Tim Hortons Food Truck

Corporate chains enter Toronto's food truck scene

Brace 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.

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