Land of the Midnight Food Truck?

Think food trucks are a big city thing? Think again! Even the small town of Inuvik, NT is grappling with the trend, even though they have just one truck (actually it’s a trailer) called Ready Red’s, not to mention a climate that makes street vending realistic for just a few short months each year. Brick-and-mortar businesses have complained as have taxi drivers and even some residents. A similar situation has played out in dozens of towns and cities over the last six years or so, ever since the “modern” food truck boom began.1

With my passion for food trucks and the fact that I lived in Inuvik for eight years when I was a kid, I’m quite interested in the outcome of Ready Red’s fight. It’s fascinating to me that the same arguments are made again and again in different towns and cities. At the opposite end of the scale from Inuvik there’s New York, which has been dealing with complaints about food trucks for years. Some places clamp down on food trucks, others work hard to support them. Even locations that are relatively close together can have very different approaches; for instance, San Diego heavily regulates food trucks whereas Los Angeles is quite open to them.

Welcome to Inuvik, photo by Chris Harrison

In today’s Inuvik Drum, the news brief read:

“Following complaints about the Ready Red’s mobile food trailer parked near the Mad Trapper, the town’s bylaw review committee has recommended banning street venders from parking along Mackenzie Road in the core area.

Instead of using existing roadside parking spaces, the town’s bylaw amendment would move street venders on to private property, similar to how Bill Rutherford operates his grocery business.”

Bill Rutherford is affectionately known to locals as “Bill the Fruit Man”. He brings fresh produce from Whitehorse to Inuvik every three weeks in a large semi-trailer. I remember going to buy groceries with my parents from his truck, parked in an empty lot on the main street2. I guess you could say that was my first exposure to a “food truck”.

Josh Tyler is the owner of Ready Red’s and he was at Inuvik’s Town Council meeting last night to make his case. He also started an online petition that currently has over 270 signatures. Josh promised to have “a mob of people and supporters” with him at the meeting, and it sounds like he delivered. Mayor Floyd Roland said he had never seen such a turnout for a council meeting!

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look good for Ready Red’s. The proposed bylaw that would ban food trucks on town roads passed first and second reading. It still has to pass third reading before it would become an official town bylaw. If that happens, Ready Red’s would only be able to operate on private property3.

Downtown Inuvik

That’s a photo of Inuvik’s main street, Mackenzie Road, in the winter, which is pretty much how I remember it. You’d think this would be a big enough barrier for food trucks in the north! Ready Red’s parks just to the left of where this photo was taken.

Should towns and cities embrace food trucks? I’m inclined to say yes, because I think food trucks bring more than just good food to the table – they also promote street activity. At least one study makes a strong economic case for food trucks too (PDF):

“Street sellers can create jobs, help keep streets safe, give consumers the goods and services they want and add to the vitality of cities. But for that to happen, cities must get rid of the convoluted and protectionist laws that stand in vendors’ ways.”

The authors of that report recommend eliminating or revising obsolete restrictions, repealing bans on street vending, repealing proximity restrictions, streamlining the permit process, and providing clear, simple, and modern rules that are narrowly tailor to address health and safety issues. “Then they should get out of the way and let vendors work.”

We’ll have to wait and see if Inuvik decides to put up barriers or instead decides to let food trucks flourish. Inuvik Town Council meets on the 2nd and 4th Monday and Wednesday of each month, so their next meeting will take place May 26. Minutes from last night’s meeting will eventually be posted on their website.

If you’re in Edmonton, don’t miss our first What the Truck?! of the season, taking place on 104 Street on May 24. RSVP on Facebook!

  1. Richard J. S. Gutman, author of “American Diner: Then & Now”, estimates the food truck industry can be traced back to Walter Scott who back in 1872 parked a wagon in front of a local newspaper office in Providence, R.I. and sold sandwiches and pies. The beginning of the modern food truck era is generally believed to coincide with the popular Kogi Korean BBQ truck, which burst on to the scene using social media about six years ago. See: Who Made That Food Truck? 

  2. Has Inuvik changed much since I lived there? Some things change, some stay the same. The fruit man still sells his produce, but my elementary school was demolished a few weeks ago

  3. I’m not 100% certain, but it looks like Ready Red’s began life on the sidewalk, as a hot dog and burger stand, back in 2011. 

