By Collette Devlin | Stuff.co.nz
The mobile food trend is exploding in New Zealand but a spat between businesses in Wellington has led to a call for more food truck regulation.
A recent standoff between cafe owners and mobile food vendors in Miramar came about after some businesses perceived operators would cut into their market.
It is understood the perceived threat had not eventuated.
Graham Joe, who owns Gelissimo Gelateria, said the turf war in Miramar had highlighted regulation issues.
“We don’t have a framework of overriding principles for mobile food vendors that defines where and how they work,” he said.
Joe, who previously managed the city council’s Harbourside Market, said in the past 10 years the number of vendors had tripled and trucks were larger.
He would like to see a framework of rules to better manage mobile food, but did not handcuff operators.
Wellington City Council city growth and partnerships business relations manager Phil Becker said council did not have a formal food truck policy, which currently came under the Trading in Public Places Policy.
“Given the popularity of food trucks and customer demand, it is something we will look at.”
Food trucks were not allowed to operate on public land and in the CBD they could not operate carte blanche.
A framework would be a good idea for the CBD, he said.
Restaurant Association of New Zealand chief executive Marisa Bidois said structured guidance could be useful and cement regulations.
Members had no problem with food trucks, which were creative and inspiring businesses, she said.
“Some may view them as competition but our industry is already competitive. They are a great addition to the industry.”
Restaurant Association national president and Wellington restaurateur, Mike Egan said although food trucks were hard work and weather reliant, they added vibrancy to the city and attracted different customers than restaurants.
Overseas there was a trend for food trucks that had built up a brand to open restaurants, he said.
Hospitality New Zealand national president Adam Cunningham said there were concerns about “keeping an even playing field” because the cost of operating cafes and restaurants were higher.
Food trucks had a place in the industry but everyone needed to pay their way, he said
Ashten Macdonald,co-owner of Meatballers with his brother Hunter, recently started a food truck business at the Wellington night markets.
He was surprised council did not already have a framework for vendors.
It was more difficult to get into the business than he thought.
It was tightly regulated by the council and permits were not always easy to obtain, he said.
Although some expenses were lower than a built premises, there were still significant costs involved with operating his business.
Food trucks were on trend and Wellingtonians loved them, so there was an opportunity for businesses to do well in the competitive market, if they served good food, he said.
“Our business is doing better than we thought. We were just two guys who loved food and wanted to make food we would like to eat.”
EKIM Burger owner Mike Duffy said food trucks faced the same regulations as established eateries.
“People think it’s simple but you just can’t turn up and sell food in the middle of the city — there is more to it than that.”
Operating a food truck generated large costs and overheads and there were also unseen risks associated with the mobile business, he said.
A spokeswoman for the Ministry for Primary Industries said under the Food Act 2014, the rules for food trucks were the same as those for other food businesses and were regulated on the type of food they make and sell.