Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Food for Thought: City of Montreal Public Consultation on Street Food

If you have been reading our last few posts you know that the City of Montreal is having, besides corruption scandals, a public commission on street food. The commission is asking the question should Montreal allow the sale of food on its public spaces? If yes, then under what conditions. 

Please click here for out tasting notes on MTL's Food Trucks.

We are of course very interested in Wednesday's (November 28, 2012) afternoon session because the Association des Restaurateurs du Québec (ARQ) tweeted they would be submitting their "mémoire" or record to the commission. From what we understand the association is not too warm to the idea but we will have to wait and see. We expect the Association des Restaurateurs de Rue du Québec (ARRQ - the QC Street Food Association) to present soon because the consultations end this Thursday (November 29, 2012).

November 21, 2012, was the first opportunity for the public to submit "mémoires" (records) to the commission. The following are some of the ideas, comments, concerns and recommendations presented to the commission during the last two meetings.

Jean Lefebvre, QC Vice-President, from the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association better known locally as the Conseil des chaînes de restaurants du Québec presented on behalf of the association.

After consulting with their members in Canada the group is divided, 50% are against street food in Montreal, with the other 50% interested in the idea but under certain guidelines. The association represents chain restaurants like St-Hubert, La Cage au Sports, Subway, A&W, Chez Cora as well as 2000 independent members.
Lefebvre even mentioned that some members in his group were interested in perhaps having their own food carts or trucks. Street food represents potential growth to the restaurant industry so difficult for this organization to object to the idea. The association wants the rules and regulations that apply to restaurants (health codes, taxes, POS, etc.) to be the same for street food vendors. Lefebvre said that with proper rules and regulations a “level playing field” could be created between street food vendors and restaurants. The association also recommended that street food vendors keep a distance of 60 meters from an existing brick and mortar restaurant.

Paul Holder, restaurateur from Café du Nouveau Monde. Due to the location of his restaurant, Holder experienced firsthand the Just for Laughs Souk outdoor Food Fest this summer. Holder reported that food trucks were set up on Sainte-Catherine Street in a “effroyable” (horrifying) manner. It is unacceptable that trucks were allowed to set up in front of existing restaurants with terraces at Complexe Desjardins (Café Dépôt, St-Hubert etc).
These businesses had a backend view of the trucks and festival site with food truck chimneys, noise (example: generators) and bad smells. Holder feels that the 60 metre rule is not sufficient enough in protecting existing businesses because it still means blocking business facades. Rules need to be implemented so that business owners' storefronts are protected from obstruction. 

Gaufrabec is a Montreal food truck run by Anissa Benomar. The operation specializes in Belgian waffles and is a member of the ARRQ. They have a boutique located at 2005 St-Denis and offer quality food made from local ingredients at an affordable price. Benomar identified locations where street food vendors could set up because there is a demand for good quality alternatives in these certain given what is currently available. These locations include, industrial Parks, old age / retirement homes, schools, CEGEP’s, Universities, residential neighborhoods, suburbs and big box stores, (examples: RONA, Costco, Canadian Tire) where people go to shop but there are no food services being provided.

Tunc Dere, a downtown Dépanneur owner sees enough traffic violations and congestion and does not think that we should add to this situation by allowing food trucks in the downtown core. Dere also mentioned that he faces enough competition from the Red Bull and Monster truck (energy drinks) that in addition to blocking traffic, causing congestion give away the same products he sells for free.

Marc-André Lavergne, a Chef at Restaurant Accords in Old Montreal gave a passionate discourse endorsing street food in Montreal. In addition to benefiting the local population street food could attract tourists to our city and would contribute and enhance city’s character. There is a need to regulate the project to ensure quality and high standards are met while also offering people an original eating experience with food that is accessible to all.

Délices Roulants, presented a business plan for a mobile food cart operation. The plan indentifies 50 sites where they could set up without competing with brick and mortar restaurants and would serve such items as hot dogs, hamburgers and brochettes.

On November 26, 2012 the commission held their consultation session at City Hall in Lachine with only one person presenting a mémoire. Henri Chevalier, Directeur Générale, from the Corporation de Dévelopment Économique communautaire LaSalle-Lachine, presented a report that his neighborhoods could benefit from the presence of street food vendors. Chevalier sees this occasion as an opportunity. Food trucks could draw more people to Lachine /LaSalle and the waterfront. The Park des Rapides in LaSalle, for example, has very little in terms offering visitors any food services. According to chevalier there are only 2 restaurants on the LaSalle waterfront. The presence of these vendors could also help revitalize the former downtown commercial core of Lachine.

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