By now everyone is very familiar with a phenomena that started about a decade ago in many cities where food is sold and served curbside from a truck or trailer with a kitchen on board.
What started as hot dog carts in the park has grown to include a wide variety of foods served from mobile locations – sometimes ethnic, often featuring local or organic ingredients, usually served in paper wrap or trays, and somehow best enjoyed while you’re hanging out on a street corner. Hours of television are devoted to ‘street eats’ and, in most cities, thousands of people daily dine at one of these colourful and creative ‘restaurants on wheels’. Victoria and Vancouver offer great examples, but even Courtenay, Duncan and Parksville are now developing a food truck culture.
But not in Nanaimo! A couple of food trucks made appearances in recent years and struggled to survive regulatory approval, appropriate operating terms and spaces, and… customers in the locations the city would permit. Most, unfortunately, failed under the weight of bureaucracy. Now, the Vancouver Island Food Truck Association, a loose knit group of operators, are trying to break through in some smaller communities that have been a challenge, ours included.
A few enthusiastic entrepreneurs are proposing a new approach to the city through the Chamber. It’s well known from experience that food trucks and carts do not pose an unfair advantage over restaurant operators. Food trucks act as an attraction and a destination unto themselves. When gathered together, they present a roving ‘food festival’. When used to provide food at community events, in festivals and in parks, they are a lively addition to the festivities replacing the tired, old approach to concession stands where a city would operate, or license, a permanent structure to churn out the same old, same old dogs and fries or plastic wrapped pre-made sandwiches.
Is Nanaimo ready? Can you see it now – on our city streets downtown, at our beaches, in our parks? Should we support and encourage our community to seek ‘friendly’ regulation and permitting policies? If you say yes, let Mayor and Council know or tell the Chamber you’re on board with street eats in Nanaimo. Call me or email your opinion to firstname.lastname@example.org 250-756-1191
Kim Smythe, CEO