The rise of the Food Truck — and how to fund your own.
Food trucks have become Australia’s most in-demand summer eating craze like the globalisation of fashion trends from beau monde cities like Los Angeles and New York. The surprise is gourmet quality, affordable international cuisines from anywhere around the world from Morocco to Mexico in areas where dining options have previously been limited, especially late evenings when tummies rumble for late night suppers.
Forget the dinghy stainless steel boxed truck pushing cheap ice popsicles at the suburban seasonal fairs, school fetes or the odd scanty old snack van poking with puffed fairy floss, chargrilled corn cobs or greasy, dreary-looking sausage buns from lacklustre glass displays.
Think of these new gourmet food trucks as show-stopping restaurants on wheels. They offer sophisticated menus with ritzy burgers you actually want to savour, not just eat on the run, like a soft shell crab burger from Hammer & Tong 412, or their lobster rolls with a classy luxe dessert to finish up like lavender yoghurt custard. Speaking of dessert — The Brûlée Cart offers mini pots of heavenly creme brûlée with exotic names like ‘chocCointreau’, salted caramel and lavender-honey, blowtorched to mouthwatering perfection.
Sydney’s CBD, in Australia, has also taken on a New York state of mind with produce-driven menus, promoting local growers and raising awareness for sustainable eating and living. An environmentally-conscious operator, Veggie Patch Van is one such notable true devotee of the sustainability consciousness. Serving up a cult-following heralded burger featuring a chickpea and zucchini fritter, beetroot relish, dill mayonnaise and roasted tomato ketchup, its whole food philosophy extends on the ‘paddock-to-plate’ movement. Offering a seasonally-sourced menu with minimally processed, full-flavoured cuisine aimed at reconnecting growers with diners, Veggie Patch Van is a collaborative effort between renowned vegetarian restaurant in Surry Hills and a Darlinghurst interactive design studio. Operating from a re-styled old Winnebago using recycled scrap material like stainless steel, sustainable plantation pine and recycled fencing that runs only on solar power and vegetable oil, it not only admirably preaches but clearly practices its organic and sustainable philosophy.
It seems consumer demand for hipster food trucks Like Veggie Patch Van are a burgeoning entrepreneur’s haven. The rise and rise of social media like Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook only help fuel the stalking of the hottest food trends on wheels favoured by steady city crowds. It seems the edgier the food and concept, the better. The best of them seem to offer what we won’t expect — like Round the Way Bagels with their french macarons and chicken marinated in spiced Cuban rum.
Gumbo Kitchen will feed your hunger for New Orleans-style Cajun food, while White Guy Cooks Thai has a simple menu of fresh, spicy Thai food. The Banh Mi Boys deal in crammed bread rolls and chargrill on the go, and Soul Kitchen Woodfired Pizza Truck brings the food truck edge to hipster suburbs like Melbourne’s famous St Kilda Road.
Melbourne, the trend-setting city where the craze and bevy of food trucks first rolled in, continues to take the lead in the feeding frenzy of our urban street food revolution. With its list of about 80 food trucks or so mapped out in apps like Where The Truck to help food truck sniffers pinpoint exactly where these armies of moveable feasts in their locale are headed or parked, the other estimated hundred or more are spread out throughout our other cities.
Brisbane is fast catching on too. The recent World Food Markets event at the Brisbane Powerhouse saw hordes of hungry, eager samplers of food truck-goers flocking for a bite of these delightful mobile meals that are changing our dining landscape. Brisbane’s Bun Mobile snapped up the ‘Weekend Edition’ food awards with exotica like steamed white buns sandwiched with slow cooked black angus beef, grilled field mushrooms, crunchy lettuce, fresh horseradish cream topped with smoked black pepper.
Hunting down and sniffing the trail of food trucks is only half the fun. It’s a surefire way for diners to enjoy a social outdoor dining experience with a difference — much like how we love the energy and festivity of weekends enjoying seasonal market produce except it is also a new way to sample different gourmet cuisines in a casual atmosphere.
In Sydney the food truck scene has somewhat been dampened by strict council ruling either from pressure of competing local food businesses or the concern of rubbish disposal and littering. The shift in focus for Sydney food trucks is now centred on festivals and special events rather than daily street trading. The business of food trucks may seem prosperous yet the myths continue to smoke around. Not unlike tempting aromas wafting from some latest mobile dark-rum jerk chicken chargrilled with oregano sprigs and cider vinegar.
Is it a real cash cow for you to sink your teeth and life savings into, if you’re thinking of quitting your day job and jumping into the foray of food trucking?
Funding a food truck business
Here’s the low down on starting a food truck business if you’re thinking of joining the army of meals on wheels — it might seem like a low-stress, low-maintenance business model, that’s not necessarily the case — but if you are passionate about your food truck business, then it does not count as work does it. But there are a few real things to consider beyond your great food invention or aspirations.
Firstly — the essentials. Like any other food business entity, the lack of rental doesn’t equate to savings or decreased operating costs. For example, food trucks usually run on 15 kVA generators needing to be fed with premium petrol that takes a tank every three hours.
The running costs for equipment and powering everything in a food truck isn’t minimal. Think bain maries, freezers, microwaves and under bench fridges. Food safety, after all, is a big concern for street food vendors. There are also warehousing (suppliers don’t deliver to mobile premises) costs, and more often than not, a physical master prep kitchen where on-premise ‘real cooking’ is actually done.
There are many transport options for a mobile ‘restaurant’. A converted caravan or delivery van, a small truck or even a converted trailer come mobile pizza oven.
Fitting out your food truck or a converted caravan or trailer as a moveable restaurant premise with every precaution taken to ensure hygiene, food handling and storage, is no piece of cake either, but there are providers out their that can make this a bit easier. It is essentially like fitting out a commercial kitchen, just on the back of a truck. However the difference is, you can take your food truck anywhere and direct to a vast range of customers and locations — you can’t do that with a 100 seater restaurant.
Food truck business operators are required by councils to abide by the same, stringent standards as all restaurants and food providers. There are some additional regulations to build a moveable prep kitchen on wheels. There is also consideration of not having access to hot running water and needing to deal with disposal of waste water.
All over the world, there are ready enthusiastic food inventors creating the innovative food truck idea, and this is growing massively in most major cities. With social media, dedicated food truck websites, council programs and an abundance of foodie followers chasing food trucks around our cities and the food truck industry is showing no sign of stopping.
Funding your food van or business
According to GoodFood, the average food truck business will cost around $100,000 AUD — $140,000 AUD to set up, but can naturally go higher for more complex setups. If you don’t have the initial capital to buy and fit out a food truck business, low rate finance could be a great option. From financing the truck or caravan ready to convert to taking our a business or commercial loan to fund the vehicle and the cost of equipment, fit out and setup.
360 Finance can help arrange low rate finance for your business idea. With access to over 30+ Australian Bank and Non-Bank lenders, we can find the best finance solution for your circumstances and budget.
(Original article written by Katherine Ngoi and updated by Tracey Pearce-Sampson)