Nothing but Wide Open Road
So what’s next for food trucks? Owners coming onto the scene today face a very different set of obstacles than their forefathers -- no more permitting battles, an established customer base. Many cities now boast their own food truck associations. But new owners face their own set of struggles -- seasonal business trends, tight margins, breakdowns, stiffer competition for real estate. And most food truck owners will tell you the same thing: Don’t do it if all you want to do is make a living off a food truck. “The business model sucks unless you look at it like, this will help me launch something with real revenue,” says Gencarelli.
For example, a number of established restaurants have launched trucks to test the waters in new markets, like Cambridge restaurant Area Four, an all-day café and wood-fired pizza concept that launched a truck last year, pedaling pastries and piadina sandwiches. “For us it was a way to increase our brand outside of Cambridge and into Boston. It’s a means to drive additional people to the restaurant,” says co-owner Michael Krupp. Last year, it just broke even, he admits. “But it’s mobile advertising. There’s evidence to support that it does drive business back.” This year, he’s sending the truck to Nashville where he’ll collaborate with a couple of guys who are testing out their own restaurant concept. Portland, Oregon ice cream cart-turned-scoop shop, Salt & Straw, is about to expand into LA. They have a physical space but they’re also building out a 14ft truck, which will hit the streets right after the space opens. “We started with this vision, ‘what if we could export happiness?’ It was this idea of being able to bring something cool to a community. The truck is a great opportunity to do that and tell people, using our own voice, about who we are,” says co-founder Tyler Malek.