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Jul 6, 2011 05:51 AM

Building a Food Truck scene in Toronto (split from Ontario board)

This is interesting. So what then is the major obstacle now preventing Toronto from having food trucks? If you had to pick one or two things....

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  1. If they're going to be requiring city licensing, the city is going to want to micro manage it. The A La Cart program is a wonderful example.

    Where to put the trucks? Anyone want a truck blocking a lane on Yonge or Eglinton during the lunch time/dinner time rush hours?

    16 Replies
    1. re: mindme

      Every other city seems to be able to make them work, so it can't be that complicated.

      1. re: PoppiYYZ

        Agreed, Toronto is not unique at all. If every major U.S. city has food trucks there is no earthly reason why Toronto can't as well.

        Something has got to change. What a joke this city can be sometimes.

        1. re: magic

          But every major US city DOESN'T have food trucks. New York sort of does but they just swept a whole bunch of them off the streets. Otherwise what looks like a great big "scene" in most cities is largely exaggerated perception due to media focus because it's the fad of the year. One guy running a korean BBQ truck that gets featured on Eat Street does not actually mean that there are food trucks lining the streets of the central business districts of most US cities.

          1. re: bytepusher

            That's a good point too. Been to Chicago and new York in the last couple of months and the streets aren't teeming with trucks offering a wild cornucopia of delicious food like most people seem to believe.

            1. re: jamesm

              Comparatively to Toronto, they are absolutely teeming.

              1. re: jamesm

                You have to manage your expectations. While it's not a ubiquitous, wild cornucopia in NYC, you have a choice of wafels & dinges, Korean tacos, Moroccan, Greek, Pizza, Middle Eastern, desserts, ice cream, coffee, Mexican, Jamaican, lobster rolls, etc. available from trucks. Aside from trucks, you also have food carts all over the city serving the same and more. What Toronto doesn't have is midtown lunch ( and its twitter tracker that helps you find all the trucks and carts.

                Yes, there's bureaucratic hurdles to overcome in NYC such as the recent court ruling enforcing an old law that bans vendors from using metered parking to set up shop. That's something for the city council to figure out a solution for. What's important is that Toronto learn from other cities and improve on the opportunity by putting in place a simple, easy framework to nurture creativity and innovation, not stifle it.

                1. re: GoodGravy

                  Here here. Excellent comment about Twitter and innovative ways of finding good eats. This is why I think the future for this industry in bright and in its infancy - certainly not a fad.

                  Let's hope Toronto does learn!!

                  Because it’s clear there is so much opportunity here for tremendous growth - both in terms of new business and for an increase in the variety as well as the nutritional value in food available to the public. This is hardly a groundbreaking comment, but still very valid I think.

                2. re: jamesm

                  Of course not, and I'm shocked that people think that it would. Chicago and NYC have a ton of awesome food culture, they don't need to just jump on a bandwagon just because it's popular.

                  Other than Mayor Daley (err Emmanuel)'s crusade against food trucks, which doesn't help... it's just not something that fits into Chicago culture. Most people either take the El/Metra, or drive in from the suburbs. There isn't a "car" culture like there are in cities where food trucks have really taken off.

                  LA as the epicenter makes sense, as does Las Vegas, where I've spent some time and where there is a pretty healthy food truck scenes. Both of these places are really built around the car, the parking lot, and the appeal of passing by a certain intersection with a delicious food truck parked out front. But Chicago? NYC? Not really; Toronto, I don't really know.

                3. re: bytepusher

                  I’m not convinced food trucks and micro-spaces are a fad.

                  I think they might be at the forefront of an evolving way of selling food. The thing is the pace of North American bureaucracy moves so slow, but eventually, and this might well take years, but eventually government and business associations will have no choice but to adapt and accommodate this way of selling food.

                  I think it’s simply a matter of time. And I'm talking years, not decades.

