Ever since the food trucks took a life of its own and began to sprout all over the country, food truck owners have had a difficult time settling in. First, they had to deal with brick and mortar business owners who complained loudly about the loss of income. Then they had to worry about stricter laws and permits including zoning and parking which led to some pretty inventive marketing. Now, the challenge has come full circle with the immense competition among food truck owners for a piece of the market.
Not lagging behind in food trends is South Africa where a growing number of new food trucks are seen sprouting all over the main cities and many of them doing exceptionally well. Aside from being convenient, food trucks are a good way to get your feet and hands dirty as a budding entrepreneur provided you have an intense love for food.
The growth of food trucks in South Africa is not as frenzied as in the United States but one noticeable difference is that many of the new South African food trucks are well-thought out and planned. Even obtaining permits is not as big a hassle as the licensing hardships in other countries. There is a Food Truck Association that helps food trucks set up and market their business. Like most food trucks around the world, the most problematic problem is finding a good location that is permissible to park in without encountering problems with authorities and local residents. For instance, according to the Cape Town City Council, Cape Town does not have laws about food trucks so much of the work is done by the private sector who consider food trucks as street vendors.
Some of the exciting food trucks to watch out for while in South Africa are:
Balkan Burger Bus – This family-run business which claims to be the first “proper food truck” in South Africa is actually a bus that serves lunch every day in Johannesburg. Their bestseller is their Balkan burger which is served with a red pepper sauce in special somun buns. They have been getting excellent reviews from respected individuals like Anthony Bourdain and the local food authorities.
Limoncello – Limoncello is the first food truck under the Cape Town Food Trucks banner. It is owned and operated by Chef Luca who serves spaghetti vera, calzone, fresh tuna, risotto, and other Southern Italy cuisine.
Durban’s Finest Curry – Bunny chows and curries are the specialties on the menu for this food truck which also has meat-free Mondays, low carb meals, and an amazing cauli rice. They travel around a lot so the best way to catch is by following them on Twitter.
Full of Beans – This is a unique street food concept that serves coffee from a trike that looks like a truck. Owned and operated by Brazilian Marco Mordoh, Full of Beans started in 2007 and uses a Piaggio Tri-Vespa to mount his food truck coffee business.
Other food trucks in South Africa that are making a name for themselves are Die Wors Rol (gourmet hotdogs), Treat frozen yoghurt, Tutto food truck (paella), Vuyo’s (boerewors), and Down to Earth Farm Feast.
Hong Kong would like to join the food truck trend. However, the government appears to be confused about how to handle the laws that would govern the food trucks. In the first place, Hong Kong has a vibrant street food industry and is one of the attractions of the city. Whenever someone comes to Hong Kong, it has become a must-do to try the street food.
According to Commerce Chief, Greg So Kam-leung, the idea of having food trucks in Hong Kong came from the Finance Secretary who appears to have been inspired by the Hollywood movie, Chef and has been met with opposition from restaurants and street food hawkers. On the other hand, there is a segment of the local population that supports the idea of having food trucks because it would elevate the standards of hygiene in street food. Continue reading
It’s food galore in Philadelphia nowadays not just with new restaurants but also with a growing food truck industry with inventive food choices that tempt the senses and entice foot traffic to buy and savor anything from cheesesteak sandwiches to cheese dipped in beer.
If you ever plan to travel to Philadelphia, prepare to spend on new food ideas, amazing flavors, and friendly entrepreneurs. Here are a few of the incredible food truck stops you should schedule while in the fifth most populous city in the country.
Philly’s Finest Samboni’s
One of the best places to get cheesesteak sandwiches is this food truck that belongs to 3 fine men who partnered and even joined the Great Food Truck Race – and almost won! They offer different variants of the cheesesteak sandwich and their bestseller is the stuffed cheesesteak.
Who doesn’t love waffles any time of the day? Foolish Waffles has sugary sweet waffle desserts or waffle meals with pork belly, fried chicken, or spicy glazed pork. They also have something for vegans and a create-your-own meal or dessert which is a consistent bestseller among children and the adventurous.
With a food truck business called Sugar Philly and a truck called Sheila, how could you not love the idea of buying gourmet desserts from 2 partners who worked out the business details over a dinner of fried chicken? Their specialties include crème brulee, blueberry or strawberry cheesecake, and French macaroons. They also have seasonal specials like spicy chocolate cake, pumpkin custard, and peanut panna cotta, among others.
It’s not every day that you find a brick wood-fired pizza oven and when it is put in a food truck, you know you need to sample the food. Pizza is really best when eaten fresh off the oven. All their pizzas are 11 inches or personal size good for one. They offer 6 choices from spicy garlic to one with roasted mushrooms, braised raddicho with a balsamic drizzle. Definitely a new experience to be enjoyed!
There are dozens of other food trucks roaming the streets of Philadelphia selling mac and cheese, pulled pork sandwiches, Polish sausages, burgers, Thai curry, tater tots, grilled cheese, beer cheese, and crepes, just to name a few. All these food trucks have suddenly made the city a lot more interesting!
