Drift Food Truck got started back in the early days of the food truck scene of Edmonton in 2011. Fast forward over six years and they are still going strong. In today’s featured interview we got the chance to site down with Nevin & Kara, the owners of this distinguished mobile eatery to share their stories about how they got started and what it’s really like to operate a food truck. If you happen to be fortunate enough to live in the Edmonton area, we encourage you to enjoy this interview and then be sure to check out Drift in person.
FTE: Tell us how you got started?
Drift: Nevin and I have been running Drift since 2011. We started the idea after we couldn’t find a restaurant in our price range, and at the time food trucks were getting really big with shows like Eat St. We went on a trip to Portland Oregon, and found a ton of inspiration. There was a great guy there that we hired to take us on a tour and he also answered a lot of questions for us. We had to go outside of our City to find ideas, as there wasn’t really any full time trucks on the streets, mainly just hot dog carts and the trucks and trailers that were here, were only in markets and festivals.
FTE: How did you figure out how to start your truck?
Drift: We really had to go into this blind. Again, with no one really out curbside, we had to do a ton of research and have a lot of meetings with the City of Edmonton in order to make sure we had all the correct permits in place. We had to outfit a commissary kitchen as well, so that added a lot of extra material to cover for zoning, licensing and all the other red tape. As far as getting the business off the ground, we had no one but ourselves, so we found a great Canadian truck manufacturer, as we were worried about shipping the truck from the States. Once that began, we started the process of working with the City, and a really great place here called The Business Link. It is directed at small business owners and entrepreneurs, and they provide free legal advice, a library, affordable courses, business plan guidance and more. They were an invaluable tool, and played a huge part of us getting started. Everything else was just trial and error.
FTE: Canadian winters can be brutal. Are vending opportunities limited during this season?
Drift: Most trucks in Edmonton work on a Spring to Fall season, but there are some diehards that go out all year round! Being a winter city, we do have a ton of festivals in the cold months, so if the weather is more mild, like it has been this year, it is much easier to make the decision to load up the truck for the day. In our early years, we never said no, and I have many memories of food freezing and equipment not working as we were trying to work outside when it was -25 degrees celsius! That was another reason why we had our truck built in Canada, as I don’t think one coming from California would be as well insulated or come with a block heater in the engine! In the winter we offer catering services, or have found seasonal work with friends Some truck owners have a brick and mortar business that is year round, some work hard enough in the summer to take the winter off, some offer catering, and some keep going. It’s really on a what you need to do basis!
FTE: What are some of the unique challenges of operating a food truck in Edmonton?
Drift: Right now, it’s that we have had a boom of trucks over the last couple of seasons, but not a large enough population to keep the customer base large enough to stay afloat. We have to work really hard to keep our brand, and hope to engage new customers all the time due to the saturation of trucks. It has also made the competition of getting into festivals and events harder, as there are more and more trucks applying all the time. Weather is also always a challenge. we have about 4 months of consistently good weather in the summer, and then March/April, and September/October are always up in the air!
FTE: What are the local food truck laws like?
Drift: Since we began in 2011, we have seen a growth in mobile business owners in Edmonton. In turn, this has prompted the City to review the past regulations, applications, guidelines, and everything else in between. A new provincial inspections guidelines was also introduced a couple seasons ago, that at first was creating a lot of tension, and some trucks also didn’t pass inspection, but now it is the norm, and you can’t get your business license without it. The vending department has set up an online application process, or you can just make an appointment to meet with them as well. If you go to the vending coordinator, they can provide you with all the information to get started, and one quick call to the Alberta Health Services, will have someone come down and inspect your truck. It can seem like a lot when you are first going through it, but it is all just a matter of making sure you have everything checked off the list.
FTE: What do you appreciate most about operating your truck?
Drift: Mainly the flexibility. We have a young daughter and to be able to make our own schedule, it allows us to still have a balance in our family life. We love trying new events and festivals as well, and we get to attend many events that we wouldn’t normally, and get paid to do it! We have a great community of truck owners in Edmonton as well, and we have made some really awesome friends over the years.
FTE: What tips do you have for individuals thinking about breaking into the industry?
Drift: It is a lot more work that you can ever imagine. If you want to be able to do this as your only income, you must be prepared to throw everything in the ring, and not expect that people will just come to you because you are a new truck. Be prepared to wear many, many, many hats!
Drift Food Truck – Find out where the Drift Food Truck will be stopping next in Edmonton. You can also check out their menu and book them for your next catering event here.
Start a Food Truck in 5 Steps – Find out the basic steps you need to complete to start your own food truck business.
Complete Guide to Edmonton Food Trucks – Learn about some of the other mobile restaurants that operating in this great Canadian city.
What the Truck? – This organization organizers and promotes food truck events around the city of Edmonton. They are essentially the Edmonton version of “Off The Grid” in San Francisco.