Hamilton, CAN: Food trucks not too hungry for spots in city parks

FOOD TRUCKS IN PARKS
Photo courtesy of Brian Frappier
Jeannie Crawford and Salar Madadi serve customers during the
Because Beer festival at Pier 4 in 2013.

By  Bill Dunphy  |  The Spec

FOOD TRUCKS IN PARKS  Photo courtesy of Brian Frappier  Jeannie Crawford and Salar Madadi serve customers during the  Because Beer festival at Pier 4 in 2013.
FOOD TRUCKS IN PARKS

Photo courtesy of Brian Frappier

Jeannie Crawford and Salar Madadi serve customers during the
Because Beer festival at Pier 4 in 2013.

City staff is recommending modest tweaks to Phase 2 of a pilot program aimed at giving food trucks access to select Hamilton parks during the summer season.

In a report going before the public works committee Monday, staff suggests adding Valley Park in upper Stoney Creek to the seven existing eligible parks (Bayfront, Pier 4, Confederation, Heritage Green, Turner, Sam Lawrence and Gage) and expanding the season by a month, running it from May 1 to Sept. 30 this year.

Despite some complaints from participants last summer, staff said the daily permit fee should remain at $50, pointing out that their calculations show the city’s cost per permit to be $49.81.

The only other change recommended is the addition of “Rain Days” — if a food truck is unlucky enough to choose a permit for a day that turns out to have “adverse weather,” city staff will allow them to apply that permit to another day.

Reaction from food truck operators was lukewarm — as was their participation last year.

The city report found that out of a theoretical 1,000 or so possible permit spots last summer, operators used just 137 — and about a quarter of those were during the first two weeks, when permits were free. Three of the seven parks didn’t receive a single permit application after the free period.

“I think I did a couple of Sundays at (Confederation Park) — it was nice, it was OK. … but I don’t even think I’m going to try it this year,” said Jonny Blonde. “I haven’t decided.”

His reaction was typical of the operators The Spectator spoke with Sunday. Food truck owners said the unpredictability of crowds, the sometimes poor locations of permit sites and the higher revenue attainable from selling at festivals and special events all made it more lucrative to commit to other events.

“I did OK (in the parks),” Blonde said, “but if you can’t get to the full action spots, it wouldn’t be really worth it for us.”

Salar Madadi, of Meat Ventures, remembers the Gage Park location (in the southwest corner of the park) as being less than ideal.

“I remember where they were putting us at Gage Park, it didn’t really make sense.”

Madadi also felt having to book a week in advance meant they lost the opportunity for more spur of the moment decisions.

But every food truck operator interviewed applauded two of the changes in particular: the Rain Day feature and a request that city staff provide food truck operators with advance notice of sporting events and tournaments in the parks.

“That rain-cheque idea, that would be really good, especially in the park where you’re always affected by the weather,” Madadi said.

Terrilea Pitton, from the Southern Smoke food truck, said they didn’t really participate last year as they were busy with more lucrative gigs like weddings and special events. “You can guarantee pretty good numbers there.”

She feels the $50 fee is “reasonable” and would not prevent her from participating. For her, it’s the other unknowns like crowds and visibility that make it risky.

http://www.thespec.com/news-story/5565782-food-trucks-not-too-hungry-for-spots-in-city-parks/