Richard Frechette says that the advertisement he tried to place in WCB Alberta’s WorkSIGHT Magazine earlier this year was rejected for publication.
The content of the ad message: "Quality of lunch truck service matters! Hunger leads to irritability, fatigue and impaired judgment, which may result in a hostile or dangerous work environment with low productivity. A good meal with drinks on the work site helps productivity and keeps employees happy and alert."
Frechette is the owner of Calgary-based CoffeeTrucks.ca Inc., a coffee truck sales company, and the operator of Altance Catering. The magazine ad was to be sponsored by Altance. But if one suspects that the message was overly self-serving, Frechette is quick to dispel that notion. He likes the service provided by most of the competition.
"Most of the coffee trucks out there buy food from the same suppliers as everyone else, so that isn’t the issue," he says. "About 75 per cent of the operators provide good regular service in hygienic trucks. My message to contractors is that they don’t have to put up with the type of food service that can affect health and productivity."
Frechette notes that contractors tend to be less concerned about the quality of food trucks because the service they offer is free, only workers pay for it.
"If they were paying for a coffee truck to serve their construction sites, they’d be much more concerned about the service that they were getting," he says.
While some contractors invite repeat service from coffee trucks offering service they appreciate, others accept the convention that the truck that arrives at their construction site first will serve them through the entire project. If the catering service is good, that isn’t a problem. However, Frechette wants contractors to ask themselves four questions that may indicate food service isn’t what it should be:
Is your lunch truck reliable? Does it often show up late or not at all? Is your lunch truck clean and well maintained? Is food properly rotated and kept at temperature?
Is your food truck well stocked, including healthy options?
"If your lunch truck isn’t offering the service it should, it’s your right to request an operator who offers better service," he says.
Calgary bylaws set health standards for food and coffee trucks and the city provides a yearly license inspection, but Frechette says he gets a different view of the business while refurbishing trucks that have recently been on the road and serving customers.
"Some construction workers refer to the vehicles that visit their sites as ‘gut trucks’ or ‘garbage wagons,’" he says. "I can see why. I’ve had to scrape off lengths of carpeting glued to the shelves and surfaces of food trucks or fixed there with two-sided tape. When the veggie dip and the fruit cups leak onto those surfaces, there’s no way you can clean or wash them effectively and hygienically. When I’m replacing all of the lamps in these used trucks, I have to put my head into some tighter spaces and I have to pull back because of the awful smells."
Frechette says that there’s no excuse for coffee trucks to offer food providing poor nutrition. In most markets, there are only a few companies supplying food for coffee trucks and they all provide what the operator is looking to sell.
"I never thought I’d see the day when construction workers would be ordering sushi from a lunch truck, but it’s becoming popular now, along with spring rolls," he says. "The construction market is developing a sophisticated palate."