New measures to regulate food trucks in Bahrain urged

Food Truck District has so far attracted more than 160,000 visitors since it was relocated to its new site

Young woman buying take away food from a food truck. Image used for illustrative purpose.

Young woman buying take away food from a food truck. Image used for illustrative purpose.

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Officials are calling for comprehensive regulations to be introduced to better manage the explosion of food truck operators and to ensure Bahrainis are taking up the opportunities policy-makers thought would provide much-needed jobs.

The Capital Trustees Board held a virtual meeting where they discussed how to best regulate the sector with input from the Control and Inspection Departments of the Health Ministry and the Industry, Commerce and Tourism Ministry.

“Initially the regulations for food trucks mandated that the person operating the truck had to be the Bahraini owner, but following a study the owners said they could not manage running them on their own,” said Industry, Commerce and Tourism Ministry head of Control and Inspection department Ammar Yasser.

“So we made an amendment allowing the owner to hire a maximum of two expatriates per truck, this, however, does not apply to the trucks that belong to restaurants as they can hire any number of expats so long as they follow Labour Market Regulatory Authority regulations.

The ministry recently conducted a thorough inspection campaign looking at 131 trucks in Juffair, Busaiteen and Saar.

"In total 122 passed licensing inspections and only nine were found to be unlicensed. The Bahraini owners were directed to make sure they completed all their necessary paperwork and procedures. Two were closed because they were owned and operated by expatriates," he added.

Capital Trustees Board public relations and media committee chairwoman Dr Maha Al Shehab stated that there should be a way to encourage truck owners to hire other Bahrainis to help them operate the services they offer.

Mr Yasser stated that the study found that while many Bahrainis were hired they did not stay on for long, especially if the new enterprise paid low wages.

“This food truck project is for Bahrainis. We all know that the Bahraini owner cannot run the whole truck operation on their own. It may be easier for them to hire expats for help but there should be a regulation introduced to make sure they choose Bahrainis to run them,” Dr Al Shehab told the GDN.

“The authorities concerned who regulate the trucks – the Industry, Commerce and Tourism Ministry – and the LMRA should have a rule that if the owner of the truck wants to hire more people there has to be at least one Bahraini. It has to come as a rule which is regulated by the ministry.”

For his part Capital Trustees chairman Saleh Tarradah told the GDN that although food trucks had allowed some young Bahrainis to become entrepreneurs, the sector needs stronger regulation.

“We encourage this initiative but all government bodies concerned should come together and look into doing this properly. Do they need power and water, for example? Do they need waste water treatment systems? All these things need regulation,” he told the GDN.

“Of course, this is only the beginning. We must learn and make changes as we go on. Relatively speaking, this sector has not been going on for long. It is a young sector – only about five years – so it needs regulations.”

The GDN previously reported that the Muharraq Municipal Council had approved a proposal to move trucks in its area to plots owned by the municipality so that they can be better regulated and monitored for health and safety protocols.

The GDN also reported that several plots of land could be allocated in the Northern Governorate for food trucks to continue their business in an organised manner.

Northern Municipal Council members unanimously approved the proposal.

Meanwhile, the Food Truck District has so far attracted more than 160,000 visitors since it was relocated to its new site near the Bahrain International Stadium in Buhair in October.

The new hub, which houses 50 food trucks, aims to help promote local tourism businesses.

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