OTTAWA — The federal Competition Bureau is calling on municipalities to re-think their rules around food trucks in a bid to encourage the popular choice for many Canadians looking for a quick and tasty meal.
The agency said Tuesday that flexible regulations could mean more choices and greater competition, adding the benefits could include more jobs, new customers and improved street vitality.
In some places, food trucks have evolved beyond hot dogs, fries and poutine in recent years with upscale offerings such as fish tacos, sushi and curries from around the world.
However, municipalities often limit where food trucks can operate, how long they can be open and the number of food trucks that are permitted in a given area.
The bureau said in a news release that while regulations can serve legitimate policy goals, some restrictions may go further than necessary.
In Toronto, Canada’s most populous city, there were 56 registered food trucks in 2016, up from 14 the year prior. However, in Vancouver, where regulations have been relaxed, the growth of mobile food went up from 17 in 2010 to over 100 vendors.
The City of Toronto bylaws allow only two food trucks per city block, and trucks have to be at least 30 metres away from any restaurant.
Cameron Pounder, co-owner of the FeasTO food truck, said the 30-metre rule should only be applied to the same side of a street.
“Toronto has some narrow streets — Queen, King, Bathurst — that are not even 30 metres wide, meaning we can’t park across from a restaurant,” he said.
Pounder would also like to see the city open up any parking spot to food trucks, not just paid ones.
Mississauga, Ont., Coun. Chris Fonseca thinks the Competition Bureau should leave it up to the municipalities to determine what the rules are.
“They know their communities best,” she said. “They know the different issues they are facing.”
Fonseca said in Mississauga, food truck owners are currently required to purchase two licences: one for the vendor, one for the operator. The city, she said, is now considering removing the operator licence to lower costs to businesses.
“We want all businesses in Mississauga to thrive,” Fonseca said. “Food trucks are a healthy form of competition.”
There are more than 2,200 mobile food service operators in Canada, said the Competition Bureau, and this year they’re expected to bring in more than $300 million.