The good old food truck – where would we be without them?

(22 /01 /2015)

A night out just wouldn’t be the same without a dodgy late-night kebab and a footy game without a “meat pie” is no game at all!  And the show – from the smallest country show to our cities’ royal exhibitions, food trucks are a familiar and necessary feature.  These days though, the food truck doesn’t just dish out hot chips and dagwood dogs; high quality, gourmet meals are now certainly on the menu.  In fact, are food trucks really just the ultimate pop-up restaurant?  Is it a chance to take something new and exciting to the customer, but without the temporary tag?

Food trucks really can be as big, intimate, brash, quirky or take on whatever feature you like.  You want an intimate dining experience for your customers?  A portable fence, tables and tableware could offer just that.  Or perhaps you want to serve gourmet hamburgers from a giant hamburger…that is also an option.  The food truck is a mobile restaurant and its size is dependant on the type of food or beverage to be served.  A fully functioning kitchen that wouldn’t be out of place at one of Sydney’s Michelin-star restaurants might require a Winnebago-sized vehicle; on the flip-side, a 1950’s caravan might be all you need to serve fancy cakes and freshly roasted coffee!

So why go gown the food truck route?  The key advantage here is obviously mobility!  You can go wherever the customers are, taking advantage of out-of-the-way or niche markets, pretty much anytime you like, permits allowing of course.  I recently visited my local art gallery during school holidays and I was pleasantly surprised to see a Brazilian Street Food van and a pop-up organic coffee-shop right out front.  The food was great too!  Food trucks also allow you to get connected through events like “Eat Street Markets” and benefit from the buzz created by customers milling about enjoying cuisine from around the world.  Another advantage is that once you have purchased and set up your vehicle, you operate rent-free – no landlord chasing you for money each month!  A food truck is also less likely to be affected by closures of neighbouring restaurants or retail stores – you simply move on if the area becomes quiet or business slows.  You are also your own boss!  It’s your vehicle, your business and you can run it to suit your lifestyle and to achieve your goals.  You may even save on staff expenses and associated management issues, particularly if you’re happy to be a “one-man show”!

It’s not all highway-driving of course.  Costs to purchase and set up your vehicle will obviously vary dramatically depending on your food idea.  If you are considering something like the food trucks recently featured on Masterchef or something out-of-the-ordinary like a hamburger on wheels, then development costs will be high.  Other expenses include business and vehicle registration, vehicle and public liability insurance plus maintenance and fuel costs.  Obtaining permits to operate your business in various areas may be expensive or difficult to obtain.  For larger operations, staffing issues and expenses will need to be considered and it may also be difficult to find staff willing to “move” with a mobile operation.  And moving around constantly, chasing patronage may lose its appeal especially if you have a family and a mortgage a few hours away.

So do you think food trucks are the ultimate pop-up restaurant?  There are certainly a lot of positives and travelling around, meeting people and accessing new markets certainly sounds like fun in my opinion.  But like any other business idea, you need to do your homework, do your sums and work out if life on the road is really for you.  And if it is, what a great way to explore your own backyard!

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