                  1. re: magic

                    I don't disagree that there's a place for this type of thing in the market, especially as one way of addressing some of the "food desert" problems that exist in some places where the only options are crap corporate fast food and more crap corporate fast food, but that's not what the current mania is about. The irony of people running an effing cupcake truck asking people to sign a petition for more healthy street food is pretty rich.

                    1. re: magic

                      I posted this once before but I think it got lost in the topic splitting

                      I don't disagree that food-trucks/microspaces have a place in the market especially where there is a need to address so called "fast food deserts" where options for healthy or quality restaurant food are non-existent and the corresponding lower barriers to market entry permit entrepreneurs to enter these under-served markets. That said that's not what the current mania is all about, to whit the irony of a cupcake truck asking people to sign a petition to increase access to healthy street food is pretty rich.

                      1. re: bytepusher

                        That's interesting that the cupcake truck had a petition regarding access to healthier street food, which I and I suppose anyone, would agree with.

                        By healthy, I assume they meant access to food other than processed fare like hot dogs, boxed burgers and such. In other words, scratch-made.

                        1. re: magic

                          It wasn't the cupcake truck specifically, I understand it was being promoted at the festival generally, and certain of the principals involved have been pumping it on twitter.

                          I get the benefits of scratch made vs processed food but simply do not buy that in all cases one can make a case that that is synonymous with healthy, Krispy Creme donuts are essentially scratch made after all.

                          1. re: bytepusher

                            Oh scratch made definitely does not always mean healthy, for sure! Agreed.

                4. re: PoppiYYZ

                  Even New York is having to adjust to the popularity of food trucks.. there are rules where they can and cannot park, licenses for specific areas etc. I am sure restaurants would not want a truck to be able to just park outside thier location and take away their customers..

                  1. re: RogerDoger

                    In Portland the trucks rent spots from commercial parking lots to circumnavigate the local by-laws. Toronto has some work to do but it's not the only place with government hurdles.

              2. Obstacles to Toronto having "food trucks"

                1) business lobby - if you run a business in the city, pay property and business taxes, rent, utility bills, have to maintain a public washroom, be subject to a whole laundry list of government red tape (health department, fire department, disabled access etc.) I don't want some joker parking on my street running what amounts to a government subsidized competitive business. Heck no, and frankly I see their point, fair competition is one thing but using what amounts to loopholes in the law put in place originally to permit stuff like county fairs and festivals and construction site lunch wagons to establish an unfair advantage for a semi-permanent business isn't playing fair.

                2) sustainability of the business model - frankly the current food truck thing is just the fad of the moment. In some of the places where it got started in the US it's already played out. It's the food industry version of a ponzi scheme, those that get in early, make their money and get out are the only ones who come out ahead, today it's food trucks, last year it was "supper clubs" and so on...

                1. I wonder if there are not some dead malls in Toronto that could transform their parking space into a food truck hub? Consider the Honeydale Mall.


                  It's not too far from the Kipling subway station. It has a closed down Golden Griddle that maybe could be revitalized as a food prep/storage area for food trucks.

                    1. One obstacle Toronto may have is areas that offer affordable retail spaces. The main reason behind the rise of food trucks (in NYC anyway) is the complete and utter void of retail spaces that are anywhere near affordable for a non chain store. Food trucks aren't easy businesses to open and run. The trucks themselves cost up to 100k and they, of course, pay all applicable taxes, are required to pass health inspections and obtain permits. Oh & deal with harassment from police.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: mookster

                        Oh for craps sake. If the city of Toronto wants to jump on one of the biggest tax revenues bases since the "Bare Naked Ladies" they will find a way to work with in reasonable health regulations.

                        My question is ..>WHY would any one do this when they know they only have 6 months of the year to make any money?

                        1. re: Luna2372

                          Except for the ice cream trucks, food trucks stay open all year in NYC and only stay off the street during inclement weather. I don't see why they couldn't do the same in Toronto, unless people don't go out for lunch when it gets cold.