New Brunswick

Food trucks face summer without festivals

New Brunswick's food truck operators aren't sure what to expect as they face a 2020 season without music festivals, tractor pulls and Canada Day celebrations.

Operators also face higher prices for the food they cook

A customer at Serious Smoke, a food truck at East Point in Saint John on Friday. Food truck operators are reworking business plans after the cancellation of summer festivals. (Graham Thompson, CBC)
New Brunswick's food truck operators aren't sure what to expect as they face a 2020 season without music festivals, tractor pulls and Canada Day celebrations.

On the other hand, their businesses don't have the same COVID-19 response limitations placed on the province's restaurants.

"It's definitely different," said Randy O'Brien, serving Thai meals to customers from the Bangkok Food Truck in Bathurst on Friday. "In terms of sales we're still not sure, we haven't been out to enough places yet to really make that conclusion."

O'Brien is finding some communities have suspended food truck permits as part of the emergency response. Prices for the pork he buys have risen 150 percent. Vegetable prices have also climbed.

"We had priced our menu out in January and February for this season and it was completely out the window come April," he said.

Sherry Gallant, manager of Southern Influence food truck. 'I was kind of afraid that people weren't going to come.' (Graham Thompson, CBC)
Inside the Southern Influence food truck set up at East Point Shopping in Saint John, Sherry Gallant is cooking her specialty fish tacos and chicken waffles with little sense of how her summer will unfold.

"There are some pretty good music festivals that we go to that are now off the table for this year, so this year might be a very small year," said Gallant.

But the early customer response Friday gave her some reason for optimism.

"I was kind of afraid that people weren't going to come because of this. I didn't think it was going to be overly popular, but people have no place to go, so this is their entertainment."

Shawn Thorne, owner of East Coast Donair says he's taking it 'day by day." (Graham Thompson, CBC)

Next to Gallant, Shawn Thorne is set up with East Coast Donair. He opened for the season May 1st and says the first weekend went well, with many of his products sold out by Sunday.  But what happens from here, he said, is anyone's guess.

"All the major events are cancelled. We'll have to take it day by day, it's all we can do," said Thorne.

Darren McKillop will open his truck, JR's Street Food across from the Walmart in Grand Falls, this Thursday or Friday.
He too has lost all of his summer bookings.

But he's buoyed by a 38 percent jump in sales over the past two months at his takeout in Plaster Rock and hopes that will carry over to the street food business. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Connell Smith is a reporter with CBC in Saint John. He can be reached at 632-7726 Connell.smith@cbc.ca

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