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Eat & Drink

Corporate chains enter Toronto's food truck scene

Posted by Robyn Urback / November 7, 2012

Tim Hortons Food TruckBrace yourselves, Toronto. We're about to enter a new corporate purgatory where overexposed brands can literally follow you down the street. Toronto's food truck scene — up until now, that is — has mostly been an arena of mobile independents. There's Caplansky's truck, of course, as well as mobile-only ventures such as Gorilla Cheese, Blue Donkey, and Food Cabbie, to name a few. But Gorilla et al. better prepare to share the road, since the big boys of dining will soon be moving into town.

And who are these supposed "big boys?" Well, there's Tim Hortons, Beaver Tails, Boston Pizza, and Jack Astor's for starters, the latter of which has already let its truck loose on Toronto's streets. There are a couple more big chains poised to enter Toronto's food truck market, but Terry Sauve of Kitchen on Wheels Canada is keeping tight-lipped about some of his bigger clients.

"Let's just say, you'll know who they are," Terry says as we chat about the upswing he's seen in national corporate clients. Terry says the split is about 50/50 in terms of whether the brands commission him to build a truck or vice versa, but they are almost all unified in wanting a teched-out, fully modernized truck. And some companies are putting in orders for six or more trucks, distributing their fleet all across Canada.

And these trucks may be as much about branding as they are about selling the odd streetside Iced Capp. Whereas a startup company might go the mobile route to avoid the additional costs and risks that come with a brick and mortar restaurant, Tim Hortons doesn't really have those same growing pain concerns. What it does have, however, is the opportunity to employ a moving billboard with a purpose, with the added bonus of a bunch of extra double-double sales wherever it chooses to land.

Clearly, our fascination with food from a vehicle hasn't yet slowed down, with Terry remarking that he's had to move three times in the past year just to find a facility to keep up with demand. And the trucks he says he's working on are as "pretty awesome" as ever, many outfitted with flat screen TVs, flashy signage, and GPS technology to send an alert to your smartphone when the truck is nearby. So while we've all gotten used to a big corporate chain on every corner, Toronto better prepare for our most familiar brands trolling between sidewalks as well.



Pk / November 7, 2012 at 09:18 am
It'll be interesting to see if the 'big guys' face the same trouble with permits, bylaws and general City Hall red-tape as the independents.

I'll bet the Tim Horton's food truck will be allowed to park itself in the middle of Nathan Philips Square.
matts / November 7, 2012 at 09:23 am
The joke's on you, food truck-loving hipsters!

Well, seriously, though, it's kinda sad...it's as if there weren't already enough Tim Hortons around...or does anyone need more of the sh*t they serve at Boston Pizza? Le sigh...
loper replying to a comment from matts / November 7, 2012 at 09:27 am
Only hipsters say "Le sigh"
milo / November 7, 2012 at 09:28 am
my brain will put up with a Tim's Truck

I always figured Boston Pizza was only for obese people living in the suburbs.
Rob replying to a comment from Pk / November 7, 2012 at 09:34 am
Yep. If only they showed this type of interest in food trucks back when actual enterprising people wanted to get the scene off the ground. Only in Toronto will food trucks be a source of minimum wage jobs and not entrepreneurship.

Ain't big money grand?
Jose / November 7, 2012 at 09:43 am
Those corporate bastards. Always trying to go against the little guys. As if there isn't enough Tim Hortons in this freakin' city.
Daryl / November 7, 2012 at 09:44 am
Cafe & Bake Shop? Really?? Who are they fooling?
BCR / November 7, 2012 at 09:48 am
if you ignore them, they will go away. Simple
Jer / November 7, 2012 at 09:50 am
Photo credit? Usually you guys post a photo credit near the bottom of the article. I am pretty sure this picture is from the USA no? Tim Hortons are branded cafe/bake shop in the USA. I don't think they have that branding in Canada. I am not aware of them having a food truck in Canada.
Lisa Simpson replying to a comment from BCR / November 7, 2012 at 10:00 am
"Just don't look... Just don't look..."
Gregg Tilston / November 7, 2012 at 10:00 am
Wait, wait, wait - isn't it the traditional restaurateurs who are fighting food trucks because they will hurt their business?
km / November 7, 2012 at 10:02 am
Kinda funny that Jim Treliving said that the Caplansky Food truck was not a profitable idea and not worth investing in on Dragon's Den - but now Jim's Boston Pizza is putting their own truck on the street.
Benedict / November 7, 2012 at 10:10 am
Jack Astor's? An old FedEx truck filled with 60 microwaves?
Steph / November 7, 2012 at 10:12 am
Talk about a badly researched post! A simple google search would have revealed that the Tim Hortons trucks were in the US during the summer giving away free drinks. I highly doubt you will see an actual truck selling double-doubles on the streets of Toronto any time soon.
anita / November 7, 2012 at 10:21 am
They will probably still have terrible service and still screw up orders!
Wabango replying to a comment from Jose / November 7, 2012 at 10:35 am
Actually, the city could use a few more Tim Hortons. Supply and demand is a very simple concept and the current demand far out paces supply.
Gabriel replying to a comment from Daryl / November 7, 2012 at 10:43 am
"Cafe & Bake Shop? Really?? Who are they fooling?" That's how Tim Horton's is branded in thr USA
Jeremy Potvin / November 7, 2012 at 11:42 am
This is absolutely the worst thing that could happen to the food truck scene. I'm sure there are only going to be a limited number of licenses that are granted each year, and the LAST THING we want are more opportunities to purchase mediocre, if not brutal, "food" from the likes of Tim Hortons and Jack Astors, at the expense of options from food sources we want.
Poopdawg replying to a comment from matts / November 7, 2012 at 11:45 am
Yes the scores of people that line up for the 3 food trucks a day down on Yonge and Front are such trendy "hipsters".
Robert / November 7, 2012 at 12:31 pm
There were Swiss Chalet Trucks out and about this summer giving away fries. This is not new.
Jer / November 7, 2012 at 01:14 pm
Looks like the picture was stolen off of Tim Horton's USA facebook page:


