For information on starting your own food truck, check out our step-by-step guide here.
Food trucks and street food in general has exploded in popularity recently giving rise to a thriving food truck scene south of the border and TV shows dedicated to street food, such as the Food Network’s Eat St.
But what about Toronto?
Over the last couple years, Toronto has seen a boom of new gourmet food trucks emerge with many more set to launch throughout the year. But being Toronto, there’s lots of red tape behind the current by-laws that govern food trucks and make understanding them a little more complicated.
The goal of this resource is to explain the current situation and provide a clear, step-by-step explanation on where trucks can vend and what they can serve.
Where Can Food Trucks Vend in Toronto?
There are a number of factors that come into play that determine where food trucks are allowed to stop and vend in Toronto.
In April 2014, after months of consultation and discussion, the Toronto city council voted to amend the city’s Mobile Food Vending permit to allow trucks to operate at pay by display parking along the streets as long as they are at least 50 linear meters away from a restaurant, and are not at any one location for more than 3 hours. They also need to ensure there are no more than 2 trucks parked per city block.
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Only trucks who possess a new Mobile Food Vending Permit at the cost of $5066.69 per/year will be able to operate on curbside locations throughout the city. The new mobile vending laws officially came into effect on May 15th, 2014.
So what about those trucks you see operating at the curbside in the downtown core at places like City Hall and Metro Toronto convention Centre? Why are they allowed to vend there?
Those are older food trucks that received Designated Vending Area permits before the moratorium so their existing permits are grandfathered as long as their trucks remain operational. They are only permitted to vend at that specific location which is also a designated street vending area so they will not be able to vend at various locations across the city unless they invest in the new permit.
The other option is to vend on private property (such as parking lots), and in this case the truck owner needs permission from the property owner and the property has to be zoned for commercial activity. The truck also needs to comply with the property’s fire regulations, so finding a logical place to park is important.
The rules for vending on private property are the same across the Greater Toronto Area, the former City of Toronto and the downtown core – however, the zoning differs across each area so it’s best to check with the city on a site by site basis to make sure the property is zoned appropriately.
More and more events are hosting gourmet food trucks to feed their patrons. For these, food trucks will only be required to have their business licenses and do not have to have any special permits as they will be able to operate under the event’s Special Occasion Permit that they will have in order to hold their Toronto event.
What Kind of Food Can Food Trucks Serve?
If there’s one positive when it comes to Toronto’s food truck rules and regulations it’s regarding menus. As far as Toronto Public Health is concerned a food truck is basically a restaurant on wheels so as long as they abide by all the safety regulations of a restaurant, they can serve anything they choose.
Over the next year, the city will assess the food truck operations in the city and how it affects the local economy and businesses under the new Mobile Food Vending Permits. Given the fight shown by the local food truck owners throughout the city council’s debate in April, we will likely see the topic of Toronto food truck laws return again next year.