Owning a food truck business can easily take over your life and relationships. Understandably, the euphoria of owning a food truck is addicting especially if you have always wanted to start your own business. Being part of the retail business, a food truck works even on weekends if one accepts catering or joins events. This can get very hectic and put you in a position where you have to make choices. Since the food truck is an investment and there is an urgency to start making money, usually the choice is to attend to the food truck and let go of a personal life and relationships for the meantime.
Unfortunately, this is a recipe for disaster because it can lead to burn-out, damaged relationships, and costly errors in running your business because of fatigue and insufficient R&R. Many business owners put aside time for a personal life but make the fatal error of not being present mentally and you will still suffer the consequences of work-intensive lifestyle.
The Basic Rules of Running a Business
If you want to enjoy life and still have enough energy and time for your start-up food truck business, you need to:
- Have a support system that fully backs up your business plans. There will be many times when business emergencies will eat into personal time. Your family, friends, and partner in life must be able to understand this and not make it an issue.
- Have an outlet where you can go to get away from the business. This could be a sport, a hobby, a place, or being with someone.
- Avoid bringing personal issues into the daily operations of your business and vice versa. Keep it separate even if your business partner is your life partner.
- If your partner is your life partner, spouse, friend, or relative, have an agreement to be professional while at work.
Stick to your Business Plan
Having a good foundation with a realistic business plan is a good start. Stick to it and don’t force the timeline to success. The only exception would be if an investor comes around and want to bankroll several food trucks carrying your product. You see, the learning curve of running a business is an important phase and usually happens during the first 2 years in business. This is not an excuse to forget family and a personal life rather a warning that starting a business is demanding but not everything. If you can balance your life and manage your business in this first 2 years, you will accumulate a wealth of information and experience that will help you become a success. This is why the business plan is critical to a small business where funds and resources may be limited.
Munich is the capital of the state of Bavaria in Germany. Its name means “by the monks” and it has been the cultural and science center of the area since the 19th century. As one of the more forward-thinking cities in Germany, it should come as no surprise that the trending food truck business should find a foothold in this city of 1.4 million.
Last January, the first Streetfood Market was held at the Hall of Taste. It attracted so many locals and expats being the first food truck event in the city. Most of the food trucks present were selling their version of gourmet street food so there was a delectable mix of fusion and ethnic foods at reasonable prices.
Known as an adventure destination, Mongolia has become one of the fastest growing economies in the world because of the influx of foreign investments. Mongolia is known for its untapped minerals, extreme climate, and Genghis Khan. Mongolian food is mostly animal fat, meat, and dairy products. It is not known for its use of spices and vegetables. Yet the street food in Mongolia is a flourishing business but mostly during holidays and special events because in Mongolia, eating in public can be seen as a form of disrespect. This is why in many places in Mongolia, street food only comes out on special days. The exception to this is the capital city of Ulan Bator or Ulaanbaatar and in Naadam. In addition, many of the streets in other places are not paved which makes for unfavorable eating and cooking conditions. However, when the street food comes out, some of the food you can expect to find and should taste are:
Khuushuur – This is a fried pastry filled with meat that is very common as street fare. It is the local version of Russia’s chiburekki or the Asian dumpling. However, it looks a lot like the Spanish empanada as well. The meat used is either beef or mutton and the steamed version is known as buuz.
Airag – This is a Mongolian drink made from fermented horse milk and has mild alcoholic content. The traditional way of making this drink is by putting the milk in horse hide containers to allow it to ferment. The container is turned over several times during the day to agitate and prevent the milk from coagulating.
Khailmag – This is a tasty butter pastry made with filling. It has been described as the local version of crème brulee. It is caramelized pastry made from urum or clotted cream. When it is being cooked, the fat separates and is used to make candles or for frying.
The food most popular to the world is Mongolian barbeque which is a stir fry dish originally from Taiwan. The Chinese created this dish as their take on what they thought was the traditional way of cooking Mongolian meat – in large chunks all together. Today’s modern version of Mongolian barbeque is a mish-mash or meats, seafood, and vegetables and is nothing like any traditional Mongolian dish.
It’s called the Unwanted Animal Kitchen which doesn’t sound so appetizer even if you’re a vegan but this food truck is drawing quite a bit of attention because its unwanted meat is retired racing horsemeat. Horse meat is not acceptable in many countries as table fare. In fact, in 2013, a scandal broke out in Europe after it was discovered that some beef products were found to contain a mix of beef and horsemeat instead. The problem raised back then is that if racing horses were used to manufacture these products, they could contain a drug known as phenylebutazone which prevents fever or treats pain in animals. It is not approved for human consumption.
Unwanted Animal Kitchen in Holland opened in 2011, 2 years before the scandal. It was part of an urban art project and serves deer, goose, crow, meerkat, and horse meat. The project was created to bring awareness to the thousands of geese killed by hunters because of the risk they present to aircrafts. Thus, instead of seeing the geese thrown away, they were used to make croquettes, soups, and other dishes.
