By Darrel Suderman | QSRWeb.com
What is so unique about food trucks that symbolize culinary business innovation?
Many people still refer to food trucks as “Chow Wagons” or “Roach Coaches,” but that image is disappearing fast. In fact “food quality” and “marketing” are defining the new food trucks that are running the old blue collar trucks to the curbs across the major cities in the United States.
In addition, major business magazines like Bloomberg and Inc. are featuring the business of food trucks, and offering advice on starting a profitable food truck business. Oprah Winfrey recently featured an episode titled “Taste Testing the Food Truck Craze” with Tyler Florence, celebrity chef and host of the Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race.
Culinary Innovation Without Boundaries
In my opinion, food trucks provide more opportunity for food innovation than most corporate QSR chains because they are not burdened with corporate bureaucracy. I have spent a lot of time blogging on the need for new processes for innovation within the corporate environment, and food trucks represent a microcosm of new innovation for menu and marketing.
There are no predetermined boundaries for new food products, new sensory tastes, new cooking processes and new business models. If I was a recent culinary school graduate, I would immediately start my own food truck business instead of starting as a sous chef at a high end restaurant. Why? The answer is that I can be as creative as I want to be, without any outside “opinion boundaries.”
Immediate Consumer Feedback
A second reason I support food truck menu innovation is because the owners get immediate consumer feedback. Not only do consumers tell you whether they like the product or not, but they suggest ways to improve the product.
Food trucks are not just menu innovation incubators, they also represent an incubator for continuous quality improvement. And, the cost of consumer research is essentially zero, compared to the $30,000 to $100,000 for a “structured focus group.” I have always felt, and observed, that face-to-face customer feedback in QSR stores provides far more valuable food quality feedback than structured focus groups.
Small Business Incubator
The new food truck craze also represents a small business incubator. If an entrepreneur wants to be a successful food truck owner, he or she will need to develop a thorough small business plan just like any other business. And they will need to develop a similar small business marketing plan, because you want to build a brand that becomes a signature for your company.
Developing the plans will also require you to review and investigate local municipality fees and business restrictions. And it will surface small business hurdles such as police, competitors, dealing with extreme cold and hot temperatures, tickets and parking.
A Few Favorite Food Trucks
A few of my favorite food trucks include Schnitzel and Things (www.schnitzelandthings.com), which was rated No. 1 in New York City. A second and third favorite are Rickshaw Dumpling Bar (www.rickshawdumplings.com) and The Dessert Truck (www.dt-works.net). Other favorites include Spencer on the Go (www.spenceronthego.com), the Flying Pig (www.flyingpigtruck.com), and the Border Grill (www.bordergrill.com). Ann example of pork product innovation is the “Pork Belly” sandwich that consists of braised pork belly with red onion escabeche, pickled sesame cucumber, and death sauce on a steamed bao bun! Now that’s innovation!