Established Bendigo restaurants feel their income was affected when out-of-town vans rolled into town for the weekend’s Food Truck Festival.
The event’s organisers have hit back at claims the festival took money from local business, saying they live in Bendigo and employed many central Victorians.
Jeff Micallef, owner of La Cecil’s Pizzeria, said he had about 25 people through the door on Friday night where normally the restaurant would serve at least 150.
Business was so quiet Mr Micallef took a drive around the town and could see other businesses in the same predicament.
The lull meant Mr Micallef put off seven staff members who would normally work the weekend shifts.
He described himself as “frustrated” with events like the food truck festival taking money out of Bendigo.
“[I] pretty much should have just closed shop and gone home, or gone away for the weekend, it was terrible. It was the worst thing Bendigo could do,” Mr Micallef said.
“Most of these vans, they’re out of towners. They’re coming in, making their money and going out.”
However, co-owner of the Bendigo Food Truck Festival Jayden Donaldson said that the event was completely locally owned.
Mr Donaldson said he had “no idea” why there was a perception that the Food Truck Festival was not Bendigo owned. He and another person from Bendigo began the event after attending similar festivals in Melbourne.
Mr Donaldson emphasised that aside from the 15 food trucks that had been brought in from other parts of Victoria the festival employed central Victorians. He estimated the business would directly employ 20 people, and about another 18 musicians and 16 security guards.
“The only thing about this event that isn’t Bendigo is probably the 15 food trucks that are from all over Victoria, but that’s so we can provide variety for people,” Mr Donaldson said.
“We do realise that it can be quite competitive in the hospitality industry, but effectively we consider ourselves a local business in that industry as well.”
Business was also slow in The Exchange on Bath Lane.
Manager Paul Smilie said Saturday night was significantly quieter than normal, but Friday night wasn’t too bad.
He attributes the “quite busy” Friday to the lighting up of the Christmas tree nearby.
Mr Smilie had prepared for a quiet weekend by rostering on fewer staff.
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