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Food Truck Trend Stalls?

food truck, kingston, OntarioWhere have all the food trucks gone? That’s the question many Kingstonians have been asking this Summer, as local mainstays including the makers of the best burrito in Kingston, Mission Street North, have yet to roll out of hibernation.  Has this city’s food truck revolution cooled down, or is there something else at play here?

Why have so many food trucks vanished from Kingston?

  • Poor business plans. (62%, 528 Votes)
  • The trend is losing steam. (28%, 239 Votes)
  • Bad food put some out of business. (6%, 52 Votes)
  • Rising cost of ingredients. (2%, 19 Votes)
  • Something Else (I'll tell you in the comments) (1%, 8 Votes)

Total Voters: 846

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Over the past three summers, food trucks have become an increasingly popular casual dining option for those looking to grab a quick bite during their lunch hour, as well as those seeking sustenance at local music and beer festivals.  By the end of the Summer 2014, we seemingly could not get enough of the gourmet offerings served up by Farm Girl and Mission Street North, while Burrito Bunker, Roamin’ Komodo, Fordino’s Pizza, Two Nuts in a Food Truck, Logan’s Lunch and Smokin’ Carnivore also earned followings thanks to their tasty fare.  While the size of Kingston’s fleet of food trucks may pale in comparison to larger cities, the aforementioned group of eight could very well represent the peak of the local food truck love affair.

Since then, Roamin’ Komodo and Burrito Bunker have deleted nearly all traces of their existence from social media, and they have otherwise fallen off of the the food truck map.  Mission Street North, a mainstay at The Brooklyn and many local area festivals, has had some hiccups getting on the road this summer, but they are considering rolling in for some catered work and festivals later on this season.  The same thing goes for Two Nuts in a Truck, who have opted not to set up shop at their usual location along Wellington Street, in favour of focusing on catered events.  Farm Girl is also on a catering kick, but they still maintain a presence around the city.  All that to say, in a matter of two years, nearly half of Kingston’s beloved food trucks have vanished or otherwise chosen to focus exclusively on catering large events and festivals.

When researching food truck trends in other cities, it’s abundantly clear that these rolling gourmet kitchens are as popular as ever, however many within the industry stress that they are a business just like any other.  In that respect, a food truck must remain profitable in order for their operators to keep rolling on from one season to the next.  Considering the cost of fuel, ingredients, labour, promotion, insurance and licensing, the bills add up quickly, and that’s so long as everything goes to plan.  When something catastrophic happens to a truck or the equipment relied upon to make food, the dream of owning a food truck can turn into an expensive nightmare.

Taking a step back and looking at the situation through the eyes of a business owner, it makes sense that many local food truck operators are moving away from the traditional operating model of showing up to a park and leaving business to chance.  Instead, many are veering towards the guaranteed profit and security afforded by catering larger events. Of course, that approach has made it difficult to find our favourite trucks, and ultimately satisfy cravings whenever they may strike.

Do you think the trendiness of food trucks is subsiding?  Is Kingston too small of a city to support more than half a dozen trucks?  Was the food offered by those who have disappeared good or not so much?  Share your thoughts and show your love for your favourite food truck below.

Photo credit to CityofStPete.

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Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

5 thoughts on “Food Truck Trend Stalls?

  • June 27, 2016 at 9:04 am
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    Unfortunately, I think it has a lot more to do with the $$ and difficulty in getting a permit from the city. Super sad. Food trucks are an awesome way of getting unique food, fresh and fast. I miss them! Mission Street & Burrito Bunker hold a special place in my heart (and stomach).

  • June 27, 2016 at 7:52 pm
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    There’s no where to set them up that has enough foot traffic to justify setting up shop. There’s barely any parking down town, let alone a big enough area to set up a food truck.

    Big dig is annihilating a ton of businesses down town. Why would food trucks be any exception. It’s been over 2 years of Summer construction. Not that the city had a choice, but it just is unfortunate.

    Setting up shop in confederation park would be ideal, but Ontario street is too busy.

    • July 1, 2016 at 8:56 am
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      Important to note that there are strict rules in place that deter food truck operators from setting up shop downtown. That's one reason why you would have seen Mission Street open at the Brooklyn, or Two Nuts and a Truck open on Wellington a few blocks north of Princess. These spots are located just outside the no-go area, and are the best a food truck operator could hope for in terms of traffic. And as we're seeing this season, they obviously weren't enough to keep food trucks afloat. I wonder why food cart operators aren't faced with the same rules concerning where they can and cannot set up.

  • July 6, 2016 at 9:54 pm
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    I suspect its a zoning/permit issue to protect the local downtown eateries. Just a hunch. An owner with an undeveloped parcel of land on Princess would do well to rent space out and create destination with the food trucks. It's amazing how Kingston is really going to the Manhattanization gentrification route….it's kind of sad, Jack Astors, Milestones, Lonestar, Five Guys. For the landlords it's great, but bit by bit it's losing it's magic.

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