Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Old days of street vending of foods by lonely vendors on the sides of some of the streets in towns and cities have gone and in its place a new wave of entrepreneurs with verve, enthusiasm and mobility are emerging. The Food Trucks, first introduced in the US have multiplied in numbers dramatically during the last 5 years, probably because of economic recession and rise in unemployment. These mobile food "cooking and serving restaurants on wheels" compete well with established star category restaurants located in strategic places with popular brand image. A self initiated business with a capital base of not more than 100,000 dollars and minimum hassle in conforming to regulations, Food Trucks have many advantages including the much vaunted "local food" tag. Adopting modern communication technology the operators of Food Trucks can establish rapport with their patrons who do not seem to mind waiting in queues to lap up the fare served by them. What is remarkable is that even the big names in food catering are joining the band wagon by launching their own Food Trucks to expand their business. Here is a report about the incredibly fast growth of this sector even beyond the borders of the United States.

"THE first waves of the food truck movement sweeping the United States are lapping at Australian cities, promising new ways of presenting food and new sales avenues for farmers. Thousands of food trucks had hit US streets since 2008 - there were now more than 4000 licensed in Los Angeles County alone - but these were not the impolitely-named industrial area "roach coach" with its packaged food. The new-generation trucks were selling high-quality fresh food, assembled on the spot. Gourmet burgers and pizzas are only the start: the trucks sell a bewildering array of foodstuffs, from Korean-Mexican fusion food, cupcakes, and matzo-ball soup to the inventively combined produce of a single farm. The movement is being driven in part by hard times in the US, suggested an analyst with food services industry consultancy, Technomic, Kevin Higar. The US jobs market had withered since the 2008 downturn, and showed no signs of coming back. For the entrepreneurially-minded, the best way to create work was to generate it yourself. "A food truck has a lower capital expenditure amount than a traditional restaurant, so it gives these entrepreneurs - some with strong formal culinary backgrounds and some not - a chance to become their own boss," Mr Higar said. He estimated start-up costs averaged in the $US30,000-$100,000 range. Based on his own survey of 150 food trucks in 15 cities, Mr Higar observed that food truck owner-operators tended to be younger, "perhaps 22 to 35 years old - although there is definitely a minority of individuals 40-50 also become involved because of the current US employment situation". Watching queues form in front of some of the hippest food trucks had forced established food brands to sit up and taken notice. According to the Los Angeles Times, Sizzlers, Subway and other US brands are putting food trucks on the road, with predictions 10 per cent of the top 200 US restaurant chains will have trucks by the end of 2012".

During early stages of growth there were many skeptics doubting about the sustainability of Food Truck business in the long run, saying it is just a temporary fad that would disappear soon. But these critics have been proved wrong as more than 90% of them have survived during the last 5 years. One of the prerequisites for their survival is good wide roads and parking space near populated areas and such an environment is not easily available in congested cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkatta, Bangalore, Bangkok or Singapore making it difficult for sustaining this format of food business.  Probably they can thrive better in modern cities of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada or UAE. One of the major criticisms against Food Truck system of catering is that they depend largely on fossil fuels for transportation and cooking but innovations for better truck design, use of solar energy and use of precooked raw materials for preparing fresh dishes can cut down fossil fuel use significantly.


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