Food truckies leave local business with sour taste

January 10, 2018

The Food Truck Festival, Rotary Park, Echuca. Janine and Jeff Rowe.

LOCAL traders are ‘‘disappointed’’ with the food truck festival that rolled into Echuca last week.

The festival, which brought around 25 food trucks to Rotary Park, drained Echuca’s hospitality businesses of expected income during the five-day-period.

Star Hotel and The Bridge Hotel owner Paul Jarman said he had to change rosters, knock people off early and order less food due to the lack of customers.

‘‘The festival is more of a competitor to the town, rather than an ally,’’ he said.

‘‘In the first four days our takings were down on the previous year, particularly on food.’’

Mr Jarman said for the past 40 years the Echuca-Moama tourism industry has worked hard to add to the community.

‘‘I don’t believe the festival has been of benefit in its current form,’’ he said.

‘‘I am disappointed the Rotary Club hosted it and the timing was detrimental to other local businesses.’’

Many commented on the event on Facebook with concerns about a lack of shade and poor choice of location.

Food Truck Park director Frank Rusitovski said there were a lot of challenges, but Rotary were supportive.

‘‘Rotary Park served its purpose for the festival, especially with the space that was given,’’ he said.

But if that was the biggest concern, it seems the festival went off without a hitch.

A lot of people commented on the range of food and activities.

Mr Rusitovski said the street food scene is alive and well in regional Victoria — particularly in Echuca.

‘‘The whole town embraced the street food concept,’’ he said.

‘‘We counted about 18,000 people through the gates over the festival.

‘‘If it wasn’t for the really hot weather on Saturday we would have broken records.’’

They hope to make it an annual event.

‘‘Our operators and committee loved it in Echuca.

‘‘We want to come back bigger and better next year.’’

Campaspe Shire economic and community development general manager Keith Oberin said the food truck festival organisers were required to obtain a POPE (Place of Public Entertainment) permit.

‘‘This was required to ensure the safety and security of all event goers,’’ he said.

‘‘In addition to this, all participating food trucks required registration with the council area in which they are based.

‘‘These proprietors were also required to advise Campaspe Shire of their participation in the event via the statewide registration database Streatrader.’’

Mr Oberin said council’s environmental health officers attended the event on three separate days to carry out inspections to ensure all food safety regulations were met.

‘‘It is recognised that the food truck festival added vibrancy to the town, offering another activity on the summer calendar for visitors and locals alike,’’ he said.

‘‘Food Truck Festival organisers and traders stayed locally, further contributing to the local economy.

‘‘They hired a private event space (Rotary Park) with gold coin entry donations to a recognised charity.

‘‘Council’s Public Spaces Trading Policy ensures fair and equitable trade when events are held on council managed public land.’’

In response, Mr Rusitovski said the festival brought in funding towards the community.

‘‘I’m under the belief there were many hotels and other accommodation booked out,’’ he said.

‘‘There was also lots of local spending by the operators.’’

He said a survey found around 75 per cent of the visitors they had at the festival were not from Echuca.

The festival raised $13,500 for MND which came from the $5 parking fee and a voluntary gold coin donation upon entry.

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