The Past, Present, and Future of Food Truck Bylaws & Guidelines in Edmonton

Well it was bound to happen sooner or later – Edmonton has joined the long list of cities that have had disputes between restaurants and food trucks. As you’ve probably heard, Grandma Lee’s in Petroleum Plaza has complained about Drift, one of our city’s most popular food trucks. It’s an attractive media story as we head into summer and that has contributed to the issue becoming a bigger deal than is necessary. On the plus side, the situation has highlighted the need for a review of the Street Vending Program.

Truck Stop in Old Strathcona

I have been learning about and researching the bylaws and guidelines and how everything works for quite a while now, and this seems like a good opportunity to share what I know!

Why are food trucks allowed in Edmonton?

The Traffic Safety Act (TSA) sets out the basic rules for streets in our province. Among other things, the act outlines how the Alberta Transportation Safety Board should work, the rules for operator’s licenses and vehicle registrations, speed limits and other rules of the road, and the powers of municipalities with respect to streets. Specifically, section 13(1) states that municipalities can pass bylaws that govern the use of highways under its direction, provided they are not inconsistent with the TSA. Here in Edmonton that is bylaw 5590 (Traffic Bylaw, PDF) and in Calgary, that is 26M96 (Traffic Bylaw) and 20M88 (Street Bylaw).

A useful way to think about it is this: All streets in Alberta are governed by the basic rules set forward by the province. In cities like Edmonton and Calgary, bylaws enable each municipality to manage its own streets, building on top of those basic province-wide rules.

In Calgary, the Street Bylaw states in section 5(a) that you cannot sell things on streets. Section 5(b) outlines some exceptions to this, including pushcarts and ice cream trucks, but does not specifically mention food trucks. In Edmonton, section 67 is far less specific, and simply states that you must have a permit in order to sell goods and services. It also grants authority to the City Manager to basically bring the bylaws to life through policies, procedures, guidelines, and enforcement.

That’s why Edmonton has been allowed to have food trucks – our Traffic Bylaw enables permits for selling goods and services on city streets, and it does not specify any restrictions as to what those goods and/or services might be. As long as you have a valid permit, you’re good to go. In Calgary, you’d need to get a letter from the Director of Roads unless you fall under one of the allowed exceptions. Obviously that’s not a very scalable solution, hence the pilot that is underway in Calgary.

How does the City of Edmonton manage food trucks?

Nearly thirty years ago the Street Vending Program was created. According to a City report from 2005, it “was initiated by City Council to aid in the revitalization and enrichment of the downtown core.” Parks & Recreation was originally responsible for the program, though it has also called Community Services home. Currently responsibility falls to Sustainable Development.

The program today consists of the coordinator, the application forms, and the guidelines. You can download the latest package here. If you look at the package, you’ll find that the Street Vending Program deals with all kinds of vendors, not just food trucks. Hotdog carts, ice cream trucks, and any other vendor wanting to sell things on city streets must have four things: a business license (specifically a Travelling or Temporary Food Sales license), a health permit, a minimum of $2 million general liability insurance, and a vending permit. In order to get a vending permit, you need to talk to the Street Vending Coordinator and you need to follow the guidelines. There are slightly different guidelines for sidewalk vendors as opposed to street vendors, and altogether different guidelines for ice cream trucks.

Until very recently, the coordinator was a seasonal position, which means that throughout most of the winter there was no staff person at the City working on street vending. That meant that there was limited time to make improvements to the guidelines or changes to the program, which is part of the reason why they have remained largely the same for years.

What are the guidelines for food trucks in Edmonton?

There are a number of guidelines that apply to all kinds of vendors. For example, vendors are only allowed to operate from 7am until 11pm. Permits apply to a single location only – if you want multiple locations, you need to have multiple permits. Vendors must adhere to a code of conduct and “conduct themselves in a professional manner”. Vending units must not be left unattended, vendors cannot sell illegal or counterfeit products, etc.

