Everybody has to eat. Perhaps that's why the hospitality industry is like a siren's call, luring people from all walks of life to leave successful positions as bankers, lawyers, and even CEOs to try their hand at becoming foodpreneurs. From packaged foods to specialty food flavors and quick service restaurants, many try to grab a share of the growing food industry.
With their flexibility, relative ease of operation and low start-up costs, food trucks appear to be leading the foodie revelation and thus disrupting the F&B industry.
As George Bowring, owner of The Hamburger Foundation Food Trucks and EHL Alumni puts it:
The modern day food truck is truly a mobile restaurant, not just a microwave on wheels; people are served cooked on the spot full blown meals like you would in a sit down restaurant, just a little more casual and outdoorsy.
The food truck economy
According to IBISWorld, Food trucks are not just a fad, they represent a viable segment that is set to generate $1.2 billion in revenue this year, a 12.4 percent increase over the past 5 years, and by 2017 that revenue is expected to increase to a whopping $2.7 billion. It's very entrepreneurial with 78 percent of operators counting four or fewer employees.
Food trucks are therefore a good opportunity to start a food entrepreneur career. It combines the competitive advantages relative to quick serve, fast food and take-out food vendors and do not require connections in the culinary world costly infrastructure.
The food truck success
Opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant is a huge financial risk: a Fatburger franchise can cost $500,000 and a fine-dining restaurant easily costs more than $1 million up front (in the USA). Food trucks beat those bottom lines in several ways:
- Flexible menus – Changing dishes in a traditional restaurant setting means printing dozens of new menus, testing and retesting recipes, and lots of down-time while new ideas are implemented. Food truck owners rely on designing a menu board; they simply wipe off the chalkboard and put up the day's specials: if the customer likes it great, if not tomorrow brings something different.
- Budget advertising – Whereas traditional restaurants pay for billboards and banners, food trucks carry their ads all over town courtesy of the logos painted on their vehicles and they're big hits on social media, too.
- Doing double-duty – Four-walled restaurants are stuck in one place, with most of their space accounted for. Food trucks can double as catering outposts, run errands, deliver food to office buildings, and even participate in charity events.
Low fixed costs (small or no rent) allows us to invest in higher quality products therefore proposing great dishes at a decent price. The asset of the food truck 2.0 is also its mobility: we change spot every day, keeping to a weekly schedule and consequently becoming an exciting event people look forward to. We want to be a breath of fresh air from your company canteen. ads George Bowring.
The involvement of big players
The growing popularity of street eats and the relatively low financial risk for owners, has encouraged big-name eateries to get into the food truck game. Prime Pinnacle’s research has shown that about 15 percent of the top 200 restaurant chains have entered the food truck industry, with that number expanding exponentially every year. In fact, Chick-fil-A and Jack in the Box both tried out food trucks in the past, and more recently Starbucks, TGI Fridays, Taco Bell and even the luxury hotel chain Four Seasons have all taken their signature flavors on the road.
In addition to the previously mentioned benefits, it also can be a great test market for a new restaurant concept or a different menu. It allows restaurant owners to conduct research before investing into a brick and mortar site. One great example is Michelin-rated chef from France Chef Ludo Lefebvre constantly testing new offering and bring his cutting-edge gastronomic cuisine to the streets
READ: Restaurants need more than mom's recipe to survive
Thinking about hitting the road? Consider these tips to ensure a smooth ride:
- Mind your menu – The longer your food takes to prep, the fewer customers you can serve. The more items on your menu, the higher your food costs and the more inventory you have to carry. Keep it simple and delicious and cook what you know.
- Regulations – You can't just operate your truck when and where you want. You need to be aware of local regulations governing parking, health certificates, sales licenses, and so on, not just regarding operating the truck but also in regards to food preparation.
- Expect the unexpected – When you're operating a business on the open road there are some challenges you wouldn't encounter in a brick-and-mortar restaurant. Weather, flat tires, engine trouble, and even losing your parking spot can all mean lost revenue. Have a back-up plan for rainy days and some extra funds just in case.
EHL gave me two essential things to launch my business: The McGyver Swiss army knife attitude = creative solution mindset. Secondly and probably most importantly, an amazing network. It’s essential when launching something new to get critical feedback, ideas and help from people in the business. This leads me to the one advice I would give anyone who wants to open food truck: come and talk with someone who has a food truck before buying anything. I’ve had about 50 people come to talk to me about their ideas. 5 actually launched their trucks. Concludes George Bowring in sharing his experience of becoming a successful Foodpreneur and Food Trucks owner.