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Street food gives traditional caterers a run for their money by bringing their trucks to you
Party goers line up for grub from the Roaming Dragon food truck on a residential street
Vancouver loves its food trucks. There are over two dozen of them prowling the streets and many, if not all, are coming to a neighbourhood near you.
Street sales drop off when it’s colder and people bundle up, so the meals on wheels crowd sees private catering as a way of picking up the slack. A few, like Gourmet Syndicate, are aggressively pursuing the home market.
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“It’s not just a food truck but a mobile kitchen,” says Jason Apple of Gourmet Syndicate, the folks who operate four Roaming Dragon trucks and another one for Vij’s. Apple says having a truck on site means the food is fresh and piping hot. No more warmed over entrees or having staff underfoot preparing the meal.
Then of course there’s the wow factor. “I wanted something totally different,” says Simone Kallner, who hired the Roaming Dragon for her husband’s 40th birthday party. “I thought it would be neat.”
Kallner considered a traditional caterer but decided against it partly because of her home’s layout. “I don’t have a lot of space and I liked the fact no-one would be in the kitchen.”
The Dragon supplied three servers who kept stuffing her 50 guests with rice balls, Chinese salad and pork slider appetizers. The main course was served inside although Apple says people like going outside and ordering from the window, too. The basic menu features Asian burritos, tuna tataki and Thai Dragon burgers. Kallner chose to pay extra for a custom-designed dinner.
Traditional caterers say food trucks offer a limited menu – nothing more than a selection of fast food – as opposed to catered meals which are often prepared in a restaurant kitchen and are arguably more sophisticated. Food trucks are a passing fad, they say, and discerning diners will return to the fold.
Maybe. Kallner says her Dragon meal was delicious, the service “was amazing” and, more importantly, dinner became an event.
At least one caterer is taking the intrusion seriously. Mary Lee Newnham, the ML of Emelle’s Catering and one of Vancouver’s finer establishments, admits food trucks have cut into her business. “We’re thinking of getting a truck ourselves,” she says, brushing aside the fear a food truck will somehow diminish her brand. “People see the Vij’s truck and if Vij’s got it, it must be okay.”
Thinking of inviting a food truck to your party? There are so many trucks and so many mouth-watering options to consider, from wild salmon, to tender rotisserie chicken, exotic sandwiches and of course vegetarian fare.
We contacted eight local food trucks and while all of them said they would gladly cater a home event, not everyone is properly geared up to service the home crowd. Best to contact the company and ask them specifically what they can do for you.
The standard service seems to be a minimum food order of a $1,000 with $500 payable in advance. Servers are extra at $25 to $35 per person. Plates, chairs and linen are also extra if you want to go the formal route.
All told, food trucks are only marginally cheaper than going with traditional caterers, but think of what the neighbours will say. The after-tax cost of a typical service? Around $2,000. Being the first on your block to have a mobile kitchen in your driveway? Priceless.