There was probably a time when the words ‘food truck’ might have conjured up an image of a rusty bucket of bolts serving heartburn inducing food.
However, over the last number of years, food trucks have gone though an evolution and have become a foodie’s paradise, serving up gourmet choices often better than any up-scale restaurant at half the price.
Food trucks are appealing to first time business owners who might want to get into the food industry, but don’t have the finances to open a brick and mortar restaurant. Of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t any overheard, with fuel and labour being the biggest expense. And they are not exempt from the many regulations that goes with running a food service business. Depending on the jurisdiction, there’s no doubt a variety of permits that have to be obtain, regulations to follow and health codes that have to be observed.
As food trucks grow in popularity here on PEI, these regulations have occasionally resulted in spats between owners and local government officials.
In 2019, the owners of Nimrods wanted to set up a food truck in a vacant lot in downtown Charlottetown. The plan was to create a space on Great George Street between the Old Triangle and Cedars that would have been set off from the street by fencing and would have included alcohol service, permanent seating and washrooms. But despite the proposal receiving vocal support at a public meeting and the city’s planning board recommending the proposal to go ahead with conditions, Charlottetown council unanimously rejected the proposal. Instead of working with the owners to address concerns council had with the proposal, they rejected the plan and that vacant remains empty, with the city missing an opportunity to create something unique for the downtown. Thankfully, Nimrods landed on their feet with an opportunity to set up a permanent place at the floating food count on the Charlottetown waterfront.
More recently, there was a story about Truckin’ Roll, which serves handmade ice cream from a vintage French mail truck. The owners were denied a permit to set up one of their trucks in Victoria-by-the-Sea this summer.
The decision from council is a head scratcher because the owners were able to set up in the village last summer and according to them the ice cream truck was a hit with both locals and visitors alike.
The mayor said the reason council objected to the permit was because the village has a certain ambiance it has to maintain.
The teal coloured truck where the ice cream is served from is adorable and, in this reporter’s opinion, fits right in with the quaintness of the charming seaside village.
After a year where businesses have struggled, being able to help a pair of young entrepreneurs seems like a missed opportunity. How many people might have travelled to Victoria just to have ice cream and ended up staying to take in the rest of the village? Hopefully, Victoria’s loss is another municipality’s gain and the ice cream truck will find another home somewhere on PEI.
On the other hand, the City of Summerside is embracing the trend by setting up a venue just for food trucks on its waterfront. The spot will include places to sit, have washroom facilities, operate seven days a week and be open from mid-June to late September.
That’s a municipality recognizing the unique opportunity food trucks can bring to an area. It’s time other municipalities follow suit.