Another controversial food truck is the “My Little Pony Burger” which also used retired race horse meat. This food truck had a commendable mission which was to address the economic crisis by buying retired race horses. Horse burgers are not as sellable as all beef burgers but there is a following.
Back in the US, there are some unusual food truck fare to be found especially in Austin. Although not controversial as the European food truck fare, the following food trucks have been creating a favorable stir among locals with their strange menus.
Chi’-Lantro – This food truck sells kimchi fries which is their bestseller in spite of the fact that it is nowhere close to its theme of Korean- Mexican fusion food. However, they have proven to be successful and now have not just food trucks but its own brick and mortar in Austin and a catering service. Other items on their food truck menu are rib-eye or pork bulgogi, quesadilla with kimchi, and ramen.
Other Austin food trucks worth mentioning are the Peached Tortilla, Bananarchy, and Gourdough’s.
Finally, ever heard of the IBM computer that taking charge of a food truck, Watson? Watson is the same computer that went on the TV show, Jeopardy! in 2011 and won. Now, Watson is being given a set of ingredients and he has to come up with a dish which is served in a food truck called the IBM Cognitive Cooking food truck that went around the Southwest last year. This year the food truck is turning into a cookbook with recipes like Bengali Butternut Pumpkin Sauce and a Vietnamese kebab with strawberries!
You don’t have to start a food truck business by being in debt. It is an acceptable way of starting a business but why do it this way when you can avoid getting into debt? At the very least, you should consider aiming for a low loan amount so you don’t stress on your first 2 years about repayment.
Before you even decide to limit your debt exposure, you have to accept that not applying for a big business loan will mean learning to cut corners whenever and wherever necessary provided you do not compromise on quality and integrity. You may also have to accept that it will require you to work harder since you may have to avoid hiring too many employees.
Keep Your Primary Income
A food truck business can start as a weekend business. This will allow you to keep your day job and schedule the food truck to go out on weekends and special holidays. Your plan should include the tipping point when you can transition to being a full time food truck business. This tipping point should include a net income that can support your lifestyle and a growing list of regular customers and venues where you can park your truck including a daily parking slot for the lunch crowd.
Look for Investors
If you have a great menu and fantastic reviews on your food, you can start searching for investors who will be willing to put up the capital for a food truck. Surprisingly, there is a growing number of business-minded entrepreneurs who do not want to work in a kitchen but want to own a food truck. These are the people you should target and you will see them roaming food truck areas and festivals looking for great food truck ideas.
There are also websites that connect investors with people who have business ideas like crowd-funding websites. Another option would be to approach friends and family although this kind of personal relationship can be troublesome down the road.
How about Starting Small First?
Instead of testing your food truck menu on a full scale kitchen truck, why not join food festivals with a small food cart first? The capital investment is much smaller and you get real feedback on your food – just like you would with a food truck. You will have to scale down your menu and only offer your most delectable item. However, you can also rotate your food to test each item in real time.
The idea of going into the food industry is to make money, be your own boss, and enjoy doing something you love. The food truck is a great way to start because it does not require the capital of a full-blown operations. However, the ultimate dream to be financially stable or prosperous has a greater chance of being realized if a food truck owner can transition to a brick and mortar restaurant which will allow the entrepreneur to sell more food to a larger market at regular working hours.
A few hardworking food truck owners have been successful in doing this. Take a look at their inspiring stories.
Josh Saltzman and Trent Allen started their food truck business, PORC, in 2011. They bought a UPS van and converted it into a food truck selling pulled pork and coleslaw. After almost getting into an accident on the food truck, they decided to turn their business into a brick and mortar establishment. Their products were selling well but they were not happy with doing everything. There are around 19 food trucks in the DC area that have also followed suit like Far East Taco Grille, Popped! Republic, Curbside Cupcakes, and SOL Mexican Grill. The road to moving into a permanent spot is easier because you have already established a history as a business success. Banks are more willing to sit down and discuss a business loan with an established business person. You can show your assets, Twitter followers, and even give them a taste of your food to seal the loan!
According to Kristi Whitfield of Curbside Cupcakes who opened her brick and mortar restaurant last October after running a successful food truck for more than 4 years, “If it weren’t for the food truck, none of this would be in existence.”
Quick Tips on How to Know When You Are Ready for the Big Time
Moving from food truck to permanent location is a huge step and sounds like the perfect ending unless you want to start franchising. It is important to know when this can happen so you don’t waste a golden opportunity with lenders and investors.
- Build your market and reputation. Investors look at your online reputation as well as your standing in the community you serve.
- Don’t change your menu frequently because it will take you longer to build your name and reputation
- Start introducing yourself as an enterprising individual with big dreams to your customers. You never know who among them would be willing to invest in your business.
- Save, save, save if you do not want to apply for a business loan.