In addition to the general street vending guidelines, there are roughly fifteen bullet points under the section for street vendors. Most of these are fairly straightforward, including things like “all existing parking restrictions apply” and “overhead canopies or vertically operating doors must not obstruct or hinder safe pedestrian traffic”. I encourage you to read the document for yourself as it isn’t very long. I’ll highlight the two points that deal with disputes between existing businesses and vendors:

  • Permission will not be granted to Vendors where a conflict with an existing business is evident.
  • Where a conflict arises with an existing business, the Sustainable Development Department reserves the right to relocate the contentious Vendor.

Nowhere else in the guidelines does the topic of conflicts come up. There is no section on how such complaints are handled, nor is there any information on how to appeal a complaint. Under the current guidelines, if you’re a vendor that someone has complained about, you’re automatically labeled “contentious” and there’s not much you can do about it. There are no rules to fall back on, and there is no process to follow to try to resolve the issue.

When was the Street Vending Program last reviewed and updated?

While minor modifications have been made over the years, mostly with respect to title and department name changes but also fees, the current street vending guidelines are largely the same as they were in 2005 (the oldest copy I was able to find). And according to a report from that year, the “program has not had an Administrative or City Council initiated review”. In other words, they haven’t been formally reviewed since they were created!

That report came about because then-Councillor Michael Phair received a complaint about street vending and “especially concerning vendors that sell food” so he made an inquiry to Administration. They brought a report back to the Community Services Committee on September 1, which outlined how the program operates. The committee voted to have Administration bring back a second report comparing the program with “best practices in cities such as Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.” That report came back on November 4 and outlined some of the things other cities do with respect to street vending. Here are the two key points from that report:

“Community Services Department surveyed service providers directly and asked a series of questions via telephone with counterparts from Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, New York, Winnipeg, Regina, Calgary, Vancouver, Victoria and Seattle.”

“After looking at the street vending practices for ten municipalities, it is concluded that Edmonton’s program equals or exceeds that of the other municipalities.”

As a result no further action was taken, and the program has continued the same way ever since.

Why should the guidelines be reviewed and updated now?

Put simply, a lot has changed in the last thirty years since the Street Vending Program was created! Especially in the last five years, interest in food trucks has exploded across North America and expectations about how such businesses operate has changed very quickly. In 2005, the program had about 40 vendors in total. This year, there are 55 vendors (that number includes food trucks, ice cream trucks, carts, and all other sidewalk vendors). That’s not a large jump, but we are seeing new food trucks joining the fray and I expect that trend will continue.

More important than the quantity of vendors is the type of vendor. Back in 2005, we didn’t really have curbside food trucks like Drift. Now we do, and we should expect more! I think there are significant differences between a sidewalk vendor and a food truck, yet the guidelines for the most part don’t reflect that. Whereas it might make sense to restrict a sidewalk vendor’s permit to a single location, the whole point of a food truck is that it is mobile and can move around.

The food trucks of today are serving a completely different kind of product than mobile carts have in the past, and that has an impact on the program too. Sandwiches from Drift are certainly competition for brick-and-mortar restaurants, so it’s no surprise that some disputes will arise. The current street vending program does not outline any process for dealing with such disputes.

The opportunity to realize Council’s original vision for the Street Vending Program – “to aid in the revitalization and enrichment of the downtown core” – has never been stronger than it is today. If we want food trucks to be viable and sustainable into the future, we need to update the program.

What changes should be made?

This is a topic that will need further discussion, but we could do a lot worse than to look to Calgary for guidance. Because their pilot program is so new, they have been able to capture many of the key points that differentiate food trucks from other vendors and those are reflected in the program’s guidelines.

Note that we don’t need to change our bylaws, just the Street Vending Program. Changing the bylaws is a much more difficult process that would require approval by City Council. Changing the Street Vending Program can be much simpler. Remember it’s the bylaws that make food trucks possible but it’s the Street Vending Program that outlines how food trucks are managed and should operate.