Very misleading and why no photo credit?
horizoncarrie replying to a comment from Jer / November 7, 2012 at 01:18 pm
this is their new logo. Ive seen it in mississauga too.
Khristopher / November 7, 2012 at 02:15 pm
A Beaver Tails food truck!!! YES PLEASE!
Niklas / November 7, 2012 at 04:16 pm
where are these food trucks? I never see them anywhere.
Christine / November 7, 2012 at 04:27 pm
Maybe those corporate egos can help battle the City Hall ego and finally get the bylaw issue settled.

Have a look at Caplansky's website .... there's another twist to the Dragon's Den story coming. Maybe Mr. Treliving is going to eat his words.
km / November 7, 2012 at 04:37 pm
Seems some bad information in this article - Boston Pizza says it has no plans to do a Food Truck:
Bryan Stenton / November 7, 2012 at 04:54 pm
Talk about a city that lacks culture. Who in their mind would allow that. You go to other great cities and find culinary inspired trucks and you come to T.O for some mud water they call coffee. What a joke!
Heather replying to a comment from km / November 7, 2012 at 08:12 pm
"Unfortunately, that article is incorrect. We do not have a food truck at this time." https://twitter.com/Boston_Pizza/status/266198612793491456

km - that tweet just says they don't have one right now. It's doesn't even mention future plans for or against.

Literacy yo, it's important.
Gabe / November 7, 2012 at 08:31 pm
Whatever! Its just a truck selling coffee and doughnuts, if you don't like it - show it by not stopping- those that do want it will stop, shouldn't matter to you!!!!
seanm / November 7, 2012 at 10:31 pm
I'm not quite sure why food trucks are so popular to begin with, at least in their current incarnation. The whole point of street food is to conveniently offer tasty and cheap eats; emphasis on the cheap part. The food is so grossly overpriced because of the hype, it's borderline criminal. Why pay restaurant prices for the "luxury" of minimal service while standing around eating.

Now, I know there are a lot of red tape and permits that make it difficult to have a street food scene like many part of the US, or world abroad so that much is understood. Until our by-laws surrounding food trucks improve the whole scene, independents included, is really nothing more than a mobile billboard service.
seanm / November 7, 2012 at 10:33 pm
*Apologies for the shifty grammar; I should've proofread before posting...
Josh / November 8, 2012 at 09:13 pm
Food trucks. Chip Trucks. Ice Cream Trucks. Burger Trucks. Drink Trucks have been around for many many years now. If you think some Toronto restaurant or deli invented/owns the food truck industry in Toronto you're wrong. Food trucks have been around for a long time and small business and big business doesn't own it. If you have a complaint with some Food Truck festival having a Tim Horton's truck there, you need to complain tot he organizers for allowing them in to the festival, or the Brickworks or whereever.
joe mama / November 9, 2012 at 01:04 pm
Boston Pizza and Jack Astor's I can understand...But Tim Horton's has the blandest (don't know if that's a word) food of any restaurant (I use that term loosely) in existence.
Jason replying to a comment from seanm / November 13, 2012 at 12:01 pm
Agree. I don't understand the point of paying restaurant prices for something that is supposed to have a lot less overhead.

Plus, how environmentally friendly are these things? I'm guessing not at all.
Ron / March 10, 2015 at 11:36 am
South Montgomery is getting a Tim Hortons? That is awesome Montgomery triangle. The Golden triangle is the Montgomery triangle.

Montgomery triangle is awesome!
Rich / March 19, 2015 at 12:24 pm
What is happening with the slopes? Is the development going ahead. That entire North West part of Calgary is really changing with new communities and development. A Tim Hortons is now going into Montgomery and a Carls Junior is supposed to go up in Montgomery triangle by the river.
Rohan / April 12, 2015 at 11:52 am
I think the fact is that the slopes will be developed. When we accept this fact and move forward then we can appreciate just how nice and progressive it will be. This whole part of Northwest Calgary is changing rapidly now. Check out all the new work by the trailer park in Bowness plus Montgomery triangle is getting a Tim Hortons and a new medical centre
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