Outback restaurants cry foul as food trucks roll in to cut their lunch

With COVID-19 restrictions cancelling many festivals and outdoor events, food vans are making ends meet by setting up on the streets of small towns such as Longreach in western Queensland.

Dec 10, 2020, updated Dec 10, 2020
Longreach businesses want a heads-up when food vans are coming to town. (Photo: ABC)

Longreach businesses want a heads-up when food vans are coming to town. (Photo: ABC)

Restaurants want advance notice of food vans visiting the outback Queensland town to adjust for the drop in business, but the local council isn’t coming to the table.

Longreach restauranteur Leanne Kohler, who owns Darcy’s Diner and BB’s Bistro, isn’t against the food vans.

She just wants the council to warn her of their arrival so she can roster fewer staff and order less perishable food to cater for the extra competition.

“When the food vans are here, you could actually close your doors at three o’clock, five o’clock,” she said.

“You could save yourself the cost of being open because you’re not getting the patronage.”

Kohler wrote to the council, asking for better communication with local business on when vans are arriving.

But she said council only responded with a letter pointing her to the laws that permit vans to operate in the town.

“We wear the cost,” she said.

“The issue I have isn’t the fact that the food vans are there,” Kohler said.

“It’s things like being able to pre-order accordingly and not have your perishables go off because you’re not using the same quota of food that you would normally use.”

Food van owner open to the idea

A regional food van operator is backing the call to give local business notice to adjust to their arrival

Steve Rix runs Wendy’s On Wheels ice cream truck, which regularly visits Longreach.

“It’s logistically hard for us and many other food vendors to notify local businesses that we’re coming to town,” he said.

“Whereas council would have that accessibility and it would be easy for them.”

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Food vans have to apply to council for permits to be in town, pay a fee and can only be there a maximum of three days, six times a year.

Rix said he understood Kohler’s request for notice.

He says he tries to put money back into the town through supporting businesses.

“Everyone in these times is trying to employ people, they’re trying to distribute goods and make money within the town,” he said.

“That’s why we when we come to town we try to spend as much money as we can in that community.”

Council tight-lipped

The Longreach Regional Council isn’t budging on Kohler’s request.

A spokesperson says food van applications are judged on merit and in line with local law.

However, they said council had no comment to make at this time about the issue.

– ABC / Dan Prosser, Ellie Grounds and Damien Larkins

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