Monday, August 19, 2013

Rant: Food Trucks Are So Yesterday

Food trucks have had their time in the spotlight, being the next big trend, but that was yesterday. Don't worry though as they are not going to suddenly vanish and new food trucks will still continue to make their debut. However, a new restaurant innovation is poised to take the country by storm and New York City may be leading the way. Will Boston wait to jump on this trend, or will it try to seize the initiative and capitalize on this new trend right now?

About a week ago, Crain's New York Business posted an interesting article, Tiny restaurants turn into small wonders, written by Adrianne Pasquarelli. She wrote about essentially new restaurants which are basically "stationary" food trucks. These new places are brick & mortar establishments, but they occupy small pieces of real estate, usually less than 200 square feet. In New York City, you'll find these places selling sliders to meatballs, cupcakes to gelato.

Such tiny places have advantages, such as low overhead, though there are limitations as well, such as the fact that they need to concentrate on very limited menus. Though even those limitations can potentially be turned into advantages. A restaurant can concentrate on making just a couple of items very well, and can become well known for those two items. The article details several successful businesses, noting that their profits can be lucrative.

Obviously the mobility of food trucks can be seen as an advantage in some respects to a brick & mortar spot though that mobility can be a problem as well, especially in winter when the snows come. It might also be difficult for customers to find a particular food truck at any particular time unless they find its schedule, and the truck has followed that schedule. A brick & mortar gives permanence so customers will be able to find it more easily. And the owner doesn't need to know how to drive!

Running these tiny restaurants might be good experience, and give some indication to the owner whether they might succeed at a larger place or not. They let you concentrate on excelling in a couple items, rather than spreading out your general skills over a large menu. It would also help the community by occupying empty rental properties, providing taxes to the city and more. Bring several of these tiny restaurants together in the same area, and you end up with a far better version of a mall food court.

Place blocks under those food truck wheels and occupy some real estate, though just a tiny piece.


Brewnoser said...

This is already old hat in Montreal, one of the best cities in the world to eat out. There are many small BYO places, some renting only enough space for seats and tables and a small prep area, with the food being prepared close by, in a lower rent kitchen, sometimes at the chef's home. You bring your own wine, as they are not licensed.

Alana Gentry (@girlwithaglass) said...

I'm not a fan of most food trucks for the most part. The best one I know is a stationary kind like you're describing. It's on West Dry Creek Road outside of Healdsburg CA. The Chef is eccentric and the food is well-prepared every time. There is a couple picnic tables out front next to a public pick-what-you-want garden. Other food trucks at farmer's markets and in Portland's famous food truck 'hood are largely untalented cooks throwing out lousy food in gross dining conditions. I hope the trend fades, shake out the good ones and let them exist as your article describes.