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New food truck regulations in effect

In light of new regulations, the food truck debate continues
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Matthew Manhire/THE VARSITY
Matthew Manhire/THE VARSITY

On May 14 2015 the new food truck regulations approved by the Toronto City Council came into effect. Food trucks may now park a minimum of 30 metres distance from any restaurant, a decrease of 20, from the original 50 metres.

The duration of time that a food truck may stay in a certain location has also been increased from three hours to five, on the grounds that food truck set-up takes about an hour.

Tony Elenis, president and CEO of the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association, expressed concerns about the competition that food trucks pose for restaurants. He argues that he is “trying to protect the small business restaurants,” and says that merely surviving in the restaurant business is extremely difficult.

Zane Caplansky, owner of Caplansky’s Deli on College Street and the Thunderin’ Thelma food truck, believes that competition between restaurants and food trucks is healthy. “Competition is the foundation of our entire economy,” Caplansky says. As a small business owner himself, Caplansky says that he does not have sympathy for those unwilling to compete with his business.

“If your shawarma place needs to improve in quality and price, so be it,” Caplansky says.

Elenis states that 35 per cent of youth are employed within the restaurant industry and food trucks threaten that job security. “[The Toronto City Council makes] political decisions that end up hurting job growth,” Elenis says, adding that he does not think the council is “close enough to the action” to make an informed decision.

In an interview with The Varsity, Elenis said that he receives calls from underground food courts saying that they are losing customers to food trucks. To Elenis, it seems that even the current competition is hurting the restaurant industry.

Caplansky argues that ten members of his food trucks have started restaurants on their own, hiring multiple people to run them. “[Food trucks are] not decreasing employment but increasing competition,” he says. Caplansky wants to continue to increase the competition by further reducing the distance regulations to 15 metres.

Carleton Grant, director of policy and strategic support at the City of Toronto, is one of the advisors to the Toronto City Council, suggesting how best to balance the needs of both restaurants and food trucks.

Grant believes that the council’s decision will provide more opportunity for trucks, but also emphasizes that the council is “not building a downtown solution,” and he hopes to see food truck owners take advantage of opportunities outside of the downtown core. For Grant, this means the expansion of food trucks to Etobicoke, Scarborough and North York.