Expanding Food Carts in Vancouver - as choosen by Foodies?
- moyenchow Jan 20, 2011 03:49 PM
I was reading The Province article about the city of Vancouver's decision to expand the food cart program, see the link below, and I was wondering who the local Foodie Experts were that were going to make the panel that will select the next 15 new licenses?
I've been disappointed with the food carts as I think the food being served is pricey. I rather pay the same price and sit inside to eat.
The only cart I really like is Re-Up but still on the pricey side. I wonder if it is just the cost of doing business in downtown Vancouver (licenses, food costs, etc) that prevents cheap street food?
For those that have been to Portland or other cities with Street Food, is street food expensive there too?
If not what's the difference between Vancouver and those other cities?
What is different? Too many people are running around Vancouver looking at working some kind of angle, instead of putting forth a real effort and creating something worthwhile. Vancouver had too many permittees that treated the whole idea like it was some sort of arena for real estate speculation. That just added costs without adding a shred of value.
Maybe they should hold a lottery to select the panel.
A couple of big differences: Vancouver is famously over-regulated (unlike the wild west that is Portland), and Vancouver's downtown core is different from Portland's (available cart space, urban planning, demographics, etc.). Add to that - the downtown food scene here is 'concept driven'.
I note that the Province article also stated "The city is also looking to partner with community organizations to encourage economic development opportunities for low-income people and new entrepreneurs, she said." This is similar in concept to Portland's Mercy Corps NW, and San Francisco's La Cocina and the Women's Initiative (and a number of other social groups). I would have to wait and see if this initiative (re: low-income people and new entrepreneurs) will not be railroaded by industry nepotism and hegemony. It all starts with that panel of foodies...
I humbly volunteer myself as a member of this "panel of foodies".
Food carts have impressed me. The Re-up pulled pork is fantastic, and great value. I've had sandwiches with less of everything for twice the price in traditional restaurants. Not to mention those sandwiches had a lot less flavor than Re-up's. Try and get a sandwich that big anywhere (convenience stores, fast food joints, etc.) that has as much meat and is as tasty. Banh mi are close, but lose out on sheer volume of food. Fresh Local Wild has produced some tremendous product as well for easily half the price of a sit down resto.
Food costs would be an interesting variable to look at between Portland and Vancouver. Food simply costs less south of the border. In addition, major competition between carts in PDX could also have some bearing on costs. Vancouver is only seeing the beginning of what I hope is a large market for street food. With additional vendors, we can only hope that prices will go down in an effort between carts to compete.
Thanks for the insights.
When I heard Vancouver was going to try street food, I was so excited. I thought that it was going to to be an opportunity for people to share new food offerings, kinda of like Bo Laska King, but maybe didn't have the startup capital to open a restaurant.
Wouldn't it have been cool to grab a bag of Pakoras before a Canucks game, have a Beef roll before a movie, or snack on a pupusa as you were shopping Robson.
With the existing regulations, food costs, facilities and the fact the city is now going to add a " Healthy and Good for you" requirement, I wonder if it's even possible for a person to start up a food cart without backing from the established food industry.
I hope that with more competition, the cost of the street food will come down and the new carts will offer more variety of food.
The City of Vancouver has announced the members of the panel that will help select the new street food vendors (see Below). Not sure what to make of the members and not sure why there needs to be Youth reps. Here's hoping for the best.
*Chef – Vikram Vij, Vij’s and Rangoli restaurants
*Chef – Karen Barnaby, The Fish House in Stanley Park
*Nutritionist – Miel Richtscheid, RHN
*Farmers Markets – Tara McDonald Executive Director, Vancouver Farmers Market Society
*Fair Trade/Sustainability – Andre LaRivière, Executive Director, Green Table Network
*Business Improvement Association – Charles Gauthier, Executive Director, Downtown BIA
*Economic Development – Juvarya Warsi, Policy Analyst, Vancouver Economic Development Commission
*Restaurant Association – Ian Tostensen, President & CEO, BC Restaurant and Food Services Association
* Business Improvement Association – Chef & Chef’s Table Society Neil Wyles, President,
*Yaletown BIA; Board Member, Chef’s Table Society; Chef and owner, Hamilton Street Grill
*Food Bloggers – James Tabbert & Amy Eagan, vancouverstreeteats.ca
*Member of the public – Claudia Bialostozky, Author of Master’s Thesis on street food vending in Vancouver
*Two youth representatives will also be appointed to the panel.
1480 11th Ave W, Vancouver, BC V6H1L1, CA
Hamilton Street Grill
1009 Hamilton Street, Vancouver, BC V6B 2R9, CA
re: Sam Salmon
Sam Salmon - I am 100% with you on this one....looks like UBC is going down hill faster that I thought it was possible....
