Food truck operators, city councillor seek new recipe for success

Kevin Zemnickis said operating a food truck is hard work because it involves a lot of organization. He and Alex Hale are two of the operators of Caplansky’s food truck, which is an extension of the restaurant Caplansky’s Delicatessen, owned by Zane Caplansky.

It takes them nearly two hours to set up the truck in the morning and prepare the food for the day. They take great pride in what they do.

“This is the closest I’ve ever had to owning my own business. Zane Caplansky has given us, to an extent, carte blanche to make this thing work and create cool things on the menu,” Zemnickis said.

However, they may not be operating in their location on Queen Street East and Dalhousie Street in Toronto for much longer. They are facing eviction.

The bylaws that exist in the city only allow food trucks and vendors to operate on private property. Vendors that operate on public property have a specific list of foods that they are allowed to sell.

Josh Colle,Toronto city councillor for Ward 15, is putting a motion forward a licensing committee meeting at the end of this month, aimed to make it easier for food trucks to operate. He said that the restrictions in place right now are putting an unnecessary burden on these entrepreneurs.

“Toronto has this tendency to be so overly cautious and sometimes we over-regulate and over-analyze. I think we’ve just got to remove the shackles and let things move on their own,” Colle said.

He said that the city might be wary of tackling the restrictions because of the failure of the A La Carte program in 2009.

Carly Dunster is a food lawyer and part of a campaign known as the Toronto Street Food Project, which is targeting the lack of diversity in street food. She said that the city was not ready for the A La Carte program and that it was too over-regulated.

Food Industry Facts
1 million: The number of people the food service industry employs in Canada.
1 in 5: The number of youth employed by the food service industry.
462,000: The number of young people between the ages of 15 and 24 employed by the food service industry.
61,700: The number of commercial food service establishments in Canada.
Source: Statistics Canada

“When you change the kinds of food people are selling from trucks, a lot of other things have to change as well. The design of the carte, the way the food is handled so the bylaws and enforcement all have to account for that,” Dunster said.

However, Dunster said, that since the failure of A La Carte, not much has been done to change the street food in the city.

Mark Macdonald is also part of the Toronto Street Food Project. He is the founder of the Toronto Food Trucks website and a freelance web designer. He said that the timing is right for this campaign because shows like Eat Street on the Food Network, showcase the possibilities for food diversity on the streets.

“There’s no reason Toronto can’t do it. Other cities have done it. Toronto presents itself as a world-class city (and) the street-food scene needs to reflect that,” Macdonald said.

The Toronto Street Food Project is in its first phase. They are using social media and letters to get people to target their councillors to support Colle’s motion.