An invitation to enhance the experience of visitors to White Rock’s waterfront by way of food carts caught the interest of a dozen Marine Drive restaurateurs.
And at least three of the four businesses that have taken all the steps – including obtaining a permit from Fraser Health – to actually operate the carts on the promenade are optimistic it is a venture that will catch on.
“We thought we’d try it,” said Charlie Montgomery, owner of Montgomery’s Cottage Lunch on East Beach. “It could prove out to be OK.
“On the (July 1) holiday, when all the other booths were going on… it just took off.”
The idea to introduce the food carts stemmed from a suggestion made during last year’s community forum on the waterfront. Putting it into play required amendments to the city’s official community plan to allow commerce south of Marine Drive. Those amendments were finalized in early May, and interested operators had until the end of that month to apply for one of 16 available sites.
They can offer food, beverage and/or ice cream service through Oct. 15.
Montgomery said the success of his cart – which offers such items as potato chips, freezies, water and pop – is dependent on the weather, and he plans to have it up and running on the weekends, “when the sun comes out.”
Jimmy Flynn’s Celtic Snug is also running a cart, offering wraps and drinks.
Cook Mitchell Halley said beverages have been the biggest seller so far, and that the venture is “doing really well.”
Lucy Muir of Look Watts Cooking said the experience for her has also been positive. Set-up costs were reasonable, and while sales haven’t been brisk, there have been plenty of opportunities to network and let more people know about the business she runs with her mother, Liz Watts.
“Everybody thought it was a good idea,” she said.
Keeping the competition at bay was another motivation for getting involved, Muir said.
“I can’t have somebody else standing 20 feet from my shop selling sandwiches.”
Paul Stanton, White Rock’s director of development services, said a lack of electricity for the sites limited what operators could offer.
“We explained to them… we’re not set up for power and we don’t have a budget to put power in, so make the best of it you can this year, we’ll see how it goes,” Stanton said. “We also advised some of them, ‘don’t start spending a whole lot of money on equipment until you see whether it’s going to generate any revenue for you.’”
Stanton said the city has fielded only one complaint about the food carts, from a restaurateur worried the carts would take business away from the waterfront establishments and generate more costs for the city.
Questions were briefly raised when a cart bearing a Washington State licence plate set up shop on the promenade. Stanton said it was quickly determined that the owner, who purchased the cart in the U.S., simply hadn’t changed its registration.
If the pilot project is deemed a success this summer, the city will look into the possibility of making the cart sites more permanent, including adding power, he said.