By Zachary Flynn
For two local restaurant owners, moving into the food truck business was the perfect opportunity to replace income lost due to COVID-19.
“There is a restriction of seating capacity because of COVID. 50% is actually 30-33% because if two people sit at a table of four, we lose two chairs and still have to space people out by another table,” explained Jay Patel, co-owner of Winston’s Fish & Chips, a restaurant in south Edmonton.
Jay Patel and Kevin Critchell have been running their restaurant for the last 25 years and it wasn’t until the last couple of years that they have been considering adding a food truck to their arsenal.
“We were looking at the avenue of expanding the business. Running a restaurant has high overhead and the returns are not that great. So we looked at the food truck because it’s a low investment high return business,” said Critchell.
“We bought the food truck last year and by the time winter came we couldn’t do much and then at the start of the year, COVID hit and everything got delayed. By the time we got clearance from Alberta Health, it was already July,” Critchell said.
The duo officially launched its food truck service in August of this year and since then they have seen nothing but positivity come from the business move.
“We were looking at a certain target sale and I think we’ve done much more than that. And what I see is that there is a great demand for food trucks. The moment we got onto the food truck app, we were getting calls almost every day for a catering event somewhere and that’s been very encouraging,” said Critchell.
Their food truck branding and menu mirror that of their restaurant, playing on the very British identity of fish and chips. Their food truck menu is a collection of the most popular menu items in their restaurant with a commitment of cooking fresh to order.
“The idea of having it hot and fresh and cooked right in front of you is a big catch,” said Critchell.
Treating their food truck as an extension of their restaurant allows the duo to attract customers to their brick-and-mortar building while also keeping sales up on slower days.
“On a chilly day with rain or snow, our restaurant is going to be busy but if it is a beautiful day, the restaurant will be empty, food truck or no food truck. But on those days, our food truck is busy,.Once they try [food from the food truck], they become a customer and it brings a crowd and a customer to our brick-and-mortar restaurant,” said Patel.
Their truck sits in the parking lot of Ellerslie Gift and Garden near the intersection of Ellerslie Road and Calgary Trail, two avenues that get substantially busy during rush hour.
“Customers come home from work, stop by for fish and chips and head home. On the weekends, it’s more of a leisure activity. They come here, buy fish and chips and sit in their car or sit in the park,” said Patel.
The team is already looking ahead to next summer, making use of the mobile-restaurant model to drive sales and attract more people to their southside restaurant on rainy days or in the winter months.
“For the coming summer, we are looking at doing another food truck. We see the potential in other locations as well like Sherwood Park, and St. Albert. This is like a mobile billboard. It’s advertising the restaurant,” said Critchell.
The length of their truck’s season is entirely dependent on the weather. They plan to have the truck stationed at Ellerslie Gift and Garden from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. for the month of October until the weather turns. Their focus will then go to serving their customers at their restaurant on 51 St. and planning for next year’s food truck season.