Usually business is booming at the Rolling Stove food truck, which has become a fixture on the street in front of Stuart Park.
But this summer, sales have gone flat due to a flurry of City of Kelowna road construction, and that’s given way to some larger concerns about the restrictive nature of the municipality’s food truck program.
“I’ve had this spot for three years, and when I bid on the space I wasn’t expecting this construction,” said Rick Graham, owner of Rolling Stove.
“It’s devastated business this year. June and July, so far, have been wiped out.”
Graham estimated that he’s down around $20,000 in sales.
“When you run on a short season like this, that’s hard,” he said.
“Now I’m having to buy my groceries retail because the quantities required for wholesale would create too much waste.”
His labour costs are also outstripping his profits.
“Everything has just been brutal,” he said.
What could have lessened the strain would be some flexibility at the city.
“Rules are stifling to the businesses,” he said. “I’m the only food vendor in the city who can be on the street, and I can only be at that spot.”
A little bit of autonomy to travel around or set up rotating schedules with multiple vendors would mirror what’s happening in areas with more well established food-truck programs.
“That won’t happen here. They bylawed the hell out of things because of the weenie wars,” he said, referring to problems with hotdog vendors in year’s past.
“It’s a different ballgame now. The food truck scene is evolving in cities across North America. To be more mobile would be so much better.”
It would have helped Graham offset his losses.
“I probably turned down 25 to 30 catering jobs this summer because of my commitment to the city—they expect me to be there—but had I known that this is what would have happened, maybe we could have worked something else out,”he said.
The city isn’t unaware of the strain construction has caused Graham. They’ve given him a $1,500 to $1,800 break on rent over two months, which as Graham pointed out, isn’t 10 per cent of the losses he’s suffered.
All together, it’s created an uncertain future for the Rolling Stove.
His three year contract is up at the end of this year, and he has two one-year options for renewal after tat.
“I am trying to decide what to do,” he said. “The city has made baby steps to making things better, but it’s been three years and there doesn’t seem to be any big changes in the street food scene.”