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Jan 20, 2011 03:49 PM

Expanding Food Carts in Vancouver - as choosen by Foodies?

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?

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  1. 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.

    1. 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...

      4 Replies
      1. re: fmed

        Panel of "foodies" strike the fear of God in me. . .really?!?!?

          1. re: fmed

            'panel of foodies', can you be more vague? they might as well do a reality TV series or documentary on the process, "Vancouver's Next Food Cart". looking forward to learning who the 'experts' are.

            1. re: betterthanbourdain

              Just as long as Rachel Ray isn't one of 'em ;-)

      2. 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.

        1 Reply
        1. re: peter.v

          The only cart that I have any desire to return to is Fresh Local Wild...all the others I have tried were pretty 'meh.'

        2. 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.

          1. 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,

            *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.

            Vij's Restaurant
            1480 11th Ave W, Vancouver, BC V6H1L1, CA

            Hamilton Street Grill
            1009 Hamilton Street, Vancouver, BC V6B 2R9, CA

            22 Replies
            1. re: moyenchow

              <<Master’s Thesis on street food vending in Vancouver>>???

              I think I need to go and lie down for a bit......

              1. re: Sam Salmon

                Skool is a lot different than it used to be, Sam :-O

                1. 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 " 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....

                  1. re: Pollo

                    The "panel" is so that City staff (& Council) can enact whatever conclusions come out of the panel's recommendations without taking any potential public flak directly themselves. CoV is amazingly bureaucratic that way

                    1. re: LotusRapper

                      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....

                      1. re: Pollo

                        (referencing the original Province article):
                        "Menu diversity, experience, locally sourced food and nutritional content will all play a role in determining which vendors are chosen, with the latter eliciting the most concern at council."

                        That sounds like the agenda !

                2. re: moyenchow

                  Does anyone else feel there is a slight conflict of interest with members having such a vested interest in their own competing businesses (aka restaurants) being on this panel?

                  1. re: moyenchow

                    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.

                    1. re: moyenchow

                      "moneychow" thank you for agreeing with me on the price point. Street food should be (1) quick, (2) cheap and (3) smaller portions. No one does street food to fill up or have a substancial meal. I think prices should fall allong $2-$4-$6 per serving....not more....

                      1. re: moyenchow

                        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.

                        1. re: VancouverStreetEats

                          Thanks VSE for your advocacy.

                          This is how I envision a better food carts arrangement in the future, a la RNM [wink]:


                          So practical ....... a centralized shared BBQ pit right in the middle !!

                          1. re: LotusRapper

                            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).

                            1. re: fmed

                              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....

                              1. re: fmed

                                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?

                              2. re: LotusRapper

                                RE: LotusRapper - LOL...what do you mean isn't the middle area a eco friendly garbage disposal unit or a super quick re-heating station ;D

                                1. re: moyenchow

                                  Yeah but wouldn't a big BBQ pit be more useful ? :-D

                                  I'm thinking something like this (central bbq pit in middle of restaurant):


                                  Re-UP would have to re-locate, LOL

                                2. re: LotusRapper

                                  LOL! Back to basics.. You could even use the manure to fuel the fire ALA Indian cow dung stoves..

                                  City council would love sustainable with a low carbon footprint!

                                  Just try to stay upwind from the smoke ;)

                                3. re: VancouverStreetEats

                                  Any idea what is the "rent" that city charges?

                                  1. re: VancouverStreetEats

                                    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.

                                    1. re: moyenchow

                                      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 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?

                                      1. re: VancouverStreetEats

                                        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.