By Caroline Dinnall
Students line up patiently as they wait to be served by the cooks in the big green truck outside of the Rogers Communications Centre.
In exchange for a crisp blue bill, they receive a hearty lunch to make it through the day.
“It’s mainly convenience for me. If I had the option to go anywhere else I would but I don’t want to walk in the cold,” said Tooba Nomin, second-year biology student. From time to time, she orders a loaded shawarma and soft drink.
Over the past couple years at Ryerson, food trucks have made their presence known on special occasions — be it Social Justice Week or Ryerson’s annual Week of Welcome.
Yet this unnamed shawarma and falafel truck parks at the corner of Church and Gould Streets four times a week — and on a good week, five. Its owners are the only food truck operators that have made a commitment to being on campus at a regular time and place.
From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Nokhaz Anwar and his brother serve students and passersby falafels and shawarmas. Anwar says his idea to start a food truck business came to him in July while working at his previous job.
“For 10 years I drove a taxi. I knew where the busy areas were. I knew what times the school was busiest, and when it wasn’t. I planned the truck business around that,” he said.
The City of Toronto issued Anwar his business licence in August through its East York location. In May, the city granted permission for all food trucks to “operate in the City of Toronto on public roads, private property and commercial parking lots.”
Hotdog and sausage kiosks by Ryerson’s Library Building, Jorgenson Hall, and metres away from the Ted Rogers School of Management, have been the only consistent mobile food providers for several years on campus.
Otherwise, food trucks have only been welcomed for special events during the school year. As part of Alumni Weekend in October, Fidel Gastro’s, named Canada’s favourite food truck according to Canadian Living magazine, was invited to sell food as part of Ryerson’s Gould Street Party.
Anwar’s food truck offers student specials, with the choice of a shawarma or falafel, along with a pop can for $5. His business accumulates an average of $4,500 per week.
This mobile truck business requires a maximum of $1,700 on food and service supplies weekly. This leaves his food truck business with a net income of approximately $2,800 per week.
Anwar takes advantage of his business rights by parking outside of nightclubs Thursday through Friday, but he says that serving students gives him the best results.
“The student demographic is a great start and a good market. Since the business is mobile, a food truck business doesn’t have to stay within that specific demographic forever. It should, however, maintain profits — not just profits for a couple of years, but for a sustained period of time,” says Ranjita Singh, business and entrepreneurship professor at Ryerson.
Anwar plans to expand his business by introducing another truck next year. He wants to plant it permanently at the University of Toronto, so that his truck could stay at Ryerson.
His brother, who has been working with him for the past year, will own it.