One way to test whether to rent a bricks-and-mortar store is to operate a food truck. These are popping up on street corners and near office towers across the country.
As is the case with virtual retailers, who test their ideas online to gauge consumer interest before making the leap into a fixed, long-term shop lease, chefs and potential restaurateurs are using food trucks for a low-entry cost to the restaurant business.
The thriving industry is seen as another retail interrupter, offering food outside the normal bricks-and-mortar shops.
In Melbourne this has reached a new level with Thornbury Food Truck Parks, one of Melbourne’s permanent Bar and Food Truck Stops that is licensed for more than 700 people. Another one has landed at Preston and more are said to be on the way.
Food truck operators get help from local councils who allow them to park in most locations.
They have become so popular that many food trucks now have their own websites and mobile apps and, in Sydney alone, there are 24 City of Sydney-approved food trucks, with similar numbers across the country.
Joshua Bush, Colliers International’s retail project leasing executive, said food trucks are becoming an increasingly popular opportunity for chefs and entrepreneurs to enter the expensive restaurant-food and beverage market where start-up costs can average $500,000 for an everyday bricks and mortar cafe.
“A food truck-trailer can be started for as little as $20,000 and the retailer is able to build their business, brand and funds to build up to the next step of a bricks and mortar retail property if they so choose,” Mr Bush said.
He said the relatively low start-up cost enabled such retailers to gain valuable business experience, operations, supply and demand, financials, managing staff and all the other responsibilities that small to medium owners learn in their first two to three years in business. Most importantly, they get to know what the locals want and love.
Anthony Severino, of Happy as Larry, said his business was firing due to its ability to create quality, fast, fresh and creative options at an affordable price for local workers and residents in the areas they frequent. One of its winter creative pieces is a beef cheek calzone.
Mr Severino also said the business took its offering seriously and was looking to build on its brand, with four full-time employees and even an apprentice chef.
“You can see that food trucks are not only providing amenity and aiding Sydney’s lack of local dining fast food options, we are also creating jobs, paying taxes and building on Sydney’s economy,” he said.
Mr Bush said food trucks are also providing substantial opportunities and returns for landlords by evaluating a “start-up” business without as much risk as a traditional start-up, as well as offering a point of difference in their food court, shopping centre or retail property.
Mr Bush is already working with a number of food truck businesses to grow their brand and move into the bricks-and-mortar retail game.
Some trucks have already taken this step, such as Monster Rolls opening up Bast’d in Darlinghurst and Yang’s food truck opening a restaurant, Yang & Co, in Castlecrag.