Vancouver Food Carts are Great but It’s Not the Same as HK

Over the summer, I’ve been seeing more mobile restaurants and food carts around Vancouver as part of the city’s street food experiment.  I don’t know if this is a trend or a cost saving way to run a business.  But I don’t think it will be as big of a success as carts in Hong Kong (if you even consider it a success).  Here’s why.

1) Vancouver requires licenses for everything. By the time you get your 3rd license, it’s time to renew your the first one you got.  In HK, you can get away with hygiene negligence and if you don’t have proper licensing, you RUN when you see the cops.  Seriously, they do that in Hong Kong.

2) Gas is not cheap. Parking is not plenty in the busy areas of Vancouver where you will get the most business.  Again, you will need a license.

3) Unlike most Hong Kongnese, most Vancouverites drive. If I get into my car to look for food, I would drive to a restaurant, not a food cart.   Streets in HK are busy with foot traffic at all times, and it’s likely that a Hong Kongnese  will pick curry fish balls on the way from the MTR to a shopping mall.  And we don’t have plenty of food carts, if we do, eating on the street may become more common.

4) Food is not cheap. Some customers likes ethnic.  Some likes fusion.  Organic sells but it is not cheap. However, with the amount of great restaurants we have, Vancouverites have a sharper tongue than other cities.   We know crap food when we eat it.

I don’t doubt the skills of the cooks for the food carts, many are talented and it is cheaper to start a food cart than a restaurant.  But there are also ppl in for the trend and to make a quick buck without offering anything worth the long run.

I think food carts are great for events (night market, PNE), school grounds and downtown where some people will appreciate a quick lunch.  The only long-term success story I know of is Japadog.  I don’t know how food carts can make a profit without cutting the quality of the food but let’s hope that everyone give Vancouver food carts a chance and keep the good ones in business for years to come.

Posted on September 18, 2010, in That's How Mo Sees It, Vancouver Eats and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I really enjoyed reading your post. It got me thinking…

    We were at Poke’m downtown yesterday and I would hardly say that the amount of foot traffic was a concern. It took me almost 10 minutes to snap at photo at the busy corner without getting the bustling sidewalk in the frame.

    As for the HK comparisons.

    -How would having unlicenced vendors routinely running away for the police foster any kind of trust in the quality and sanitary conditions of the carts?

    -Hong Kong’s food cart scene has been around for generations.

    -The variety of flavourful and inexpensive street eats is astounding.

    -Vancouver is a very nice city in comparison, so is our food cart scene.

    -There are many cultures that have evolved with some form of street food.

    -We have been blessed as a city to have residents from almost everywhere
    call this place home.

    -The social fabric of Vancouver is much more diverse. There are many cultures from all over the world living and learning from one another in the lower mainland. Vancouver is known for it’s innovative cuisine. The fusions of culture and flavour reflect the city’s people.

    skip breakfast, get yourself hungry and supports the carts!

    • Hi James, thanks for stopping by.

      You’re right about the unlicensed vendors not gaining trust from customers but if you live in HK, you will know that you will get what you pay for! And i guess it’s because they’ve been around for generations in hk, this is hardly a concern for some.

      I learned from your blog that the city has approved 17 vendors, I was wondering why this summer there’s an increase in food carts. i’m hoping that the interest from customers will remain strong so that we can have more food carts in town. I like your blog, it will serve as a checklist of places to try…! hrm… i should apply for a mushroom cart…


  2. A mushroom cart!? an interesting idea!
    Tell me more!
    I’m in contact with the city and am learning as much as I can about the application/selection process for next spring and hope to have some solid info soon.

    • I love to cook mushrooms and I try to make it in many different ways, it’s a personal thing… hehe not sure if we have many mushroom lovers in the city to keep me in business! or maybe an old school dim sum cart where you can pan fry rice rolls… i miss those old school carts.

      i am looking forward to see some info on your site soon! i suppose the city does not take apps all year?

  3. People love mushrooms. There are so many kinds and ways to prepare them that the possibilities are endless.. Doing one thing well, especially a unique thing seems to be what’s working on the carts.

    There are rumoured to be around 60 food cart vendors in business next year so it’s going to be a lot bigger. I believe that the city won’t be accepting applications until the pilot program has been evaluated and they have decided how to proceed from there.

    It’s a good time to start planning.. check out:
    for some inspiration.. They have hundreds of carts all over the city.

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