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The Modern Drive-Through: Food Trucks

You waited 15 minutes for that taco. It cost $9. Here’s why you should be grateful
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You waited 15 minutes for that taco. It cost $9. Here’s why you should be grateful

 

Photos: Kirsten Berlie: Ze Bite

 

When Stephen Wiese opened La Brasserie Street in spring 2011, he felt like he'd struck gold. Pedestrians,thrilled to see something more than hot dogs, flooded his downtown cart,as well as the 17 others that opened through that fall. They lined up-lined up!-to pay $6.25 for Brass Chicken, the beer-marinated sandwich smothered in crispy onions and gravy that was his chief offering.

Wiese sometimes served 300 lunches over four hours; at that rate, he figured, even with ongoing staff and food costs, plus over $15,000 for the cart and various licences, he'd do better on the sidewalk than in his regular Davie Street restaurant, La Brasserie.

He and brother Michael applied for and scored a second spot; they developed visions of expanding several more times, starting a commissary, growing into catering.

 But 18 months later, the Wieses shut both carts. They won't be back anytime soon. "It's not cool anymore," says Wiese. "There's just no money in it. It's a total waste of time."He's not the only refugee. Jennifer Willoughby and Dana Whaley ran their successful Off the Wagon taco truck, then two trucks under that name in 2012.They also shut down last year, exhausted by the work and by shifting city and health rules. They now run a dog-hiking business. Derek and Michael Ip operated PanDa Fresh Bakery-croissants stuffed with everything from ice cream to macaroni and cheese-out of a yellow school bus on Pacific Boulevard.

They abandoned it after one season, killed by a bad location and, again, the rules. To pay off the startup loan, they're working other jobs. Also gone: Ragazzi Pizza, Slinger's, Bun Me, Num Num, Nu Greek Street. Those who remain are cautious.Re-Up BBQ, which expanded to two trucks, has pulled back.

Sarb Mund at Soho Road Naan Kebab won three spots in the last couple of years, but he's also sticking to one. Mund, who says his accountant training is the best skill he brought to the business, wants to get his first operation on solid footing before taking another run at expansion.

It was a blow when his neighbour at Granville and Georgia, La Brasserie, quit. "It hurts when somebody in the industry drops out," he says.We're so close."Three years after street food was unleashed on the city, its image glows bright.

Continue reading about Vancouver's food truck boom (and sometimes bust)

 

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