During one Food Truck Eats and the Tasty Thursday events last year, The Street Food Vendors Association conducted a survey where they asked consumers to offer their thoughts on street food in Toronto.
Street food has been a hot topic in Toronto for the last eight months. Because of the city's bureacracy and an archaic set of rules (a moratorium placed by council in November of 2002), new street food vendors (trucks or carts) are not allowed to operate in public spaces within Toronto's downtown core (Wards 20, 27, and 28). So, all the existing food trucks (currently about a dozen active trucks) operate with the assistance of BIAs, owners of private spaces, and event organizations. The Food Truck Eats events that I have organised are designed to create awareness and to showcase the desire for more street food options in Toronto.
The City of Toronto established a street food working group to re-evaluate licensing and bylaws, but judging by their progress so far, it might be safe to say that there won't be much progress in 2012 from this group, which is why events like the Toronto Underground Market and Food Truck Eats are important.
During the second Food Truck Eats event last year, Marianne Moroney (Executive Director of the Street Food Vendors Assocation, and cart operator) conducted a survey with consumers asking them what they thought about food trucks and what they want to see in the future in Toronto. Although the survey polled a small group (387 in total between FTE and Tasty Thursdays), it is a good example of what this city wants.
Here is the report from SFVA.
As directed by the Street Food Working Group, Enterprise Toronto conducted a survey of street food customers who attended the Tasty Thursday events at Toronto City Hall, on August 11and 18, 2011, and at the Food Truck Eats event in the Distillery District on August 20, 2011. The same survey was completed by randomly-selected
customers of several of the city's hot dog vendors as coordinated by the Street Food Vendors Association in the last two weeks of August 2011.
In total, 387 individuals completed the street food consumer survey.
- Vast majority of individuals surveyed have eaten street food before- 91%. More than 70% of all respondents have eaten street food in cities other than Toronto.
- The majority of street food consumers at August events were between the ages of 18 and 50. However, at 49%, more 30-50 year olds favoured hot dogs as compared to 18 to 30 year olds.
- Younger people (18-30 year olds) seem to enjoy events like Street Eats or Tasty
- Thursdays more than older street food consumers.
- The top reasons for liking street food: 1) Taste & flavour, 2) Inexpensive, 3) Trying new food, 4) Fast and 5) Eating outdoors.
- Respondents dislike street food largely because: 1) Not enough vendors, 2) Long lines, 3) Limited menu, 4) Car or truck is unclean, and 5) Poor food quality. However, "cleanliness" and "poor food quality" were not indicated when consumers were asked what the City could do to improve street food in the city.
- In fact, only 2-3% of the respondents mentioned "cleanliness" and "poor food quality" at all. It can be concluded that these issues are rare and therefore not of significant concern to street food consumers in general.
- It should be noted that more street food event attendees (as opposed to hot dog vendor customers) indicated that "not enough vendors" was a dislike indicating that individuals likely attend street food events because of the variety of food options. Also, lines are a particular dislike at events rather than at individual hot dog carts.
- Respondents at the hot dog stands mentioned Limited menu, Not enough vendors, Long line, and Poor food quality as top reasons for dislike of street food. Cleanliness and Poor food quality were not dislikes of hot dog vendors' customers.
When asked what they thought the City could do to improve the street food in Toronto, survey respondents offered the following verbatim responses:]
- more variety (144)
- food trucks (32)
- increase number of vendors (30)
- less regulation (20)
- more locations (16)
- allow food trucks to travel (10)
- Cleanliness (6)
- more frequently organized (6)
- make healthier food (4)
- make it easy and inexpensive to operate (4)
- lines can be improved (3)
- do nothing, let the market decide (2)
- food safety (2)
- increase accessibility to it (2)
- more festivals (2)
- more street food all year around (2)
- betterguality, desiqnate area (1)
- fresh food (1)
- health and safety standards are met (1)
- learn from other cities (1)
- seating (1)
- shut down streets in specific areas like St Lawrence and Kensington (1)
- stop messing up great programs like A Ia Carte (1)
- more music (1)
- more picnic tables (1)
- allow for more advertising (1)
As indicated above, the overwhelming majority of respondents would like to see more variety in the street food available. Additional respondent comments suggest that Variety is defined as:
- More diversity in the origin and ethnicity of the food available.
- Types of food (not only hot dogs or fries)
- More, healthier options
- Vegetarian foods
The most commonly cited ethnicity of desired street food was Asian. Street food consumers also would like to see more locations to purchase street food. One of the top four recommendations was for the city to stop over regulating street food vending – additional respondent comments suggest that street food consumers wish the City to let market forces, rather than regulation, determine the variety, location and volume of street food vendors.
Interestingly, a number of respondents want to see food trucks that are allowed to travel to different locations in the city rather than fixed locations.
end of report.
It's no surprise that with a city that has a rich food culture like Toronto, there is a demand for more (better) street food options. With the Food Truck Eats events, we've seen our attendance rise from 3,800 to over 20,000 at (Food Truck Eats 3). The real question is: When will the City listen?
Support Food Truck Eats Events
The next Food Truck Eats is this Thursday, January 26th at UofT. Details here.
(Photos by Renee Navarro, and Spotlight Staff)
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Written by Suresh Doss
Suresh Doss is the publisher of SpotlightToronto.com and Rickshawmag.com. Founder of the Food Truck Eats festival, Suresh has been a pioneer for the Street food movement in Toronto. In 2011, He was awarded the VQA Promoter’s Award for outstanding achievement in the Media category in the promotion of Ontario VQA Wines. Suresh is also the Global Editor for Whitecap’s StreetEats series of travel guides, which focuses on the best street food across North America.