Here are some ideas for positive changes to Edmonton’s Street Vending Program:

  • Grant food trucks a permit that applies to multiple locations or a large area, rather than requiring one permit per location. In Calgary they have the concept of “roll zones” and “no-roll zones” which outline where the trucks can and cannot go.
  • Bring the cost of the permit in line with other cities. In Calgary, food trucks pay a flat fee of $700 per year that is not dependent on actual street usage.
  • Make it easier for trucks to serve in the evening. This could be accomplished by establishing some sort of evening roaming rules, by extending the valid operating times past 11pm, or both. In Calgary, food trucks may operate until 3am.
  • Get rid of the restriction that only one truck may operate on a street at a time. We know that food trucks are often more successful when there are many together than when they are going solo, as long as they are complementary, and we know that food truck operators all talk and already team up from time to time!
  • Clearly outline where food trucks are allow to operate. Calgary’s guidelines clearly state that food trucks cannot operate within 25 metres of any restaurant during its operational hours. (Note: Drift is a lot further from Grandma Lee’s than 25 metres!)
  • Outline a process for dealing with complaints. Food trucks need to have some certainty about their business, and if the processes by which they may be asked to move is completely opaque, it’s hard to have that certainty.
  • Revamp the evaluation process for issuing permits. The current “process” is highly subjective and often relies upon the food truck’s relationship with the street vending coordinator. That leads to inconsistent treatment of food trucks, and in some cases, inconsistent fees.
  • Create a proper website. For the longest time, all the Street Vending page said was to call the coordinator and it gave a phone number. At least now it links to the application package, but we could obviously do so much more.

The good news is that discussions regarding these changes have already been taking place, and I anticipate we’ll make significant progress this year. I think if we can make some of these changes a reality, we’ll have a much stronger vending program into the future.

It’s also worth mentioning that perhaps Sustainable Development is not the right home for the Street Vending Program. Sustainable Development is responsible for business licenses, property management, and economic development strategies, among other things, but food trucks in particular need more than that. They also deal with Transportation, Transit, and other departments. I would recommend folding the Street Vending Program into the Civic Events Office, which already coordinates with the various City departments on a regular basis.

If we’re willing to put even more effort in, I think there are significant opportunities to once again have Edmonton’s street vending program be the standard by which other cities are measured. Here’s just one example. Food trucks are different lengths and so are parking stalls. Why not release a dataset of all the parking stalls in Edmonton, or at least those in food-truck-friendly neighbourhoods that includes the location, length, price and other information? It would then be relatively easy for a food truck to scan for potential locations at which to park. We’ve already got the open data catalogue and the parking meter data exists somewhere, so with a bit of effort we could make something like this a reality.

What’s next for Drift and Grandma Lee’s?

As you might have heard, Drift was granted an extension at their current 108 Street location until Friday. They are supposed to file an appeal by then, whatever that means. There is nothing in the guidelines that outlines how exactly Drift is supposed to respond to the situation. Furthermore, the advantage is clearly with Grandma Lee’s – the City can basically tell Drift that they have to move and there’s nothing they can do about it.

I would rather see businesses like Grandma Lee’s choose to compete rather than complain. With a brick-and-mortar location, a restaurant should be able to offer an experience that no food truck can match. Furthermore, we know from our experience with What the Truck?! that having food trucks in an area often draws more people to surrounding businesses, not less. Unfortunately, as Colby Cosh astutely identified last week, Grandma Lee’s has chosen rent-seeking over delivering a better experience, and that means everybody loses.

Drift Sandwich Mob

I hope Drift is not forced to move, but if they are, then I hope it ultimately results in improved guidelines that clearly stipulate how such disputes will be handled in the future. If we want to make it easier for new food trucks to open up in Edmonton – and I think we do – then we need to make the rules clear and consistent.

What’s next for food trucks in Edmonton?

I think Edmonton’s existing food trucks will become even more successful over time as they build up a larger and larger client base and as the food truck movement really takes hold here in Edmonton. We’ll also see new food trucks launch and enjoy success, such as The Act which entered service on Monday. More food trucks means more pedestrian activity and vibrancy on the streets and that ultimately will make Edmonton a better city in which to live. Unless we somehow take a massive step backward, I don’t see any other outcome for food trucks in Edmonton!

By reviewing and updating the Street Vending Program, we can create an environment for food trucks that better reflects the realities of today, and more importantly, better positions us for success in the future. It’ll take some work, but I think it’ll be worth it!

Recap: What the Truck?! 2

On Friday, September 16, hundreds of Edmontonians descended upon 102 Street and Jasper Avenue for the second What the Truck?!, Edmonton’s food truck extravaganza. We had high expectations for the event and were very pleased with the way it turned out!

