By Braenden Jones | Metro News
Groundhogs might signal spring, but food trucks signal summer, and Winnipeg has plenty of four-wheeled fare.
“Food trucks are associated with summer,” said Steffen Zinn, president of the Winnipeg Food Truck Alliance (WFTA).
“When the food trucks are out, everyone is like, ‘summer is here!’”
A number of food trucks will be out Friday for the Best of Fest Event on Carlton Street, because as event organizer Jason Syvixay said, “Winnipeggers love food trucks,” but they represent just a handful of the mobile food offerings rolling with the growing trend.
The provincial department that issues operating permits for all food trucks and hot dog carts in Manitoba notes there has been a 54.6 per cent increase in permits issued in the past five years.
Last summer there were permits issued to 270 food trucks and 251 hot dog carts.
A spokesperson said there have already been 211 permits issued early in this summer 2016 season, but there will be “at least as many as in the last fiscal year once owners start their operations for the summer.”
Specifically in Winnipeg, Zinn said the steady number is normally “hovering around the 30 mark in the city.”
It fluctuates somewhat as food truck entrepreneurs get in and out of the business—he said there are as many as six all-new trucks rumoured to be in the works this year.
The reason for the increase in offerings, Zinn speculates, is the flexibility and low cost of getting up and running.
But he said the surge in popularity is tied to the variety the mobile food business brings.
“People who work on Broadway or downtown are down there 12 months of the year, for seven months they have the same or limited options for lunch,” he said. “When summer comes and the trucks show up, they’re all excited.”
He also said food trucks are having a moment as people are more inclined to share what they’re eating, and the slim menus often feature unique signature items worth sharing.
“Social media seems almost tailor-made to the food truck industry,” he said, likening Instagram and Twitter to the food-truck’s digital storefront for customers to visit outside of business hours.
Mike Green of Tourism Winnipeg agrees, adding the trucks and their signature dishes are very promotable and “Instagram friendly.”
“Your menu has to be tight, it’s a really good way to showcase special dishes,” he said.
Green is currently updating the Peg City Grub food truck guide for tourism Winnipeg, and sees the growing industry as something that helps enhance certain parts of the city and events as destinations.
“For culinary tourists, it really adds vibrancy to the street,” Green said. “It’s a really good showcase for food, it’s food porn everywhere, you see the trucks lined up and it’s like a really cool advertisement of the city’s diverse food scene.
“It’s great for tourism in Winnipeg.”