Restaurant Experience

Entering the Restaurant Business Via a Food Truck

The food truck market is expected to grow from over $3.7 billion in 2023 to more than $4 billion in 2024, demonstrating a CAGR of 8.3%. By 2028, that number is expected to reach $5.37 billion. The continued growth is partly due to the rise of social media, mobile food apps, urbanization, and the diverse food offerings found in these “Meals on Wheels” establishments. 

The growing popularity has also been enhanced by the Netflix series “Street Food” and celebrity chefs like the late Anthony Bourdain. For many, it provides a feasible pathway into the restaurant industry. It offers an entry requiring much less money and far fewer operational strategies while potentially reaching a large number of customers.

So, what is required for a successful food truck enterprise? 

Great Food & Experience

Like a brick-and-mortar location, a successful food truck business requires a memorable experience, whether unique food or the personalities behind the windows. Today, time is a limited commodity, eaten up by a never-ending list of tasks and appointments. While people may not want to take the time for a sit-down meal, they do want to enjoy high-quality cuisine. 

For this reason, you’ll find Michelin-starred chefs embracing street food. Yes, you read that correctly. Yorann Vandriessche, a Michelin-starred chef, opened two food trucks. His intention is to draw attention to his French Riviera restaurant, L’Arbre au Soleil, and to bring his cuisine to a greater audience. His motto is “To give pleasure through the product and the taste, without artifice or embellishment.” 

Vandriessche also uses the food trucks for delivery service and high-quality catering.

From Food Truck to Brick-and-Mortar

While some operators appreciate the flexibility and reduced staffing requirements of a food truck, others see it as a stepping-stone to a restaurant. Recently, Simone’s Kitchen ATL, a food truck in Birmingham, Alabama, announced the opening of their first restaurant, Simone’s Kitchen & Cocktails. 

The owner, Whitney Simone, shared her journey in a Facebook post, “This journey has been full of first times, prayer, success, failures, tears, joy, doubt, stress, happiness, cuts, burns, long nights, early mornings, courage, sorrow, and last but certainly not least, resilience!” Sounds very much like the restaurant industry. Her efforts have paid off with the ability to fund her first restaurant entirely on her own.

“Best” Food Trucks in America

According to the Food Network, some of the best food trucks are found outside the food truck capitals of America, such as Portland, Austin, and Los Angeles. The first one to make their list is Roti Rolls in Charleston, a food truck that serves roti parathas with fillings inspired by Indian, Asia, and Caribbean cuisine. They also serve Creole mac’ n’ cheese and local vegetables transformed via coconut green curry. 

Washington D.C.’s Fava Pot launched as a food truck in 2013. They added a restaurant to their successful food truck operations four years later. Currently, two locations and their truck serve locally sourced food turned into healthy Egyptian cuisine. 

Others who made the grade include Portland’s Nong’s, specializing in Khao Man Gai from Bangkok. Bombay Food Junkies in St. Louis offers vegetarian and vegan Indian food, and Micklethwait Craft Meats, a favorite in Austin, is committed to smoked meats.

What do all these food trucks have in common? A love of the food they create and creating food that comes from their origins.

The Bottom Line: Owning a Food Truck 

Do you ever wonder what owning and operating a food truck is like? Does the allure of serving your delectable meals make you dream of lines of food fans spreading down the block? 

The Harvard Business Review interviewed the owner of Moyzilla food truck, Jon Moy, to find out what it’s all about. Like many, Moy decided on the truck route because he didn’t have the funds to jump into a restaurant. They started working out of a tent at festivals to prove the concept and save money.

Their first truck cost about $80,000. Adding in other associated costs came to about $100,000 to get the business started. Because they’re in Boston, their location is determined by a lottery system. The city picks it out of a hat, and that is where the food truck is located for one year. When they started in the area in 2014, there were about 12 food trucks. In 2019, that number had grown to over 100.

Some of the issues they face include rain, which decreases their business by about 70%. Equipment breaks, the generator goes out, and the truck breaks down. Despite all the challenges, Moy shared this about being a food truck owner, “But at the end of the day, a good day on the food truck was just like the best day of work I’ve ever had.”

The bottom line? If you’re going into the food truck business, research the market, protocols, and unexpected costs. The first year will undoubtedly be challenging, but as these operators have shared, after the rain, there may be a rainbow. 


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