The biggest change from our first event was that we closed a street. We wanted our second event to be bigger and better, but we didn’t want to be in the gigantic space of Churchill Square. In keeping with our goal of utilizing under-used spaces downtown, 102 Street just seemed ideal. The area is busy with people during the day but quiet at night, and the park is nearly always empty. We were pretty surprised at how expensive it is to close a street, but fortunately Responsible Hospitality Edmonton stepped up to help us (What the Truck?! fit nicely with their mandate to animate Jasper Avenue). I also want to thank the Civic Events Office at the City of Edmonton for sticking with the idea, despite the challenges it presented. More on that in a follow-up post.

What the Truck?! 2

Setup for our first event was a bit of a nightmare thanks to the smaller space and the need to jump the curb. This time, setup was incredibly smooth! With the street closed, it was quite straightforward to get all of the trucks into place. The only hiccup was that we had to make sure the barriers were in place at all times – it’s amazing how many people tried to drive around the barriers. The other part of setup was arranging the picnic tables and garbage cans in the park. We were thankful that Brittney, Sandra, and Walter were able to help us out! Thanks team!

What the Truck?! 2

One of the things Sharon spent quite a bit of time doing in preparation for the event was our siteplan. She figured out where all the trucks would go and which way they’d face, and she took into consideration the expected length of each line and even the noise of their generators. That’s why Filistix and Carnival Cravings were closer to the alley – so we could tuck their generators around the corner. And that’s why Drift and Molly’s faced outward on opposite sides – to allow the lines room to grow. I wasn’t as concerned as Sharon was, but I’m glad she put that effort in because it absolutely made a difference.

What the Truck?! 2

Once again the weather was less than ideal. While it was sunny and warm most of the afternoon, it turned windy and cool as our event got underway. It even rained briefly just after 4pm! Thankfully that passed and the sun even snuck out a few more times throughout the evening. It was certainly windy though, to the point that our wonderful DJ’s remarked they now had experience with “extreme DJ-ing”! The tent nearly blew away a few times, but Thomas and Marc stuck it out and did a wonderful job!

What the Truck?! 2

You can get a sense of how windy it was in this interview I did with CTV’s Carrie Doll just before the event started:

I think it’s fair to say that all of our vendors sold a lot of food at What the Truck?! 2! A number of trucks sold out, some more quickly than others. Our three newest trucks – Drift, Molly’s, and Nomad – were definitely a draw. Nomad sold out first, and both Drift and Molly’s had long lines all evening long. Determining how much food to prepare in advance based on rough estimates of attendance is more art than science, so I don’t envy the position the trucks found themselves in. It sucks when you’ve waited in line for 30 minutes only to find out that a truck has sold out, but it’s difficult to avoid. Filistix was completely swamped at our first event, but they learned from that and things ran much better for them the second time around (their line moved relatively quickly). I think all of the trucks learned a lot about how to deal with long lines, and we certainly learned that we probably need more trucks for the number of people we had. There’s definitely room for improvement at future events!

What the Truck?! 2

We were happy to see so many families at the event, and to see the park being used! All throughout the evening people sat at the picnic tables, and there were a lot of kids running around on the grass. I bet that park would be used a lot more if the picnic tables were there regularly (just look at the positive change that picnic tables have made for Beaver Hills). Thanks again to Melcor for allowing us to use the space.

Social media once again played a big role in the success of the event. There were 4856 people invited to our Facebook event. A little over half responded, and of those folks 1247 marked attending and 529 marked maybe attending. I’d say it was a fairly good indicator of our attendance!

Lots of people talked about the event that day on Twitter too. Here’s what the tweet distribution looked like on the 16th:

And here’s a word cloud of all the things people were saying (with #whatthetruck, @mastermaq, @sharonyeo, #yeg, and #yegfood removed):

Once again we had some specific success criteria for the event. First and foremost, we wanted the vendors to be successful. All of them were very happy with the result! Secondly, we wanted a strong turnout. Thanks to everyone who came out to experience some of Edmonton’s food trucks! Thirdly, we wanted to prove that smaller-scale revitalization projects like our event can have a positive impact on downtown. We talked with the owners of Tres Carnales and Credo Coffee after the event, and were elated to hear that both experienced one of their busiest nights ever because of spillover from What the Truck?! 2! We also chatted with a number of people at the event who hadn’t been downtown in quite some time, so it was great to hear that What the Truck?! not only got people downtown, it got them exploring downtown businesses as well!

