Move over fast food franchises – or should that be jump on the bandwagon? There’s a new food franchise trend on the block – roving food trucks! Fortune Magazine describes them as ‘faster than fast food’ and they’ve even got their own reality TV show – The Great Food Truck Race. But what’s it all about? Take a look…
What is a Food Truck?
Back in the day, horse-drawn chuck wagons provided cowboys, or settlers trekking across America, with food for the trip. Like the old chuckwagons, food trucks are fully-kitted, mobile kitchens. Whilst we’re all familiar with ice cream vans or mobile hot dog stands, food trucks are taking mobile food to a whole new level, offering patrons fresh-cooked, gourmet cuisine.
Who Uses Food Trucks?
Food trucks have a potentially huge market to serve. Stateside, food trucks service:
- Business parks
- Transit areas – taxi ranks, airports, railway stations, etc.
- Areas around popular tourist
- Sporting, cultural and other entertainment events
- Tertiary education institutions
- Even wedding receptions!
Why Have a Food Truck Instead of a Bricks-and-Mortar Franchise?
Being on the hoof holds several advantages over owning an operating a traditional fast food outlet or restaurant, including:
- Far lower barrier to entry for cash-strapped entrepreneurs
- A less substantial initial investment – a second-hand van can be overhauled and converted for under US$20 000 (around R210 000)
- Fewer monthly overheads
- These savings can be passed on the consumer, allowing you to charge less per meal than you would have to if you were based in a store in a glitzy strip mall or trendy urban space, for example
- The mobile nature of the business means it can move around town to more lucrative locations – if it’s not working for you in a certain spot, take your business to where the customers are!
- It offers customers the ultimate in food convenience – no more wasting time driving to the fast food joint, then waiting in line for food during your lunch hour when a food truck comes to you!
- It advertises itself as it moves from place to place – you’re a moving billboard!
- There’s also opportunity for existing fast food and restaurant franchises to expand their customer base and promote their franchise with a mobile presence.
What Should I Know Before Opening a Food Truck Business?
- Think carefully about what kind of cuisine you will offer – rustling up gourmet breakfasts, great Italian pastas or delicious Prego rolls is much more suited to a mobile format than Château Briand or slow-roasted leg of lamb
- Think about how the food will be served and whether it’s easy enough to eat in a take-away format?
- Remember that food hygiene, preparation and presentation are paramount to success
- Speaking of food, having the right skills, experience and training – and of course, a genuine interest – in food is non-negotiable
- It’s best to stick to a couple of great dishes each day, rather than offering an extensive menu. Also, focus on providing breakfasts or snacks or lunches only, rather than every meal of the day.
- This is not a get-rich-quick scheme – it’s hard work schlepping from venue to venue, standing on your feet all day, preparing food, serving customers and packing things up when you’re done – make sure you’re cut out to be a franchisee in the fast food business before you start
- Do check the local by-laws in your area of operation – some metropolitans and municipalities may classify food truck operators as ‘street food hawkers’ and may require you to get a permit(s) to operate.
Food Truck Franchises to Suss Out
For inspiration, have a look at these:
- Sâuça – the Sâuçamobiles bring street food to the people, with a six-dish truck menu inspired by snack vendors in India, railroad station vendors in Europe and the mobile taquierias of South America. Favourites include Mumbai Butter chicken and Mexicali Fish Taco. All dishes under US$8.
- Gandolfo’s Deli Food Trucks – offers delicious specialty sandwiches and deli salads just like those who can find at the famous Gandolfo’s New York Deli. All dishes under US$11.
- Cousins Maine Lobster Food Trucks – an upmarket food truck offering traditional seafood dishes from Maine, on America’s East Coast, in California, on the West Coast. Gourmet offerings include lobster rolls, clam chowder and shrimp cocktail.