MARSHFIELD, PEI – Brandon Condon always dreamed of opening a restaurant of his own.
Having grown up around cooks and kitchens, Condon developed a love for food, especially the typical foods served across PEI – burgers, fish and chips and lobster.
“I never actually took culinary school or anything like that,” said Condon.
“My mom worked at a bar, and I used to hang out with the cooks out back. I always thought it was cool and I got to eat good food. I wasn’t a skinny kid either, I loved to eat. ”
Last year, when a food truck belonging to a family friend came up for sale, Condon knew it was his chance to turn his love of food and cooking into a business.
On May 12, Condon opened Ol ‘Boys Eatery, a food truck set up in the parking lot of Jewell’s Country Market in Marshfield that specializes in burgers, poutine, fish and chips and lobster.
Since opening, Condon said the food truck has become a hit for those in the area, which has kept the truck’s staff busy most days.
“It’s been a really good start to the summer,” he said.
“The response has been spot-on, and we’ve gotten a few good reviews online so far. The community support has been fantastic, I can’t say a single bad thing about the community out here. ”
While the current set up isn’t a full-blown restaurant, like he had dreamed of opening, Condon said there are aspects of a food truck that were appealing to him, such as the cost.
“The food industry is a hard industry to get into, so I think food trucks are a good stepping-stone into seeing if being a restaurateur is something you can work your way towards,” he said.
“The pricing of it, you’re looking at a big gap from having a whole property, 100-seat restaurant or whatever, to just having a food truck like this you can move around.”
Condon said he has likely saved a few hundred thousand dollars by opting for a food truck instead of a brick-and-mortar restaurant.
He also said the mobility of food trucks offers opportunities a typical restaurant owner doesn’t have, such as being able to easily relocate and attending festivals and events.
Condon isn’t the only one to see the benefits of starting a food truck over a typical eat-in establishment. A growing number of food trucks exist in PEI, from long-established vendors like Ken’s Fries and Da Mama’s Kitchen to recent up-and-comers like The Pizza Box and Big Guy Burger and Fry, among others.
Tina Dickieson, executive director of Community Business Development Corporation Central PEI, said the interest in food trucks and mobile vendors is, and has been, on the rise in PEI
“We absolutely have seen an increase (in new food trucks opening),” said Dickieson.
“I took over this position in 2019, and during that time, there wasn’t very much activity. Since then, it has exploded. ”
Dickieson said she notices a number of new food trucks open each year across Prince Edward Island, noting the increased popularity is likely due to the flexibility food trucks offer those stepping into business, such as during the pandemic.
“During COVID, when restaurants were closed, food trucks didn’t need to worry about the same restrictions as others, so they were a great relief for people in different areas where restaurants had closed,” she said.
“For food trucks that travel, it gives them the ability to go to their customers and bring that food to them. That is something special and people will plan for that, especially if it’s announced beforehand on Facebook. People will make a day of it. ”
Dickieson also said food trucks tend to be less risky for first-time business owners, which could add to their popularity.
“It’s absolutely less of a risk because you can pack it up and go. You can take it with you, ”she said.
“You also don’t have the brick-and-mortar costs that you have in a restaurant. A restaurant could be seasonal, but you still have to heat it and do different things, so the pipes don’t burst. There is maintenance that doesn’t go away all year. ”
With new initiatives to support food trucks on PEI, such as the food truck village in Summerside that is in the works, Dickieson said business interest in food trucks will only go up.
Condon agreed and said more projects like the food truck village are needed across the Island.
“I’ve spent a bit of time out in Alberta and Vancouver and went to a few places where they have a whole street of food trucks. It’s so cool and all the trucks to really well, ”he said.
“Summerside is taking the initiative on that, and I hope the rest of the Island does something similar. If it’s done right, it will do very well. ”
As for Ol ‘Boys Eatery, Condon is banking on his food’s quality and the expertise of his team, close friend Ian Campbell, head cook Nathan Eldershaw and his mother, Mary Condon, who fills in when needed, to make the food truck stand out against many others also following their culinary passion.
“I grew up in PEI and worked in a lot of different Island restaurants and having super good fish and chips and really good coleslaw are things growing up. I always heard Islanders be concerned about,” he said.
“Having good beef, too, so we’ve got good, local beef, local lobster. We’ve got all that. We’re really just concerned with staying as local and as fresh as we can. ”
Cody McEachern is a business reporter with the SaltWire Network in Prince Edward Island. @CodyInHiFi