Monday, 11 August 2014

Vancouver's Food Truck Follies

One of the recent trends in Vancouver has been the explosion of Food Trucks on the streets.

While other major cities in North America have an abundance of these mobile kitchens, it wasn't until 2010 that Vancouver had its first. Now, we have over 100.

To understand why it is such a big deal, you have to know that Vancouver has always been behind the times and quite strict about food safety for mobile food sellers.

I remember how big of a deal it was when the first street hot dog vendors (Mr. Tube Steak!!!!!) were allowed to start operating about 20-odd years ago. While other big cities had plenty of these street meat hawkers, Vancouver didn't start catching up until my early teens. It's no surprise that we didn't get food trucks until just a few years ago.

Unfortunately, the food truck industry in Vancouver has been, to my experience, one GIANT disappointment.

Here is what I expect from a mobile food seller: Fast and cheap

Here is what Vancouver Food Trucks (VFTs) are generally not: Fast and cheap

One reason I'd want to go to a VFT is to get a quick meal to go. If I had the time, I'd go to a cafe or restaurant, so going to a street vendor is for time-saving purposes.

VFTs fail largely in this regard, with 7-15 minute waits not uncommon. Fresh food does take time to prepare, but many VFTs don't seem to have certain staples prepared beforehand, and efficiency is lacking.

VFTs have nowhere to sit, and you are often left there standing in the baking hot sun with nothing to do.

Prices at the typical VFT also mirror that of most small cafes and some restaurants, which is to say it is not cheap. $10-15 for a small meal is the norm with many VFTs, and the quantity of food doesn't make up for it. (Although that isn't as much of a concern to me these days). 

I'm not sure the quality of food makes up for the prices, either. I've had one fish & chips that was so oily that I had to throw it up an hour later, I've tried the famous "Japadog" (overrated, but still tasty), and found most dishes to be pretty much of average quick-food quality.

I understand every business has costs to cover, and Vancouver's licenses aren't cheap, but the food trucks don't have the brick-and-mortar costs that a typical restaurant has, nor do they need to hire serving staff. VFTs should be able to offer lower prices due to lower overhead, but it doesn't happen.

(c) The Vancouver Sun

From anecdotal internet talk and other things I've read, it seems that other cities with food trucks have it better, and have it right.

Honestly, downtown consumers are better off going to any of the numerous food courts at the malls here. You get air conditioning and protection from the elements, you don't have to wait as long for the food, and the prices are a bit lower. The quality is about the same, too.

Mobile food trucks are a great concept, and seem to be popular, for the time being, but I still fail to understand how they will continue to be successful if they cannot offer any time or money savings from the thousands of other options we have in this city.