On a more "serious" note. What's with all the panels? This is going to become another bureaucratic mess and with all these pannelists you know this is going to be another major "cluster....you know what".
You want to see what street food should look like and how it works - go to Richmond night market and pay attention to the PRICES......street food is quick and cheap....
I can understand if CoV has concerns regarding technical aspects (i.e. size of the carts/trucks, hours of operation, locations, etc.) but if they start to pick and choose the type of foods or looking at the "nutritional" content or "sustainable source" factor that' just plain nuts....
VSE - Thanks for the input about the behind the scene process regarding the licensing. Please keep us updated.
My biggest concern with the process is all the requirements the city want to impose, driving up the costs for the street vendors which usually means more expensive food offerings.
Besides the lottery system the city used, I thought the biggest barrier to success to the street food program was how expensive the food was.
In my mind, street food is for every body regardless of how much money you make. That was not the case with the first wave of street vendors.
I agree with Pollo, I think the Richmond Night Market (RNM) is a good case study for the city to look at. One can argue about the quality and uniqueness of the food offered at the RNM, but the food stalls are popular and the main attraction.
I think the key to success for the street food program is to build a mass following with diverse food offerings and lower price much like the RNM.
If not handled properly, I always thought that the established restuarants in the downtown may become the biggest winners with the street food program. They have the capacity and capital to deal with all the requirements imposed by the city.
The restuarants could capture a new group of customers (time starve office workers) with a food cart and effectively drive customers to their restaurants' dinner service. Street food just becomes another marketing tool for the established restaurants and Vancouverites get offerings that are similiar to items being served in restaurants.
I'm hoping the city will streamline the program & encourage diverse and affordable food offerings. Here's hoping for the best.
I agree with your concern. With the current regulations, established restaurants could very well open food carts, making it difficult for smaller operators to get their businesses off the ground. I am making a list of all of the concerns and am going to present it to the city. (it;s hard to say what good it will do, but it's better than nothing.)
Richmond Night Market works as it does so well because it is on private property. The rents for vendors are much less than what the city charges and there are hundreds of people there just for the food alone each weekend.
That's why I hope that Vancouver allows for vending on private property in the future.
Here are some pics I took of the Mississippi Marketplace foodcart space in Portland (in the Mississippi District): 10 foodcarts that surround a number of tents. There is also a building that houses a pub, some shared washrooms, a bit of a commissary, etc.
To expand on what VancouverStreetEats stated above - when the city allows foodcarts to run yearlong on private property is when we will see some real competition (which will drive the prices down).
The way it looks to me...maybe the city is not really interested in foodcarts? When I look at all the "red tape" that is proposed/in place it's unavoidable that prices will be way too high for this concept to take off in Vancouver and over time the operators will throw in the towel if the financials are not there....
The beauty of Portland's downtown is the amount of (previously) unused private property. That, combined with a hard hit to their economy, provided the recipe for food carts to flourish.
There are many other food cart 'pods' that aren't DT that became destination points all in themselves. Alot like the night market in Richmond... it's out of the way, but became a 'go to' destination regardless.
Maybe around Terminal ave in Vancouver? Lots of unused industrial land there and it's close to both downtown, SOMA and Commercial drive?
Thank You VSE for bringing our concerns to the panel. Maybe you'll be able to find allies on the panel.
I understand your point about the Richmond NIght Market and the freedom carts on private property can have.
I still think the Downtown core has a greater consumer base for street food than the Richmond night market.
Office workers, tourists & condo dwellers on weekdays and Condo dwellers & tourists on the weekends should in theory be greater than the people going to the Richmond Night Market on the weekends.
Maybe there needs to be a better marketing plan for the street vendors as well. I have the vancouver street food app, so I'm aware of where the carts are. But my co-workers who are interested in street food have no clue and I often have to give them directions to a cart.
Hard to say what the other panel menber's opinions are on all of this. I haven't met any of them before and have never eaten at the fish house or Vij's (I know , I know..how could I live in Vancouver and not have eaten there.. I just don't line up to get into restaurants and gave up both times I tried with a lineup of at least 20 people.Had rangoli take out once...and have cooked from his cookbook .. it's awesome!)
One of the vendors I was talking to on Wednesday mentioned that the commissary kitchen is a bad idea. He shopped around to find one because many were really dirty. He has a super-clean garage with running water that he said he could use without having to pay that extra expense. The city charges $100 to inspect the commissary, so what would be the difference?
re: commissaries. If the vendor has the space and resources, then renting a commissary isn't cost effective. Also, it really depends on what type of food the vendor plans to sell. Some dishes may require specialized equipment, etc that the operator will have to invest in or may not be permitted in a residence.