Mack and Sharon
Thanks to Brittney for the photo!

What the Truck?! will likely happen again in the future, so stay tuned to the website and our hashtag for updates. You can see the rest of my photos from What the Truck?! 2 here, and check out Brittney’s photoset here.

What the Truck?! returns on September 16

After the success of our first event back in June, I don’t think there was any question that we’d do another edition of What the Truck?! at some point in the future. Food trucks have started to gather steam here in Edmonton, and we’d like to see that momentum continue to grow! It was important to us that What the Truck?! not be simply an annual event – we’d like to see food trucks getting together all the time. That’s why we’ve organized our second event for September!

What the Truck?! 2 
Friday, September 16, 2011 from 4pm to 8pm
Abbey Lane Park, 102 Street & Jasper Avenue
RSVP on Facebook

What the Truck?! is a celebration of Edmonton’s food trucks, combining street food with pedestrianism and downtown vibrancy. Join us again for eats and beats in the heart of the city.

We hope What the Truck?! 2 will be bigger and better. We’ve got ten food trucks lined up this time – Drift, Nomad, and Molly’s Eats will be joining the original seven. That means we needed more space, so we’ve moved a few blocks down Jasper Avenue to 102 Street (with help from Responsible Hospitality Edmonton). We’ve arranged to close the street for the event, and we’ll also be filling Abbey Lane Park with picnic tables (with help from Melcor). We’re looking forward to utilizing a space that is pretty empty most of the time!

Abbey Lane Park & 102 Street

Once again there is no admission fee for this event – just bring cash to buy whatever you’d like to eat directly from the trucks! Urban Monks DJ’s Marc and Thomas have agreed to once again share their musical stylings with us. If the first event was any indication, it’ll be a fun time!

We’ll have more details to share over the next few weeks, so stay tuned. In the meantime, please RSVP on Facebook if you can join us, and tell your family, friends, and colleagues! We’re also looking for sponsors, so if you’re interested please let me know. You can see the event on ShareEdmonton here.

Recap: What the Truck?!

Last Friday night we held What the Truck?!, Edmonton’s food truck extravaganza, at Beaver Hills House Park downtown on 105 Street and Jasper Avenue. I think it’s safe to say that the event was a big success! The weather mostly cooperated, hundreds of people were downtown on a Friday evening in a park that is usually empty, and seven of our city’s best food trucks sold lots of food. It was a great feeling to see a relatively simple idea come together to result in a memorable evening.

What The Truck?!
Photo by Devin.

We did the best we could to prepare the food trucks and our volunteers for setup, but it was still a stressful couple of hours. We staggered the arrival times of each truck, but it was still tricky trying to fit them all in the park! We knew the space was small, and we wanted the casual feel that would result, but we didn’t realize how difficult it would be to navigate the poles, trees, and other obstacles in the park. Not to mention the fact that we were on downtown’s busiest street, blocking both cars and pedestrians while we maneuvered the trucks into place! Everyone stayed calm and got the job done, however.

What The Truck?!
Our volunteers – The Fenskes, Thom, and Su.

All of the trucks were situated around the circle with their windows facing inward, except for Funky Pickle. That was not intentional – it was simply a byproduct of the fact that we ran out of space to turn their trailer around! It really highlighted for me that most of our food trucks in Edmonton are actually trailers, which need to be towed by an actual truck or other vehicle. By far the easiest vendor to get setup was The Lingnan – the only one that is a self-contained truck.

What The Truck?! What The Truck?!

When the event officially got underway at 4pm, it was sunny and hot. It wasn’t long though before the sky turned dark and cloudy and the rain threatened. But it didn’t rain very hard or for very long. Not that it would have mattered – it was so neat to see absolutely no one bolt from the lines when it did start raining! Instead, a few umbrellas casually appeared.

What The Truck?!

All of the trucks were popular, but Filistix definitely had the most consistently long line of the evening (due partially to popularity and partially to the fact that they move far fewer units per hour than Funky Pickle does, for example). It was great to read the comments on Twitter after the event. Things like “Filistix was definitely worth the wait” and “Crepes from Fork & Spoon Brigade – Best. Thing. Ever.” It also seemed that long-time fans of Eva Sweet used the event as an opportunity to try a waffle with all the toppings for the first time. That people were feeling adventurous was reinforced by the fact that Carnival Cravings sold far more “OMG! Mini Donuts” than is typical.

