The new City of Sydney centrally planned street food

The City of Sydney has just embarked in a mini-experiment in centrally planned street food. It is allowing ‘food trucks’ to start operating in particular locations at particular times in the CBD. Food trucks seem to be fashionable versions of street hawkers – I understand the trucks are in New York (to me food trucks look like something from a film set).

One of the great things about street hawkers is that they can provide inexpensive food at all times and in all sorts of locations. In Sydney though, the Council has decided it needs to prevent the food trucks competing with existing cafes by regulating where and when they can be open. In effect Council is just allowing new regulated shops to open next to the kerb – and in a way that doesn’t compete with other outlets.

This would be unlikely to be in consumers’ interests. Council should just let hawkers sell food wherever and whenever they wish in the CBD (subject to health/rubbish concerns) – the small scale of most operations would likely result in minimal amenity impacts. Hawkers would gravitate to where people want to buy food rather than where Council thinks they will – hawkers would be much more able to respond to consumer demands than a Council regulating times and locations of operation.

This to me looks like an overengineered regulatory esponse to a desire for street food.

See here for more details:

More information about the rollout and why a centrally-regulated regime is being used can be found in the latest e-news (28/04/12) from Lord Mayor Clover Moore:

The first of our food truck vendors are ready to roll, with Cantina Mobil just issued the City’s first permit as part of our trial aimed at offering diverse and high-quality food throughout the day and particularly late at night.

In our consultation on improving our late night economy, Sydneysiders told us they want food trucks for their city, and we’re very glad to be delivering

To make this possible the City has rewritten the regulations on mobile food vending – ensuring these ‘restaurants on wheels’ adhere to the highest standards. The food trucks will be located in places that are currently inadequately served at different times of the day or night.


Trading hours at each site are tailored so there are no conflicts with existing cafes and restaurants. A booking system will be used to ensure a turnover of trucks during the opening hours.


Approvals have already been granted for food trucks to operate in:

  • Queen’s Square, Mon-Fri, 5pm-2am; Sat-Sun, 7am-2am
  • Hyde Park north, 7 days, 9pm-2am
  • Victoria Park car park, 7 days, 7am-2am
  • Victoria Park at Cleveland Street, 7 days, 6pm-2am.

Three other sites, outside Customs House at Circular Quay, in Pitt Street Mall and at Macquarie Place, will go before Council in May. Development application decisions are pending on seven other sites in parks and public areas around the CBD and inner suburbs.


On some streets food trucks will be able to pull up to the footpath – as long as they follow existing parking restrictions and are not too close to an existing food business.


We hope that in the future, the trucks will become an integral part of Sydney’s outdoor events and festivals, as well as private functions.


The City will shortly launch an app for iPhone and Android which will let you see in real time where the trucks are located and what they are serving each day.


Cantina Mobil will hit Sydney’s streets from later this week, with other trucks following over the next few weeks

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