City Bites

FOOD TRUCK FEVER: Taste the trucks! Wednesday, May 8, 12-1:30 p.m. at City Hall; plus the owner of Relish reveals his Top 5 tips for new mobile vendors

Samples of boa (Asian steamed, filled buns) from the Gongfu boa cart are being prepared in the kitchen at the Piggy Market. Owner Tarek Hassan is making 250 mini-buns for Wednesday's launch.

Are you ready for a taste of some of Ottawa’s new food truck menus? Come to City Hall on Wednesday for the official launch of the new generation of street food vendors. Philip Powell, the City administrator of the new licenses, confirmed the launch is on, but he didn’t say which trucks and carts would be in attendance.

I get the sense that several of the new vendors are scrambling to put everything into place to launch their businesses this month. They have had just a few months from the time they got the green light back in February to the time they are expected to hit the streets. As the appetite for street food builds to a frenzy, some truck-owners are experiencing natural delays related to equipment and permits.

But the show must go on. The trucks and carts that are ready will roll on over to City Hall this Wednesday with samples galore.

The most complete information about the lunchtime festivities came from the website of The Shepherds of Good Hope — the recipient of the event’s proceeds. The site states that Mayor Jim Watson and Community and Protective Services Chair, Councillor Mark Taylor, will be joined by special guest, James Cunningham, host of the Food Network’s popular T.V. show Eat St. (However this information was not confirmed on the City’s media release.)

What: Ottawa’s Street Food Showcase

Where: Marion Dewar (Festival) Plaza at Ottawa City Hall, 110 Laurier Ave. W.

When: May 8, 12-1:30 p.m.

Cost: A $10 bracelet (sold on first-come, first-serve basis) allows you to sample selected menu items from  the new cart and truck food vendors. All proceeds will be donated to the Shepherds of Good Hope.

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Paul Bergeron has been serving up creative comfort food from his truck for the last year at festivals and on the University of Ottawa campus. He says he has learned a few lessons — the hard way.

SO, YOU WANT TO START A FOOD TRUCK…

With the launch of Ottawa’s new Street Food Program, City Bites invited Paul Bergeron — who recently celebrated the first anniversary of his food truck, Relish — to share his best advice for the new crop of mobile food vendors. Here is his Top 5:

1) PRICE I found $8 was the magic number for what people want to pay for food from a food truck. People expect to pay between $4-$10 for lunch.

2) ADVERTISEMENT For me word of mouth was the best way to gain customers but social media was a close second. I think next year I will invest in sandwich boards, comp cards, and business cards.

3) CUSTOMER SERVICE This is the most significant investment you should make in your  business. You need to show people that you love what you do. If you can do this and put out a good product for a good price, then people will come.

4) STANDARDS When it comes to cleaning, sourcing, and using quality ingredients, customer service and creativity, you have to set a personal standard and stay committed to keeping it up — even when you are tired, stressed, busy, slow, very cold, or sick. This can be one of the most difficult aspects of running the business.

5) CREATIVITY The concept of my truck is to offer an ever-changing menu. It can be challenging but it worked well because many customers came to my truck several times a week and they could enjoy something different each visit. Also, for me as a chef, I love not getting stuck into one style. I could explore all of my culinary passions.