The president of Dugald, Man.-based Food Trucks International says a declining loonie has seen his U.S. business explode, but he worries it could be at the cost of his Canadian customers.
Otto Kemerle heads up the company — formerly Pizza Trucks of Canada. His business fabricates many of the vehicles used by food truck vendors in Winnipeg, and across North America.
Kemerle said, since the loonie started slipping, his U.S. orders have dramatically increased. "The economy is so strong down there that customers are interested in getting a deal from Canadians." But his Canada-based clientele are less impressed.
Food truck boom helps expand business
While FTI's vehicles are made in Canada, the HVAC and food preparation equipment comes from the U.S. and has gone up in price thanks to the decline of the Canadian dollar.
Kemerle estimated the price of a truck has gone up about $7,000, thanks to the weak loonie, making some of his Canadian customers "leary."
Kemerle said he's looked for Canadian suppliers for the parts in question, but the few Canadian retailers who do sell them deal in U.S. dollars, negating any potential savings.
'They say 'where is my U.S. dollar discount?'' - Otto Kemerle
Thanks in part to the food truck boom and to Kemerle's expanded U.S. customer base, business is good, despite concerns in the Canadian market.
"We doubled our business in the past two years, and are expecting a large increase this year," he said.
Kemerle added the increase in business means he's been able to hire more people and has subcontracted some of his work, like electrical, propane, plumbing and fire suppression, to other Manitoba firms.
Kemerle said U.S. customers are also getting wise to the buying power of their dollar, and have started pushing for a better deal.
A tighter U.S. border
"I deal a lot with large corporate in the U.S. Large pizza chains, and they do understand that they get more bang for their buck in Canada," Kemerle said. "They say, 'Where is my U.S. dollar discount?'"
Kemerle is also concerned about import laws in the U.S. changing to stop so much American business from heading north.
He said, at the end of last season, he noticed "the border is getting a little tighter."
He cited a new requirement for "made in Canada" labels on his trucks delaying one shipment at the border.
When asked whether the weak loonie is good or bad for his business, Kemerle said, "The jury's out. Ask me at the end of the year."