Take a walk around cities in this continent and chances are you will be munching on tidbits bought from that random stall by a corner, along the pavement or from a congregation of stalls on one street. Such carts have little provision for cooking on-the-spot, limited to smaller equipment hence most carts only serve cooked food or keep operations to only assembly level. However, in recent years, the definition has expanded to include food trucks. The difference? Engine-powered vehicles modified to fit commercial kitchen equipment to cook at higher volumes more efficiently. While not eclipsing familiar local street food, most are introducing cuisines of the world and widening dining options for its masses. In short, making unique delicacies accessible in a casual (sloppiness may be present!) environment.
If television shows like “EAT ST.” filming food trucks all over United States of America (USA) existed then, it’d be probably chasing down the chuckwagon. In 1866, Charles Goodnight converted a US Army wagon; designing it to fit cooking equipment, tools, tableware and dry food provisions like cornmeal, beans, spice smoked meats plus a space to fit a water barrel. The chuckwagon was made for cowboys and is considered by many food historians as the template for the flashy and equipment-fitted food trucks of today.
The sense of community is not just from a consumers’ point of view but transcends to proprietors. In America, two collectives known as OFF THE GRID and DIN DIN A GO GO have been organising weekly food markets where communities are united through food experiences. For example, Off The Grid that began in 2010 has more than 200+ food, bar and amenities vendors that collaborate with it on a weekly basis. Due to having a small kitchen, entrepreneurs in food trucks have to be very selective of their offerings. Being in such an event gave their presence a boost and better flow of visitors as customers are more open to not having to go hunting individual trucks in different locations for the eating experience. Off The Grid is still going strong and organising such markets in various states as people came in droves knowing that there will surely be something for everyone and more to discover as well.
Looking at Charles Goodnight’s chuckwagon, it is one requiring a sense of innovation and improvisation to make way for multiple functions in one vehicle. How then are food trucks made today? Are there fundamental principles to adhere to in spite of how each truck is actually customised? Let’s take a look in construction next.
BRINGING SERVICES TO THE MASSES
The world increasingly talks about convenience and efficiency. Businesses are realising that they can meet more needs by going to their customers. Taking their business mobile would be a natural evolution and it is not just food industry that is reaping the fruits. Here are some examples of the versatility of being mobile.
Electrolux Mobile Laundry
The coin-operated machines provide washing and drying that are completed in one hour resulting in operators enjoying higher volumes at lower running costs. Operators can run the truck with a generator and water tank or connect the unit to a water and electricity points available on site. Electrolux Professional offers customers a comprehensive solution for the mobile laundry venture; from planning, installation, servicing, marketing, unique design and bestin-class performance.
This could be heaven-sent in busy districts, particularly where parking is difficult and you need some cash. The mobile ATM is quite a regular in Thailand, who knows, someone might run out of money during their shopping spreee? Of course, you can provide banking services as vast as you wish with trucks big enough for more complex transactions.
Want to organise a little relaxing session on a smaller budget and time efficiency? Mobile day spas can come to you by bringing their massage tables, manicure, facial and aromatherapy kits to homes or offices. Some even customise a vehicle to resemble the shop thereby offering services right inside it.
Zip around the streets and reach out to a larger audience with your selected range of clothing. There’s definitely an appeal about quality over quantity together with a new shopping experience. Consider it a greater playing field beyond setting up stall at weekly bazaars where the mobility allows you to pick locations at better frequencies thus creating more visibility.
Is it a constant struggle to get your pet into a vehicle to the grooming centre? Enterprising individuals have modified vans or buses into moving salons for your furry friends, fitting it with full fledged tubs, dryers and clipping stations. Parked around residential estates, owners simply need to walk or carry their pet to the mobile unit – there should be less scratching and struggling.
A company called SURF SAUNA is proposing its custommade mobile sauna units for avid surfers who would even hit the waves during winter. Surf Sauna is built using Western Red Cedar wood that is resistant against water and can be sized for 2-8 people to be the adventure mobile of your desires for all sorts of winter activities.
CHUCKWAGON by William Henry Jackson [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
OFF THE GRID_FORT MASON CENTER by Kārlis Dambrāns
MOBILE ATM by Paul Arps
SURF SAUNA by www.surfsauna.net
APPEAL OF FOOD-ON-WHEELS
Street food has graduated from on-the-go to something the crowd is willing to chase down, wait and stand around to savour the food experience. A research conducted by Allegra Foodservice for a single ingredients supplier found a marked increase in orders from vendors as 47% of consumers surveyed plan to eat more from the street. Its agreeable price tag is hard to beat as well. Many position themselves as bringing gourmet food to the masses and popular cuisine types stated by the research’s sample size rated Mexican, Chinese and Thai followed by Indian, British, Italian and Greek as preferred foods with wraps, burrito or sandwiches winning over rice or noodles and burgers.
While tastes, flavours, eclectic combinations and freshness of locally sourced ingredients were common reasons why people buy from food trucks, perhaps none is stronger than the social fabric it weaves. Although brief, there is some connection we experience with fellow diners and the proprietors. Bonded by a common desire of enjoying food, Richard Johnson, founder of British Street Food and the Street Food Awards sums it up with “our lives have become ver y internal and when we do break away from our laptops, phones and tablets we want an authentic community experience – that’s what street food can give us.
ENCOURAGING THE TREND – SOUTHEAST ASIA
Closer to home, the move can be said begun in Philippines. In 2012, taking a leaf from Off The Grid, Cucina Andare was launched. Co-founded by Anton Diaz, a food and travel blogger who saw how such markets attracted people in US, he felt that it was time his fellow countrymen working hard in their individual trucks and the community deserve better lifestyle market experiences. Going with his gut feeling, they applied for business permit and approached privately-owned areas to run the weekend-only market where food trucks convened alongside non-truck food vendors. The big idea is for entrepreneurs to meet their peers and exchange opinions and discover new concepts to excite Filipinos’ tastebuds. Saying that a minimum of 10 trucks would be recommended as a starting point to create a vibrant ambience that will attract crowds and more businesses to join the market; it is also primed as a tourist attraction as experts in traditional and everyday local food made their presence at the market. Throw in live music, al fresco dining environment and cold beers as well as artisan drinks, you’ve got one weekend festival of food, fun and friends.
Anton Diaz’s blog: www.ourawesomeplanet.com
Cucina Andare: www.facebook.com/CucinaAndare