Part 1

By now you have probably seen one or two food trucks popping up around downtown Toronto. Exciting times we live in. Maybe one day we can be as cool as every other North American city out there!

Me.n.u Food Truck parked curbside for lunch service at University Ave & College St. in front of Toronto General Hospital.

Everybody asks us the same questions:

“How does the licensing work for food trucks in Toronto? Is it tough to get? Is it less restrictive now? Can you park anywhere?”

Well at least you’re asking the right guys. We are one of only a handful of food truck owners in Toronto who sell food on the streets in the downtown core.

I want to clear up the confusion and get to the bottom of this. In this post, I will explain in the easiest way possible how curbside vending in Toronto actually works.

Get a Food Truck License

First, let’s figure out the difference between licenses and permits. In order to operate a food truck, you need a license. Actually you need two: (1) Motorized Refreshment Vehicle Owner, and (2) Refreshment Vehicle Driver. These will cost you $1090.51 and $362.55, respectively. One is for the vehicle, and the other is for the driver.

It’s not exactly ‘tough’ to get a license. It’s just a matter of completing all the required paper work. You may find yourself visiting the East York Civic Centre quite a few times before all is said and done. Here is the list of what you need:

  1. Proof of work status (ie. Social Insurance Card)
  2. Government Photo Identification (ie. Canadian Passport)
  3. Police Report
  4. Food Handler Certificate
  5. Articles of Incorporation/Provincial Business Name Registration
  6. City of Toronto Insurance Certificate completed
  7. Valid Ontario Driver License
  8. Physical Inspection form from 843 Eastern Avenue
  9. Valid Ontario Driver License
  10. Department of Health Clearance Form for the truck
  11. Proof of Commissary
  12. Ownership of Vehicle
  13. Propane Inspection
  14. Technical Standards & Safety Authority (TSSA) Inspection

Still with me? Congrats. Now you’ve earned yourself a shiny new license. But don’t think you’re going to be able to pull up curbside and start selling riceballs just yet. This license allows you to vend on private property only. Now this is where the permit comes into play.

Get a Food Truck Permit

On May 15th 2014, the city of Toronto approved a new by-law that allows food trucks to park at pay and display parking spots and sell food. Before this by-law was put into place, trucks were only allowed to vend on private properties. But what about those fries and burger trucks at City Hall and in front of Metro Convention Centre you ask? These guys have grandfathered permits from way back in the day, and they are entitled to these locations until 2020.

If you're from Toronto, you definitely ate here before. This chip food truck has a designated location next to City Hall until 2020.

If you’re from Toronto, you definitely ate here before. This chip food truck has a designated location next to City Hall until 2020.

Here are the important parts of the new Chapter 740, Street Vending By-Law:

  1. You can operate at pay and display parking spaces on major and minor arterial roads for up to 3 hours
  2. Must be 50 metres away from an open and operating restaurant
  3. Maximum two trucks allowed per block

Me.n.u Food Truck is one of 17 food trucks in all of Toronto that has purchased the hefty $5067 permit to sell food on the streets. And only a handful of us, including Randy’s Roti, Kal & Mooey, Prince Edward Fries, Blazin Cajun, and Good Pho U, are actually roaming the streets in the downtown core.

How to get a Parking Spot

Here is a map that shows what would be off-limits in the downtown core, each point representing a 50-metre buffer around an existing restaurant.

Here is a map that shows what would be off-limits in the downtown core, each point representing a 50-metre buffer around an existing restaurant.

The best way is to arrive downtown before the parking meter starts. Most major roads have no parking during rush hour between 7:30am-9:30am. So if you get there right at 9:30am you may be able to secure a spot. It is definitely a gamble and there are no guarantees. These pay and display parking spots fill up 0 to 100 real quick. Tell em Drake.

Theoretically there are supposed to be 513 parking spots downtown that fall within the 50 metre rule. Not to hate on the city or anything, but that’s bullcrap. This number was derived from measuring the distance between a parking meter booth and the front door of nearby restaurants. Clearly this doesn’t take into consideration that parking spots are not where the parking meter is. There is no way that 513 parking spots exist.  At least, there’s not close to that many with any foot traffic. Trust me, we looked. I can count the number of good spots on one hand.

But let’s be optimistic people. For the first time in Toronto’s history, gourmet food trucks are now allowed to sell their progressive food creations on curbside. Hot dogs carts have ruled for far too long. This was just the first year of the new by-law and Me.n.u was the guinea pig who tested it out. The good news is, things are about to change…