At the time of writing, it is still unclear whether Soenil’s food truck will be able to take to the streets again after January 14 and whether Adulwitch will return to its permanent place with his cart in the center of the city. Both entrepreneurs have become victims of the measures that prevent the sale of street food have limited.
They also have a few other things in common. The cool jub, noodle soup with crispy roasted pork belly, from Adulwitch’s father Chanhai Tangsupmanee received a Bib-Gourmand mention from Michelin in 2019 (and that was world news). The son learned to cook from his father and was forced to take over his business when Chanhai, who ran his cart for 50 years, died from the effects of Covid-19.
The restaurant of Soenil Bahadoer, which has existed for more than a quarter of a century, has two Michelin stars. Soenil gives his haute cuisine dishes a good dose of his mother’s Surinamese cuisine. The restaurant is now closed.
During the first lockdown, Soenil sold from his foodtruck the tastiest baras in the world, with the “genius balance between exotic and classic” of his menus, as Joël Broekaert called in his restaurant review from two years ago in the NRC.
Furthermore, the differences are large. Adulwitch cart stands in the Chinatown of Bangkok, Thailand. Soenil’s restaurant De Lindehof is located in the Brabant village of Nuenen, the food truck is right outside. Adulwitch serves an audience with a small budget, Soenil’s customers like to save for an evening of culinary ecstasy. The question is whether their future will also differ that much.
The catering industry has been hit hard worldwide, the food truck business was not spared. While it seemed that the owners of food trucks might be able to take advantage of the closure of regular restaurants. People still have to eat and the restaurants that offer takeaway do not achieve the turnover that they otherwise make.
Food trucks are mobile, can stand where the hungry flock. The culinary variety in the offer is enormous, it reflects the diversity of the (urban) population. Food truck operators specialize and bind their own customer base. That 1,5 meters away is no problem, the viruses blow away from the picnic tables. A combined festive and necessary outing, just out the door to the food truck. Would you say.
Street food has a valued and growing role in the food supply in rapidly urbanising countries, such as some in Africa. But also in western urban areas, such as in California in New York, food trucks have become indispensable.
The ‘informal food sector’ has the attention of the FAO, the food organization of the UN. With the increase in the number of (unskilled) private individuals offering their products on the street, the risk of inadequate food safety is also increasing. Millions of small traders and entrepreneurs depend on street trading, which benefits from both flexible regulation and clear hygiene.
Street food has a valued and growing role in the food supply in rapidly urbanizing countries, such as some in Africa, but also in western urban areas
The rules differ per country. In the Netherlands, food trucks are subject to permits for stands and the like and to the Commodities Act. The hipster era saw an eruption of culinary creativity as small business owners converted old vans and started selling BBQ, burritos, pizza and Asian specialties at special events such as Rolling Kitchens.
Not only has the boom passed its peak, the entire industry is in a slump, says Arjan de Hoon of toot toot food. “Food truck owners have not benefited from the pandemic. Many have already quit and have looked for work in another sector, like many other catering staff.”
Toetoetfood mediates between food truck owners and companies that have something to celebrate, with peak times in June, September and December. For example, a medium-sized construction company orders a few food trucks for burgers and pizzas and invites the staff over with their families. But everyone has become cautious, says De Hoon. “Many companies do not dare to organize something, not even in the open air.”
Unlike in other countries, where you can park your food truck wherever you want, the freedom of Dutch food trucks is limited. “You can’t just stand where people still come during the lockdown, in front of NS stations or in front of the offices of large companies,” says De Hoon. Festivals and events, which especially the bigger boys have to rely on, have been cancelled. “But when we can open again in the spring, I expect it will be busy, also in our BtB niche.”
The biggest problem that De Hoon sees is the shortage of staff. This applies to the entire hospitality industry. “You can get started in construction that way.” That’s better than waiting in uncertainty when you can roll your truck out of the garage again.
Soenil is also waiting to see what will happen. It is completely unclear whether the catering industry and therefore De Lindehof can open again soon. “But”, he says by email, “if we have to stay closed after January 14, we will go wild again with the food truck.”
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Lot foodtruck onzeker – – Foodlog