What The Truck?!

During our early planning for the event, we briefly considered having live music at the event. We decided against it, to keep things simple and to ensure the focus was on the food trucks. Instead we asked the Urban Monks DJs to provide some music to help liven up the event. They did a great job, and even created a food-inspired playlist!

What The Truck?!

It was great to see so many families at the event, and to see people using the picnic tables and even just sitting on the grass in the park. It’s such a wonderful and generally underutilized space! Mayor Mandel, Councillor Iveson, and Councillor Henderson were among the VIPs that attended, and it was cool to see such a mix of familiar and new faces throughout the evening. One of those new faces was Luca Levesque, who stopped by to shoot a great video of the event:

Sharon and I had some key goals we wanted to achieve before we could call the event a success. At the top of that list was that the vendors were successful. Considering nearly every truck ran out of food before the evening was done, I think we can say we achieved that one! Filistix was so tapped out they couldn’t even make it to the City Market the following morning! The feedback we received from all of the food trucks that participated was really positive.

A few thank-yous are definitely in order. Thank you to everyone who came to the event! Thank you to our volunteers for all your help! Thank you to Thomas and Marc for the great music! Thank you to Gabe for the fun logo! Thank you to our sponsors for your support! Thank you to the vendors for taking a chance and sticking with us! And thank you to everyone else who helped us out and made the event a success.

Sharon & Mack
Sharon & I. Photo by Chris.

Are we going to do What The Truck?! again in the future? Based on how well the first edition went, yes, definitely. We hope to do it again sometime in September and have already started some preliminary planning (and have been in touch with some new food trucks too!). Stay tuned to the website for updates. We’ll also be doing some blogging over the summer about the things we learned along the way with regards to parking lots, permits, bylaws, etc.

what the truck?!

Check out Sharon’s recap of the event here. You can see more photos from the evening here.

What the Truck?! Edmonton’s Food Truck Extravaganza

I love street food. When Sharon and I were in San Francisco last year, it was the burrito from the San Buena Taco Truck that I enjoyed most. And we both loved stumbling upon Off the Grid, a food truck festival. When I was in London earlier this year I made a special trip just to visit Daddy Donkey, an extremely popular burrito truck. And back at home here in Edmonton, no trip to the City Market is complete without a stop at one of our food trucks, such as Eva Sweet for a delicious waffle. Food trucks are not only a great source of tasty eats, they also encourage activity on the street. There’s a lot to love about food trucks and carts!

For these reasons and more, Sharon and I began thinking about having a food truck festival here in Edmonton. And today, we’re happy to announce that it’s happening!

What the Truck?!
Friday, June 24, 2011 from 4pm to 8pm
Beaver Hills House Park, 105 Street & Jasper Avenue

What the Truck?! is a celebration of Edmonton’s food trucks, combining street food with pedestrianism and downtown vibrancy. Join us for eats and beats in the heart of the city.

We’re so excited for this event, and we hope that you’ll come out to help make it a success! There is no admission fee – just show up and enjoy some excellent food from our seven vendors. If you’re planning to come, please RSVP on Facebook to give us a better sense of numbers. The event will also feature the musical stylings of the Urban Monks DJs, Marc Carnes and Thomas Scott. Shout out to Gabe Wong for designing an awesome logo for us!

The work we’ve done to make What the Truck?! a reality has been educational, to say the least. One of the reasons I wanted to make this event happen was that I think it’s a good example of a little thing that can help to revitalize downtown. With that in mind, we originally planned to hold it in an empty parking lot (we tried a couple different ones). It turns out that isn’t as simple as you might think (if you go the ask-for-permission route, that is). We’ve also learned quite a bit about the City’s Street Vending Program. Let’s just say there’s room for improvement. I think there’s a lot we could do to help the local food truck scene grow and prosper!

I’ll be writing more over the next couple of weeks about the journey, what we learned along the way, and where we can potentially improve things. In the meantime, I hope you’re as excited as I am for What the Truck?!

See you there!