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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 February 2019

New food trucks off the menu in Abu Dhabi - for now

The Department of Economic Development said it will not approve any more trading licenses until it has introduced new regulations for the industry

Food truck zones, such as in Al Hudayriat Island, are a major part of the UAE's culinary scene. Victor Besa / The National
Food truck zones, such as in Al Hudayriat Island, are a major part of the UAE's culinary scene. Victor Besa / The National

The Abu Dhabi government has introduced a freeze on food trucks in the capital as it looks at ways to tighten up regulations for the industry.

The Department of Economic Development said on Monday it had put a temporary hold on trading licenses until an overhaul of procedures was rolled out.

The authority is aiming to ensure food trucks are located in suitable areas, are regularly maintained and that the market is not oversaturated.

Food truck culture has been on the rise in the UAE in recent years, with mobile eateries becoming a firm fixture at public spaces and at event and festivals.

“We have received many comments from the public that the trucks are poorly distributed, and that there needs to be better co-ordination,” said a department spokesman.

The appearance of some trucks has deteriorated over time and owners have not provided the necessary maintenance for them, the spokesman said.

“The department and municipality will be setting a number of conditions that owners have to abide by. it will all be in the benefit of their business not against it,” said the spokesman.

Mohammed Munif Al Mansouri, executive director of the department’s Abu Dhabi Business Centre, said withholding the issuance of new licenses is only temporary, and once they have conducted the study on how to better regulate the industry, licensing of new trucks would resume.

The study also aims to organise licensing based on location, “to distribute the activities of food trucks based on the needs and demands of a certain area”, and to make sure there isn't an over-flow of trucks in a particular location.

Last year, the department issued a total of 436 permits for mobile food trucks, and 927 licenses for food truck business owners.

“At first we allowed food trucks because there was a need for them in areas like the Corniche where people go a lot, especially during winter, but then we started to have an excess of trucks,” said the spokesman.

“Once licensing resumes, the practice will be more organised and regulated.”

It is not known how long the moratorium will be in place.

Existing food trucks will not be affected by the decision.

Antonio Demiar, who operates the Ocean Secrets Seafood truck near the Eastern Mangroves, said there is room for a variety of trucks as all cater to different tastes.

“We just moved two weeks ago, the business here is not as we expected because it is not as crowded as the food trucks area on Hudayriat Island,” said Mr Demiar.

The business has been receiving about 20 customers a day, between 1 pm and midnight.

“Most people pass here while jogging or cycling, and some come for the trucks, but they mostly go for coffee or karak tea.”

Shankar Bhujel, who runs Gerard Coffee in the same trading area, said demand for a hot drink has been high, with the food truck welcoming about 150 customers a day since its launch four months ago.

He said that business is good all-year-round.

“Weather does not make a difference, because most customers drive through,” he said.

Updated: February 11, 2019 06:25 PM

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