If you work in foodservice and thought food trucks were a thing of the past or a fading trend… think again! Not only is the food truck industry still booming, but according to some experts, it is growing faster than traditional restaurants. From entrepreneurs to seasoned restauranteurs, food business owners continue to use mobile truck services to expand their businesses.
Upscale Food Truck Offerings on the Rise
While traditional fanfare is still on the menu (think sandwiches, salads, pizza and fast food), rising in the popularity charts are upscale food trucks featuring gourmet burgers, seafood, sushi, and even all-lobster menus. And while yesterday’s mobile beverage offerings treated customers to freshly squeezed juices, smoothies, tea, coffee, and fruit salads, making the rounds today are cocktail bars, appearing at classy shindigs in posh vehicles such as limousines and one-of-a-kind vintage cars. These bars-on-wheels are in demand at weddings, rehearsal dinners, graduations, birthday parties, corporate events, fundraisers, and more.
The win-win business paradigm is hard to beat, catering to demand and pleasing customers’ palates while serving as an exciting talking point that garners attention and valuable marketing points for restaurant owners.
Dessert Trucks Take Decadence to the Streets
If you have ever dreamed of starting a bakery business or of offering consumers new ways to satisfy their sweet tooth, dessert food trucks may be right up your alley. One of the hottest trends in the ‘biz, mobile bakeries are proliferating, providing melt-in-your-mouth offerings that range from ice cream, cupcakes, cookies, and cakes to crepes, pancakes, waffles, scones, beignets, brownies, cheesecakes, tarts, pies, donuts, and other to-die-for delights.
Women Take the Wheel in Dessert Food Trucks
At the helm of some of the most successful sweet-treats-on-wheels businesses are women! The scenario parallels the rise of female chefs in the food-and-beverage arena at large and represents a turning point in the once male-dominated industry. In fact, did you know that the number of women-owned restaurants has more than doubled over the last decade, with females earning noted culinary awards such as ‘Outstanding Chef’ by the acclaimed James Beard Foundation, White House Executive Chef, ‘Iron Chef’ on the Food Network, and coveted three-star Michelin status distinction? If you are a budding professional female chef or baker who aspires to follow in the footsteps of mavericks Martha Stewart and Julia Child, now is the perfect time to stake your claim-to-fame in the food truck business.
Mobile Bakery and Dessert Stands
Regardless of your sex or age, if your sights are set on opening a mobile bakery, let your culinary imagination take flight and gain inspiration from the following success stories:
- Queen of Cream Gourmet Ice Cream Shop owned by Cora Cotrim of Atlanta: What began as a single ice cream cart operation in 2013 has expanded into several carts, a truck, and multiple physical locations. Be sure to stop by if you are in the mood for innovative ice cream flavors such strawberry chamomile and lavender honeycomb.
- A Haute Cookie: Featuring classic cookies with a modern twist, mom-of-four and former model Shiana White dresses up her custom cookie truck with the likes of red velvet and potato-chip-filled chocolate chip cookies. She combined her love for baking with her love for fashion, adding vegan chocolate chunk cookies to the mix with rewarding results.
- Taco Sweets: Imagine fresh, homemade waffle tacos filled with ice cream, a wide selection of do-it-yourself toppings, and you’ll begin to get a taste for what DeShawn Scott and Jessica Wareham are dishing out from their Austin dessert food truck.
- Wondering if you can really profit from a mobile dessert business? Wonder no more. What began as a pipe dream for entrepreneur Keon Davis became the wildly successful Smooth-N-Groove smoothie business, where each of the mostly vegan menu items are named after popular dances (the Tango, the Twist, and more). Expanding from a single food truck to two trucks, two brick-and-mortar stores, nine employees, and reams of loyal customers, the fun-filled outlets are designed to sell an experience as well as the product and annual profit projections stand at over $1.3 million.
- Finally, as you pave the way for your own niche in the field, you may want to consider international offerings such as those provided by the Waffles de Liege gourmet waffle truck in California. Specializing in an unusual type of Belgian waffle made from dough rather than batter and pearl sugar that caramelizes in the waffle iron, it has become a hit at food festivals, fundraisers, and other public and private catered events.
Food Truck History: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
Before we continue with news from the food truck industry, let’s take a step back and learn that what has been deemed a modern phenomenon has long historical roots. What many professionals and the public don’t know is that the meals-on-wheels concept predates the very invention of the automobile itself, harking back to the post-Civil War years when pushcarts and chuck wagons served meals to cowboys in the Wild West. The cooks arose at 3 a.m. to stoke fires and bake biscuits in what can be called the predecessors to the modern food truck, as the wagons were especially designed with compartments for cooking, dish washing, and pot storage.
Fast-forward to the industrial age and a consumer public that consisted of construction workers, garment industry workers and delivery boys, and we see food pushcarts debuting out on the streets of major cities such as Chicago and New York. Lacking the technology to cook food, they served simple lunches such as sandwiches, fruits, meat pies, and bottled beverages.
It was circa 1950 that automotive vehicles first appeared on the food scene in the form of ice cream trucks with their iconic ice-cream truck jingle. Their popularity paved the way for the 1960s when ‘roach coaches’ began serving burgers, tacos, and fast food. Earning their derogatory nickname due to the often-substandard health practices, it wasn’t long before modern foodservice trucks cleaned up the act and took to the streets at city-wide festivals that celebrated their presence.
The Future of Food Trucks
If you’re wondering where food trucks will be traversing next, head to Martinsburg, West Virginia, where the Blue Ridge Community and Technical College has hopped on board. Helping keep its Culinary Arts program up-to-date with modern cooking trends, it has transformed a mobile student lab into a food truck for instruction purposes. The refurbished vehicle aims to give students an opportunity to accept line orders and cook for paying customers at local businesses, fairs, and events while they train to enter the restaurant profession. The truck is equipped with a refrigerator, freezer, ventilation system, microwave, flat-top grill, and a sandwich/salad preparation station. It is also being used as a marketing tool for the college itself.
Futuristic Food Truck Hits the Ground Running
When it comes to the future of food trucks, restaurant and technology startup Ono Food Co. is beating everyone to the race. It is the first company to launch a fleet of food trucks powered by advanced robotics and has named its smoothie shop-on-wheels Ono Blends. The cutting-edge technology is being used to power everything from food ordering to production.
How to Make Your Food Truck Dream a Reality
If you are ready to start living the dream, you will need to take the following steps to get your ideas off the ground and on the road:
- Decide exactly what you are going to sell, including any specialty items.
- Figure out if you will be preparing food items offsite or onsite.
- Research different types of trucks on the market, either new or used, that can be used for your purposes.
Next, get up to date with the laws and regulations of the city you will be working in, obtain insurance and a permit, collect your capital, and begin to spread the good word!
Remember, advertising your food truck is as important an ingredient as any other to your business’s success, so be sure to design a website and/or build a social media presence by creating a Facebook page, Twitter account, and an Instagram or Pinterest page where you can visually show off your unique offerings. The truck itself can be a significant marketing tool, so be sure to spruce it up and print your business name, logo, and contact information clearly on the side.
Take a Spin
Finally, as you prepare for your mobile restaurant launch, give your business-on-wheels a spin with some test runs in the field. This will help you identify weak spots in advance and set you on the smooth road to food truck success.