Sunday, September 18, 2011


Street foods always had their following in many countries and no matter what steps are taken to discourage people from patronizing these foods, many of them prepared and served under some what indifferent hygienic conditions, the phenomenon is here to stay. It is very difficult to understand the precise reasons why people flock around these mobile eateries though taste and economic factors must be playing a major role. World over the focus has shifted from uprooting these vendors to rehabilitate them through training and better infrastructure. Whether it is in Thailand or in India road side vending plays a crucial role in catering to mostly low income customers while the so called Food Truck business in the US is a recent development being patronized by those requiring fast service with minimum over head cost on their fare. In the last few years the Food Truck business has been growing at a phenomenal rate in the US and naturally the policy makers are in a fix to decide whether this is just a passing fancy or there will be continued growth of this sector in the coming years. Here is a take on this developing scenario.

"It finally dawned on me that the sole reason people repeatedly ask this question is because of the rapid growth of the food truck movement over the last two years. Does rapid growth necessitate a rapid and nearly instantaneous decline in growth? That's really what I think people are asking. It could be more simply stated as "When is this ending?" which, in my opinion, is totally natural as the mind wants to reconcile any new phenomena under some form of restrictive time classification. So, in order to dissect this question, I will attempt to answer a few questions on food trucks and fads in general. First, how long must something stay in popular demand before being considered a fad? My instinct tells me that in order for a thing to pass out of fad-dom, its ascent to the top must last significantly longer than its descent into oblivion. Was MySpace a fad? Silly Bandz? Whether or not Justin Timberlake can revive the social network to its former glory is to be seen, but that's another discussion altogether. Not to say both weren't wildly successful, but they both went away nearly as quickly as they came. Eventually, hype wears off and actual value of a good or service is measured against feasible alternatives. This is truly the core of the fad question, determining the actual value versus the perceived value (layered in by hype.) With food trucks, there is an actual need being fulfilled, the convenience of quality food at an affordable price. This is probably the easiest to identify as a primary reason for frequenting food trucks and carts. The long lines and the overextended hype for certain vendors may antagonize the fad argument, but new restaurants are not immune to the same treatment of popularity at launch. Good luck getting a reservation to the newest restaurant you just read about in The New York Times this Saturday night".

Doubts about the sustainability of food trucks have arisen because new developments always face the fatigue factor due to which consumers develop disinterest over a period of time or the new players take their customers for granted affecting the quality of service. Added to this the bureaucratic procedures and controls increasingly being applied for starting new joints may discourage new entrepreneurs from venturing into this area. There is also the pressure from the established catering industry for restricting expansion of food trucks because of apprehension regarding the economic impact on their traditional type of catering business. If rules and regulations that govern food truck business are tightened further and brought on par with regular catering industry, cost of the service is bound to go up significantly. However involvement of reputed Chefs in starting food truck business can still be an attractive factor that can pull in customers who like novelties in food preparations. The biggest advantage for food trucks is their mobility and use of IT enabled Tweeter service to keep the customers informed about their whereabouts.


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