Ottawa food truck operators have mixed reviews of city's program

Ottawa's food trucks are returning to the streets for the summer but some operators of the trucks have mixed reviews about how the city is running the food truck program.

City of Ottawa food truck program entering second year and some operators want changes

The Streat Gourmet food truck offers a seasonal menu to downtown pedestrians in Ottawa. (Jessie Archambault)

Some of Ottawa's food trucks are returning to the streets for the summer but some owners and operators of the trucks have mixed reviews about how the city is running the food truck program.

Steven Dupras is the co-owner of the Red Roaster truck in the Glebe and was part of the 17 food trucks and carts added to the streets of Ottawa last year. He said it is frustrating how the city assigns the trucks a spot for the summer and are not allowed to move.

"But why does it have wheels then," questioned Dupras.

The city's street food vending program established street spots for vendors to sell meals between 11a.m. and 5:30p.m. Each vendor has a designated permit for a particular spot that must be at least at 46 metres from another food provider such as a restaurant.

Tarek Hassan, owner of the Gungfu Bao cart on Elgin Street at Slater Street, said that the truck operators need to learn how each location works to make the most money.

"You access a very specific market when you're in that location and at a certain time of day during the week," said the steamed-bun maker.

Changes in city's food trucks

Three of the 17 food trucks added to the streets last summer have stopped operating. 

  • The Stone Soup Foodworks has opted to focus on catering for private events.
  • LeRoy's Detroit Style Soul Food's truck is now a restaurant at 707 Gladstone Ave., north of Bronson.
  • The Twitter and Facebook pages for the Royi Fruita Bar at Confederation Park have not been updated since last fall, and their phone is no longer in service.

Hassan usually sticks around his location until 3 p.m. for late lunch lines. He hopes to find another location for the weekends or a new way to exploit his current spot on Saturdays and Sundays.

Food trucks voicing concerns

Food truck operators have now gathered and created an association, the Capital Street Food Association, to better voice their concerns to city officials.

The purpose is to have a single voice discuss problems and challenges with the city as well as with event organizers, according to Dupras.

"It gives us the chance to meet at least once a month and discuss all our problems and things we like," said the association's president Mario Burke. "It's great to get the message across one time."

Dupras said swapping locations of food trucks would bring diversity and variety on the streets.

Burke, owner of the seafood truck Ad Mare parked at Slater and O'Connor streets, said the association will keep negotiating with the city to get the ability to move the trucks this summer.  

Councillor Mark Taylor has the city knows location is an issue with the food trucks and said the city plans to meet with the association this summer to see how the program is working.

He said the city needs to be conscious of competing restaurants when assigning locations and said customers value consistency and having a truck at one place to go back to.

He also said one of the issues with trucks swapping or sharing a location is not all food trucks will fit in every space.

There are no plans to expand the number of truck permits offered, he said.

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