Food trucks get cooking in northeast Sask.
PRINCE ALBERT -- Behind every one-of-a-kind business is a creative entrepreneur, and food businesses are a shining example of that in northeast Saskatchewan.
Brent Hamel held off opening his taco trailer, Hecho en Waskesiu, due to the pandemic until June 2021, but says the shut-down on international travel provided him the time needed to get the business off the ground. He would previously spend three to six months a year away on business.
“I think it was the break I needed,” said Hamel. “The opportunity to spend more time in Canada and with family working on recipes, which we thought would be good for our family and the community.”
Encouraged by his family and friends that other people would like his tacos, he made the leap and took his taco recipes into a commercial venture.
Hamel imported a polished stainless steel replica air-stream trailer and get to work with local contractors to turn his concept into reality. He says taco trailer businesses is a combination of creative expression and business planning.
He also drew on 30 years of travel experience, including time spent in Mexico.
“I’m celiac so all of my recipe experimenting was done with gluten-free flour, as well the churros are done gluten-free,” said Hamel.
It was a challenge to combine dreams with regulations. The trailer is made to fit current food standards and fire regulations. And many custom adjustments were made to fit the necessities of a restaurant, such as deep fryers, grills and a sink into a trailer.
“I worked with Canadian companies and trades to finish it, to complete the electrical and the plumbing, gas the trailer hitch as well as the equipment,” said Hamel.
Mobile food truck owner Kyra Robillard had her truck built in Winnipeg at Food Trucks International five years ago. She says her husband came up with the name Baby Got Bannock. She left a job as a police officer in order to have a family and start a food truck business.
“I love it. It’s very rewarding. And I wouldn’t change anything. I can't wait to continue doing it every summer,” said Robillard.
Robillard took a business loan with Saskatchewan Indian Economic Finances to start the business. She says encouragement from family and friends also helped.
“Part of it was that TV show Food Truck Wars, and I love cooking so I thought maybe it was something I could get into,” said Robillard. “I always liked to cook and bannock was something I’ve done in my family and my mom taught me.”
Robillard is pleased restrictions are easing and the Baby Got Bannock food truck is once again employing people, most of which are family members.
Some drawbacks of the mobile food business include working in tight quarters, the heat in the trailer in summer and the lack of bathroom facilities, says Robillard.
Both Hamel and Robillard plan to keep their business open for the long-term and look forward to having their children grow up in the food industry.
Sales of foodservice contractors, caterers and mobile food trucks were down 37 per cent in June 2020 compared to June 2019, according to the Statistics Canada Food Services and Drinking Place Sales report.
One-third (34 per cent) of special food services reported having been closed for part of June 2020, compared with 49 per cent in May and 60 per cent in April.
Statistics Canada says there are about 2,490 food trucks operating in Canada.