Truck regulations still unsustainable

Further easing of rules helps food trucks find place in K-W, but additional development is needed

Photo by Will Huang
Photo by Will Huang

The City of Kitchener recently made changes to further accommodate the circulation of food trucks within the region.

These changes include operability in more parks such as McLennan Park, Victoria Park and Budd Park, while the distance from restaurants has also been reduced from 20 to 10 metres.

Kitchener mayor Berry Vrbanovic said the further easing of rules comes with the belief of the added vitality provided by food trucks to the city.

“We hear a lot of positive things from residents around them, we want to continue transitioning to an environment that will see them as an integral part of our range of choices [and] of places where people can go and eat,” Vrbanovic said.

Reuben Salonga, co-creator of Luchador mexi-fusion food truck, represents several food truck operators and said the changes are a step in the right direction. However an improvement in the sustainability of food trucks in Kitchener-Waterloo is needed for the possibility of growth and permanence in the long run.

“It’s not about one or two or three sites, [it’s] whether or not the city of Kitchener or Waterloo for that matter can sustain the regional growth,” said Salonga.

Food trucks continue to operate based on permission — they can only fully operate in an area without restrictions if permitted by establishments such as schools and restaurants.

They are also permitted in Civic Square in Kitchener on certain days and times, one-off promotional events as well as festivals, so long as no neighbouring restaurants object.

Although the K-W area provides opportunities for events that are attended by many people, this source of profit is not sufficient in itself, according to Salonga. Food trucks are required to pay an annual licencing fee of $350 along with other expenses invested by food trucks.

Salonga said the opportunities accompanying the licence are not worth the investment. His own food truck has not been able to stay in the K-W region on a full-time basis as the market continues to be in its developmental stage.

“The city had made some positive steps in opening up more opportunities, but are we there yet? No absolutely not. Are we committed to the process of improving it? Absolutely,” he explained.

In light of significant changes under development in the K-W area such as the light rail transit construction, Salonga believes even with the mobile nature of food trucks, these changes will work against them. Some of the routes currently under construction as it limits access to potential customers.

“[The construction] clogs the arteries that would otherwise be accessible for food trucks … So there are challenges there, but those challenges are not unique to food trucking. It’s something every business along those LRT routes are affected by,” Salonga said.

Vrbanovic believes the LRT developments will work fine with food trucks as it will generate more residential traffic, boosting the overall quality of life.

“As the LRT comes on board … more people are living in our inner city neighourhood and the condos come up … the level of vitality in the downtown is going to increase and I think more and more people are looking for food trucks to be a part of that story,” he said.

Salonga said the food truck business is a “global phenomenon,” in which there is no longer an idea to sell, but rather a business that needs successful implementation and sustainability.

“We’re not trying to sell an idea to one city out in the K-W region, this is happening on every side of Kitchener … The City of Kitchener has been good thus far. What we expect from them is to continue to progress a more sustainable model so that food trucks do indeed become a stable industry.”

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