What the first food truck festival means for Mumbai

  • Meenakshi Iyer, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: May 19, 2016 16:48 IST
A food truck by Paninaro (Photo: Vidya Subramanian /HT)

Will the city’s first food truck festival pave the way for more to join the revolution?

If you find yourself salivating when Jon Favreau’s character in the movie Chef (2014) dishes out Cubano sandwiches from his food truck, then the city’s first food truck festival is the place to be this weekend. The best of Mumbai’s food trucks — that have been serving international fare like burgers, sandwiches, and local delicacies like keema pav and pav bhaji roll — will be a part of the two-day festival called Food Truck Square.

Read: Why is food no longer served on plates?

While the rest of the country may have seen more activity in the food truck scene, Mumbai is catching up only now. Currently, there are about 25 trucks functioning from various pockets in the city. “The food truck scene has been buzzing across the country for the last one year, with food entrepreneurs looking at it as the first step to setting up a successful restaurant. We get more than 15 enquiries on a day-to-day basis from people who are interested in starting their own truck,” says Mumbai-based Subham Chaudhuri, president of the Food Truck Association, India. For the festival, Chaudhuri has partnered with Ronak Rajani, founder of Mumbai Foodie, which curates food-based events across the city.

A burger by Big Bite Burrito Food Truck (HT file photo)

“I have been a big fan of the show Eat Street on TLC. It showcases the food truck culture abroad, where every truck has something unique to offer. I kept wishing something like this existed in Mumbai,” says Rajani. Taking a cue from the trend abroad, Neha Arya Sethi of Sweetish House Mafia started selling cookies from the back of her Tata Nano three years ago. Every day, she’d update her Facebook and Twitter followers with her location. Today, she owns three outlets across the city, giving her humble Nano some rest.

Road ahead

One of the biggest roadblocks is that unlike cities like Bengaluru, Delhi and Pune (where food trucks can operate under a set of licenses from local authorities), Mumbai has no legal framework to get the food truck business rolling. Right from dealing with red tapism to acquiring various licenses from the BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) and Food & Drugs Administration (FDA), food truck owners find it difficult to navigate the system.

Sandwich by Mumbai Rolling Kitchen (HT file photo )

A part of the motive behind the upcoming festival is to gauge the interest among the city’s foodies and create awareness about the food truck culture. “Food trucks fall under a lacuna in the law. There are certain licenses available to emulate a mobile canteen. However, food trucks are treated like bona fide hawkers, instead of restaurants on wheels,” adds Chaudhuri. However, with the upcoming smart cities proposal put forth by the government, he is hopeful that food trucks can turn into a viable business for enthusiasts.

“While the existing regulations do not adequately address the challenges faced by food truck operators, the vendors, too, must realise that they need to innovate constantly. Serving the same cuisines won’t attract consumers as tastes have evolved,” says Aakash Sethi, partner, Sweetish House Mafia.

Food Truck Square will be held from May 20 to 21, 12pm to 10pm
At: High Street Phoenix, Lower Parel
Visit: insider.in for tickets

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