The hype for the annual Montreal Food Truck Festival has begun. Apparently, people miss gourmet food you can have easily handed to you from a truck window. Is this weird? Maybe a little, but it's a distinct characteristic of summer life in Montreal, so we just go with it. And while the food is absolutely incredible, some people have a hard time justifying spending $8 for a hot dog.
Now, I was born and raised in Toronto so I'm accustomed to this classic style of street vending. Y'know, before a baseball game you hit the stands, get an all dressed $4 dog, and life is good. So it took a little bit of adjustment when I saw the prices Montreal's street food demands. I was baffled to say the least, and being the nerd that I am, I decided to do some research into why Montreal street food is... well, what it is.
First and foremost, if y'all don't already know, selling street food used to be illegal in Montreal. So when the ban was finally lifted in 2011, it came with a ton of regulations. The biggest one being that (most of the time) you have to actually own a restaurant before you can own a public food truck. A restaurant AND a food truck will cost you a pretty penny. Owning a food truck alone can cost around the same as a small store front shop, which could be part of the reason they have to hike up the prices of their food.
But it's definitely not the only reason, because the cost of food in general has been rising steadily in Canada over the past little while. For example, in 2015, the price of pork is expected to raise 25%, due to a disease found in Canadian piglets. People gotta have their bacon, no matter what the price is. Not only that, but climate change and biofuel production have slowed down crop production immensely.
Legal costs, maintenance fees and permits can add up as well. To quote the food truck owner of Dispatch Coffee, the retailers "have to conform to the MAPAQ and CSST fees and codes, pay corporate insurance as well as vehicle insurance, pay taxes on every sale, store the vehicle in the winter, and undergo regular mechanical maintenance". She also adds "Many food trucks do pay property taxes as well to store their supplies, or run their preparation kitchens". Holy moly, that can take up a lot of cash.
And it's not even guaranteed that you'll get a permit. You can spend all that money: pimping out your truck (sometimes upwards of $10,000), training your staff, acquiring experience working for the food truck industry, and still you're request for a permit may get denied! It's a competitive business, and the people who make the investment without even the opportunity to profit, are essentially stuck.
So it seems the only way these trucks can make money is to charge extra, and hope their food quantity and quality gives you enough bang for your buck. Culturally, Montreal is a fertile breeding ground for gourmet food trucks, which isn't a bad situation for us, am I right? However, the issues I mentioned only scrape the surface of this problem. Food truck vendors are feeling the pressure of costs and regulations, but also from some serious public criticism.
People have been kicking up a storm over the price, the unhealthy options, the "lost opportunities". These vendors have got a lot on their plate to begin with without all of this unnecessary chin wagging. At the end of the day, all they want to do is provide you with some amazing grub. Everyone needs something to show for their efforts when they get home, and until the regulations change, our beloved food vendors might just have to charge a little more.