Australian embrace of US street food mobile vending trend halted in Melbourne’s Docklands

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 3rd December 2012

Considered a craze in many American cities, the mobile street food movement is quickly becoming a part of Australian city culture. Adelaide and Sydney have commissioned food carts and food vans to provide unique food options, but Melbourne’s food vans have just experienced a major setback.

Many people have literally jumped on the street food “bandwagon” because of the convenient opportunity to purchase cheap, quick, fresh food at an affordable price. Furthermore, street food carts often offer “something different” to traditional take-out.

However, Popular Melbourne food trucks in the Docklands precinct will not be reissued with trading permits after local traders complained.  The Age newspaper reported last week that fifteen restaurants or 40 per cent had closed at Docklands during the last ten months. Some of the restaurants claimed that competition from food vans run by Beatbox and Gumbo Kitchen was threatening the viability of the restaurants in a tight market for a relatively small number of customers.

According to a 2010 consumer research survey by US firm, Technomic, 26 per cent of Americans said they had visited a mobile food vendor in the last six months, with that figure expected to have grown since.

Closer to home, the Adelaide city council initiative to “bring city streets to life,” as part of the Splash Adelaide project, has seen many mobile street food vendors pop-up in the city centre. The Splash Adelaide program encourages street food in the city, such as coffee carts, burger vans, and gourmet cuisine.

The Sydney City Council has also commissioned 10 food trucks to operate in Sydney under a one-year trial, offering “gourmet products at affordable prices.” According to the Sydney City Council, the trial was not to discourage people from existing food outlets, but to provide choice when there was a lack of food options.

Some popular Australian food carts and vans are listed below:

Veggie Velo – Adelaide

Originally from France, Adelaide-based chef Manu decided to turn his love of active living and healthy food into a vegetarian street cart on his bicycle. Manu peddles around Adelaide streets serving up hand-made vegetarian food, which is cooked on the back of his bike. Some of his street cart creations include the Veggie Velo Quinoa Burger and a Vegan Banana and Chocolate Tart.

Street Food Australia – Brisbane

The Street Food Australia initiative values multiculturalism by offering ethic food stalls on various bicycle street-carts around Brisbane, soon to expand to other cities. Aimed to help disadvantaged migrants start an Australian food business, Helen Bird and Billerwell Daye offer two years of support under the Street Food Australia umbrella. In the two years, migrants develop menus and a client-base to start their own Australian business cooking traditional food from their country.

Gumbo Kitchen – Melbourne

The Melbourne-based van specialises in spicy Cajun New Orleans cuisine, featuring street food menu items such as corn on the cob and tacos.

Veggie Patch Van – Sydney

Veggie Patch Van is a side-project of  Yulli’s vegetarian restaurant in Surry Hills. The van named ‘spud’ which serves the food also has little environmental impact, powered by vegetable oil and solar power.  Sourced from local NSW farmers, all ingredients are seasonal and the menu is altered to suit available produce.

Taco Truck – Sydney

Following the success of the Beatbox Kitchen, Rafael Rashid started the Taco Truck to offer fresh, Mexican street food to Sydney residents. He aims to offer the perfect balance of quality and speed.

Bun Mobile – Brisbane

Asian inspired steamed-buns feature flavours such as twice cooked pork, teriyaki chicken or wagyu beef and are offered at a new location daily around Brisbane. Not just exclusive to the city-centre, the Bun Mobile travels to various outer suburbs to offer people healthy street food at a discounted price.

La Cantina – Adelaide

Is an Adelaide-based food van touring central streets and parks as part of the Splash Adelaide movement. The Mexican food van cooks all fresh Mexican food in the van and is served up as an outdoor lunch alternative to many people working in the Adelaide CBD.

Manu from Veggie Velo, Adelaide.