In San Francisco - which has a thriving (albeit contentious) streetfood scene, commissaries make sense to those who can't afford or have space to have their own. La Cocina is a great example of an organization that facilitates as a streetfood vendor incubator - and they have a commissary for rent. http://www.lacocinasf.org/
Thanks James, really appreciate your insight on the process.
One of my concern is that the whole process of food cart is that it will exclude many Individuals with great food away. The once that are most likely to succeed are possibly the once already in the food industry.
A lady that makes that great empanadas will have no chance against an experience albeit mediocre food outlet.
FOODIE PANEL UPDATE:
I posted this comment on VSE and would like to share it with you. I will be bringing everyone's points up to the city on the 22nd so please let me know what you would like to see done differently in the future. I still believe good can come out of this in the long run.. butt it's my turn to drop some negativity ;)
"Honestly, I’m betting on this whole process being a sham. I was happy to be selected to the panel before I got the information sent to me regarding the details.
I was considering resigning but thought a bit more about it.
When else would I have have such a chance to watch ‘democracy’ in action at Vancouver’s city hall, and to be a part of the process?
Locally grown foods will, without a doubt benefit local farmers.
Organics are almost always more expensive and some could argue that they are not actually better for the environment as they tend to produce less per acre. (I’m no expert and will leave that one alone.) Plus there are different certifications of organic. Hudderties in BC’s interior grow and raise EVERYTHING organically using traditional means but are not ‘organic certified’.
The other one that really bothers me is ‘Fair Trade.’ Tim Hortons does not sell fair trade coffee and it is much cheaper than places that do (crap example, but I’m hald asleep here). That extra expense paid by the consumer for fair trade is for proceeds going back to the local farmers/craftsmen to improve their lives. There are certification issues with this as well.
I bought a pound of Capulin coffee that ISN’T certified. It costs over $20 per pound with almost all of the money going back to the Mexican village where it is not only grown, but processed by hand.
‘Certified’ Fair trade products typically yield much lower returns to the people that produce them than many realize. Money is paid to marketing boards, people get rich misleading others that they are ‘making a difference’, the consumer buys into this and pays more, not realizing that many fair trade operations are just the opposite.
Do you see where I am going with this.. it’s all a touch political isn’t it? Organics, fair trade.. these are industry buzz-words used in ‘green marketing’ circles. The same circle that begot ‘Happy Planet’.
Vangroovy’s ex-hippies are making a killing these days.
Without a doubt, these initiatives will force vendors to raise prices, making street food less affordable to people on a budget. I have no problems with upscale carts. I have a problem with not letting the market decide what is sold.
I’m trying to think beyond the current administration to the future.
This healthy/sustainable/organic plan fits ever so nicely into the city’s ‘green’ social engineering plans.
Millions spent bike lanes that only a few wanted and are rarely used, while the downtown east side is only getting worse and services for new immigrants are being stretched to the limit.
Think past this merry bunch. They will not survive another term in office at this rate.
If food carts really take off this year in Vancouver, they will be a fixture on our streets for years to come. With different leaders, come different mandates.
The nutritional standards won’t be around for long…
Above all, try to keep in mind that the vendors themselves do not work work the city and have to go through mountains of red tape to get on to the streets.
Despite the lottery system being a complete joke, some excellent food carts toughed it out and have added some soul to our streets.
I expect more of the same this year. Vendors will find ways to navigate in and around the city’s rules. The ones that do will be the ones that make it."
Thanks James. That is a good mix of skepticism and cynicism. Though I disagree with the notion that a lottery system isn't the best way to go, all your other points about certification being greenwash is something I totally agree with. Let me also add that the Canadian nutrutional guidelines were also controversial when it was released in 2006(?). The panel that decided it was partly comprised of reps from big agribusiness (eg dairy, canola, etc iirc) but more importantly: it was based on dubious science. Many of the ideas in it are now obsolete.
PS. To expand in lotteries- it is the way other jurisdictions with a strong streetfood scene have always done it. Eg NYC.
Thanks for the update VSE.
I agree I think the city should let market forces determine what is being served in food carts and the prices. Let the people choose what they want to eat.
I think at this point I think best thing for the panel to do is select the applicants with the best chance of success ie the best business plan.
What is the city going to do if a cart scraps the menu they presented in their application and switches to a more consumer friendly menu? Are they really going to pull that cart's license, especially if the cart becomes successful with the new menu?
I wish the city would have hand selected the first wave of vendors to create a strong group of vendors and then switch over to a lottery system. I assume each wave of new applicants will be stronger having the benefit of observing the failures and successes of their competitiors.
The lottery system is not bad per se but just not the right fit for the start up program in Vancouver. Once the food cart industry becomes established and thriving I would prefer a lottery system.