Food Trucks: A Franchise Concept with a Stop Sign Ahead

By Tracy Weise |

While food trucks have been around forever, the food truck trend took off in 2008 with the Kogi Korean BBQ, Kogi’s efforts were helped significantly by the proliferation of social media marketing, soaring through the use of Twitter by tweeting the truck’s locations.

In cities like Los Angeles and www.cake-crumbs.comNew York, gourmet food trucks are embraced. If you live in L.A. you can check your wireless device for consolidated tweets of all food truck locations. In New York, if you have a gourmet concept to offer, you could find a permanent home in one of the city parks. Food trucks are growing in popularity, which is why the idea is so mouthwatering to Franchisors. And by many accounts, food trucks are the new wave in franchising. So much so that last month a food truck business, Sauca Foods won the 2010 Great Emerging Franchise Challenge.

Some franchised food trucks started from a stand-alone concept and are growing. Some food franchisors, including Subway and Fatburger are adapting to the concept by hitting the road with their own trucks.

But get out of the top major cities in the U.S., and things start to degrade. This is where franchisors need to start paying attention.

The problem is that many cities don’t know what to do about food trucks. While L.A., New York and Portland may be flying ahead, Denver and Dallas have major hurdles to overcome. In Denver, food trucks are now parked after months on the road because zoning issues finally caught up with them.

Last year in Santa Monica an entire mobile “food court” was shut down due to zoning violations.

And in Dallas foodies are not getting anywhere fast with their slow zoning changes.

I think that franchised food trucks are a marketers dream. They offer consistency in menu and deliverables, the ability to reach your target market where they are and the ROI on social media marketing is extraordinary. Plus initial cost to ownership is lower than that of brick and mortar restaurants.

But the zoning challenges for many markets may put a kibosh on this great idea.  I recently heard a manager from the Denver Biscuit Company say that she believes Denver and other similar-sized markets will eventually come to embrace food trucks similar to the way L.A. and New York have. While the general public may embrace food trucks, the city council members will have to get zoning laws up to speed with the demands of the people.

On a side note – Denverites can still enjoy their biscuits and cupcakes at the Denver Biscuit Company and Cake Crumbs permanent locations while zoning issues are being worked out to accommodate their mobile units.

What do you think? Will traditional brick and mortar franchise food concepts do well to go mobile, or harm their core business? Tell us how your franchise system is adapting to to the truck trend.

Franchisors – don’ forget to visit us at the 2011 IFA convention. Tracy will be speaking February 15, on the topic of integrating marketing tactics for better franchise sales.