It’s been just over a month since Toronto’s new food truck bylaws came into effect mid-May. For many, the amended regulations, including the lifted moratorium on vending in downtown and the availability of more permits, was overshadowed by the “50 meter rule” and the $5,067 price tag per permit. In the wake of these changes, what kind of action have we seen around town?
Of the 125 new mobile vending permits that are up for grabs, only nine have been issued thus far (for trucks such as Me.N.U., Kal Mooy, Polar Express 1, Prince Edwards Fries, Tang’s Family Restaurant, Buster’s Sea Cove). A total of 26 licensed food trucks exist in the city in total.
While local appetites are panging for greater access to food trucks, perhaps it’s not such a shock that existing operators are choosing to waive the additional cost of a mobile permit.
Local food and travel writer and editor, Mary Luz Mejia, is one Torontonian who yearns for more edible options on the city’s streets. “You have to be really paying attention to SM [social media] to figure out where they’re going to be next,” she says. “It’s too bad. It limits our ability to get really great food on the street – aside from a street dog, chip truck, or crappy soft serve ice cream.”
Many in the industry feel there is little to be gained through obtaining one of the pricey permits. Zane Caplansky owns both a bricks-and-mortar restaurant (Caplansky’s Deli) and food truck (Thundering Thelma). He didn’t think twice about procuring a mobile permit, describing it as “the stupidest thing ever,” and posing the question, “$5k for what?”
Representatives from the City of Toronto obviously feel differently.
“We believe that the permit price is fair for the use of city streets for commercial purposes,” says Tammy Robbinson, Strategic Communications at the City of Toronto. “The 50 meters from a restaurant was a balance between the BIAs, existing restaurants, and the food trucks.”
Of those that have opted for the permits (readily available to all who hold vendors licenses), Me.N.U. was one of the first.
“It was mine and Bryan’s dream to run on the street,” says Me.N.U.’s co-owner Allen Tan. “We’ve waited for so long to have this happen. We would have got the permit at any cost, though we can’t even tell you right now whether we can be profitable at that price.”
Tan did describe the 50 meter rule as restrictive, especially during the lunch hour. His drive to “test the market and be a pioneer” outweighed the rest, however. And as the year progresses we’ll see whether more mobile permits enter the market and the type of success those permit holders have enjoyed.
The bylaw will be revisited in one year, after the City conducts a review of the program.