Sydney's food trucks face a bump in the road

A cheap lunch option ... Isabelle Hampson, a regular customer of the Urban Pasta food truck.
A cheap lunch option ... Isabelle Hampson, a regular customer of the Urban Pasta food truck. Photo: Tamara Dean

They propelled mobile catering beyond hot dogs and Mr Whippy, but Sydney's popular food trucks have hit a snag.

Complaints from business owners and residents about potential loss of trade, parking and noise have prompted a proposal for stricter controls on how the nine trucks operate, including a possible ban on trading in front of homes.

But research shows Sydneysiders have welcomed the food truck concept, which the City of Sydney says is generating trade and making the city safer.

One of the offerings available from the Vegie Patch van.
One of the offerings available from the Vegie Patch van. Photo: Steven Siewert

It forms part of a push to diversify the city's after dark offerings, and follows a report on Wednesday which showed central Sydney's night time economy slowed in the two years to 2011.

Food trucks hit the road in May last year, serving up delicacies such as confit spatchcock and quinoa salad to the city's gourmands.

They operate at about 12 off-street sites including Belmore Park near Central station and the Customs House forecourt.

But a draft policy to be considered by the council on Monday, states residents complain the trucks, which also trade on the street, will disturb their peace and take up valuable inner city parking. A report has recommended they be barred from operating in front of homes.

Food trucks are not permitted within 50 metres of a comparable food business. However existing businesses say the trucks continue to pose “unfair competition” because they have lower overheads.

The report disputed this, saying the mobile vendors face significant operating costs, including fitouts worth up to $250,000.


It proposes an exclusion zone at Kings Cross while problems of alcohol-fuelled violence are being addressed.

Some food truck operators complained the proposed policy “over regulates” and restricts their business, citing limited on-street parking and restricted operating hours and locations.

Owner of the Urban Pasta food truck, Stephane Chevassus, said finding on-street parking was difficult, however the business had been well received by customers and locals.

“We work really well with the community and listen a lot. We always try to make sure everyone is happy. It's not always easy,” he said.

Research commissioned by the council found 98 per cent of people supported the initiative. More than one in three customers would otherwise have eaten at home, showing that new business was being generated.

The trucks were busiest between 9pm and midnight, but served an average nine customers per hour during lunch trading, well below the numbers required for viability.

Isabelle Hampson, 19, of Pymble, is a regular visitor to food trucks near her workplace at Walsh Bay.

She said the trucks took up little space, adding "there are not many food options around, and it's a cheap option as well."

The report recommended extending the one-year trial until March next year.