nice to see the help coming from a different part of the business community in Winnipeg,” Zinn said.

“It’s been really tough out there the last year and the start of this year, for sure. There really isn’t any business downtown anymore. Most people are working from home, and for the cost of the parking permit — it just doesn’t justify setting up down there.”

Zinn said Red Ember has been sticking to the St. Norbert Farmers’ Market, which also has capacity restrictions, but at least gives him a regular spot to set up the truck.

Red Ember also has a physical location, and Zinn said after this season, he plans on retiring the food truck in favour of the brick-and-mortar restaurant.

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