National News: Why food trucks are a very tasty business prospect

By Bulelwa Dayimani  |  Destiny Man


When Miles Kubheka’s restaurant business didn’t do as well as he’d hoped, he took to the road in another direction

Location is one of the most important factors to consider before starting a business, especially a restaurant.

This is something Miles Kubheka has learnt a great deal about.

His business idea was inspired by a Hansa TV ad about a guy called Vuyo – a big dreamer and achiever – everything he touched turned to gold.

When Kubheka discovered that no one had trademarked the name of Vuyo’s business, he registered the already well-known name himself. In 2012, Vuyo’s restaurant was established in Braamfontein, with its main market being students.

The business idea was a winner, but unfortunately the location wasn’t because when students went away for their holidays, so did the profits.

As a result, Kubheka decided not to renew his lease on the restaurant premises when it expired in 2014. This setback took him down a new and very successful avenue – food trucks.

Today his customers come from the industrial sector, other food outlets, the corporate field and festivals. “Instead of our clients coming to us, we go to our clients, and with a food truck, you don’t have to worry about location.”

He has four food trucks now and plans to grow his fleet to at least 10 by the end of this year.

Economists warn that 2016 will be a tough year for consumers, with food prices and inflation expected to rise, and Kubheka believes this might be the year that the SA food truck business comes into its own.

“With almost anything in the world, you always notice it when it’s booming, but you never see the initial stages. It took time before you started seeing food trucks everywhere. But I think it’s a business model that makes sense for a developing country.

“The reason food trucks boomed in the US was because the economy tanked and people looked for value, for great food that was served very quickly. What happened there was that a lot of chefs lost their jobs because restaurants were closing down,” he explains.

Kubheka and other food truckers have started an association for the food-trucking business. They are lobbying for their type of operation to be treated differently from hawkers and caravans. The association also helps to mobilise food truckers, which makes it easy for them to pass business on to each other.

At the end of February, Kubheka is hoping to launch Vuyo’s Restaurant on Vilakazi Street in Soweto. The building is being refurbished currently. With the street already popular among those who want to experience authentic African cuisine and culture, Vilakazi Street will be a perfect location for the business.

“The focus this year is on the food truck business and the restaurant because they work hand in hand. Clients at events often ask us where they can get the food, so the restaurant is hugely important to us,” he says.

If there’s one lesson to be learned from Kubheka’s entrepreneurial journey, it’s that when you’re starting out you’re likely to make mistakes, but if you choose to see these mistakes as challenges rather than failures, you’ll ultimately find success.