Manitoba food truck season stalls as coronavirus concerns impact industry

On a warm spring Winnipeg afternoon, food trucks are a staple, lining up on Broadway.

This year, with public health rules and concerns around the coronavirus pushing offices to get staff working from home, the lunch crowd downtown is dwindling.

That, on top of the number of festivals and events that have been cancelled, has many food trucks staying parked.

Steffen Zinn from The Red Ember says it’s been a disappointing start of the season.

“It was going to be one of the best seasons yet coming up and now we will just have to see what happens, kind of pick up the pieces,” he said.

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“For now, we are going to just keep the truck parked until we see what the government leads us to do.”

The province says food trucks operate like takeout restaurants so as long as they employ physical distancing, they are allowed to operate. 

But with big crowds still banned, food truck owners say there aren’t the same opportunities to make money.

Peter Truong is the co-owner of KYU Grill and says for food trucks to have a shot, the City of Winnipeg would need to waive parking fees.

The city’s website says a street permit for a mobile vendor from April 1 to Oct. 31 is $3,593.00.

“We would love to open, talking to all the food trucks, we would all love to open but with the fees, the parking fees, I don’t think anyone can afford the costs,” Truong said.

“We can’t go out there with limited traffic and expect to turn any kind of profit.”

Truong says losing the revenue will be difficult on his company.

“The food truck sector is a huge part of our revenue of our company. It’s about 30 to 40 per cent. If that’s not happening and all that’s off the table, it’s going to be hard.”

Sean Letkeman, the owner of Dorado Street Tortilla & Curbside Catering, says he would like to see the city cut back some of its permit fees to give food trucks a chance to make money.

“They should look at changing some of the fees, in my opinion, to accommodate the food trucks a little bit better for downtown or it’s something that could really die out. One bad season could end a food truck,” he said.

“As a business owner, you want to get out there but you have to understand in a situation like this, I’m not the only one hurting — the customers that are coming to the truck are feeling the pain just as much as I am.”

All of the food truck owners hope to be able to serve customers by the end of the summer.

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