By Nirupama V. | The Economic Times
Food trucks are a Bengaluru phenomenon. For a city crazy about food, it is another stop for a treat. When the Food Truck and Music Festival was held in the city in December, it drew such an enormous crowd that the trucks ran out of food twice.
“Once there was a customer from Pune who said he came here just to eat beef. We were baffled,” says Leoma D’Souza, co-founder of the SWAT (Serving With A Twist) truck.
Yet, their existence is threatened by law or the lack of it.
While the number of food trucks in the city grew from two in 2014 to 16 presently , at least eight more shut shop in the past six months alone.
Competition is not the culprit. Food truck owners believe in the-more-the-merrier principle. “Some places become recognisable food hotspots, so more people come,” says D’Souza.
Food trucks do not have a legal provision to function (not just in Bengaluru but anywhere else in India). Many of them operate with a food industry licence that does not permit them to cook or sell on the road.
“There is a lacuna in the law,” says Subham Kar Chaudhury , who started The Food Truck Association(TFTA) last year. They are working on a legal framework that will empower food trucks and eliminate the numerous uncertainties they face presently . “Invariably , it now runs on temporary agreements and bribing,” says Rakesh Pathi, who runs Food Springs, a truck which serves Chinese cuisine in South Bengaluru.
The day the traffic police officer or the beat officer is transferred, their safety net is gone and they may be asked to move, or even worse, their equipment and truck may be seized.
Recently, food trucks were banned from 27th Main in HSR Layout, once a haven for these kitchens-onwheels.
In this business, it is crucial trucks are spotted in the same place everyday. “If I move without notice, I might have lost my customer for good,” says Rahul Nair, who runs The Bite Club.
Not just that. “We get bullied by local groups, sometimes auto rickshaw drivers, asking for a chanda,” he says. Typically, operating on small margins and regularly harassed for their non-legality, most food trucks may move to catering for private parties and concerts.
However, the TFTA is up for the task and is now in talks with the city’s Urban Planning Committee to suggest solutions: Food trucks should be given a single-window licence and allowed to function in fixed areas. “People here love us. They have been chasing down the trucks. We only need to tackle the legal-side now,” Das of Fuel Up, says confidently.