Food Trucks Experts Pioneer New Services to Stay Competitive

Over the last few years food trucks have exploded onto the scene in cities all throughout the country, offering more variety than the traditional taco trucks that first made an entrance on the west coast. Today’s food trucks offer food from all over the world, and have gotten pricier as well with gourmet options and former restaurant chefs leaving their kitchens behind for the open road. However like any market, the mobile food market has considerably grown, and food truck entrepreneurs have found a number of ways to stay competitive and distinguish their businesses from the rest.

Some of the greatest limitations food trucks face are local and citywide ordinances that restrict their hours of operation and the space in which they can sell food. Because of these rules, many trucks take advantage of a huge rush in business during peak hours but are forced off the road shortly afterwards. Finding innovative ways to fill their schedules helps these trucks stay profitable even during off-peak hours.

More food trucks are directly interacting with their customers by having their chefs come to parties and events and personally cook for all the guests. Personalized catering options give customers an opportunity to become more acquainted with food trucks and change up their normal routines. Other trucks special events every weekend, including parties, lunches and weddings. In New York City the trend “Food Truck Fridays” has caught on with many companies that spice up their weekly catering with lunch from a popular food truck.

Some trucks are focusing on what they do best, and leaving everything else out of the equation. East Coast restaurant and food truck chain Luke’s Lobster has limited its offerings to put a focus on the lobster, shrimp and crab rolls that is does best. Vice president Ben Conniff says “We know we can do three things better than anyone else. Some ingredients are so good the best thing you can do is keep them simple.”

Industry experts also suggest that new food truck operators invest in high quality equipment to make sure they stay competitive with other trucks. Losing time replacing broken equipment or adding new fixtures can be very costly for new trucks. Conflicting rules in different cities and municipalities can also hinder new trucks. In cities like Chicago and New York City law enforcement is particularly stringent on food trucks, and having insight into how trucks interact with city government can save thousands of dollars in fines.

Despite how popular food trucks have become, the market continues to grow and failed ventures only make up a small percentage of the mobile food industry. As the trend gains more traction, more cities finding ways to incorporate the trucks, and even restaurant brands are building their own food trucks to build up buzz.

DailyFoodtoEat is the official blog of FoodtoEat, a sustainable online food ordering and concierge catering service featuring your favorite restaurants, food trucks and caterers. Check out the deliciousness here: www.foodtoeat.com

 

Chicago Food Trucks Banned from Cooking Onboard

Nearly six months ago Chicago approved new legislation meant to help food trucks legally operate in the city and finally have the opportunity to cook food on board. However in those six months not one single truck has successfully been licensed for onboard cooking. 109 food trucks have applied for Chicago’s Mobile Food Preparer licenses, but according to the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer protection, none of them have met the city’s requirements.

For many food trucks cooking their food onboard is the only way to serve a superior, made-to-order product. The Jibarito Stop food truck invented a new sandwich called the jibarito, with seared steak, lettuce, tomato and cheese between hot friend plantains. However the truck’s owners Cely Rodriguez and Moraima Fuentes may never be able to actually serve this sandwich.

“I think many food truck owners are hesitant to even pursue cooking onboard because of their haunting experience with working with the city,” said Rodriguez.

Food truck owners certainly feel the same way about applying for this license, encountering city officials that cite numerous problems but offer no real solutions. Gabriel Wiesen, food truck operator and owner of Midwest Food Trucks said that Chicago’s regulation is “one of the most, if not the most, stringent in the country.”

Food truck owners had a difficult enough time getting a license to serve prepackaged food, that cooking onboard seems nearly impossible. Chicago’s code requires that food trucks have ventilation equipment and gas line equipment that are very difficult to install and raise the cost of outfitting a truck as much as $20,000. This equipment can also raise the height of food trucks to 13 feet, making it impossible to travel beneath certain underpasses in Chicago.

However the Office of Business Affairs is telling a different story. Spokeswoman Jennifer Lipford said that only four of the 109 food trucks that applied for the license have returned for follow-up consultations.

“The city wants to see a thriving food truck industry that also maintains important health and safety standards that are in place to protect the public,” said Lipford. “We want to see more food trucks and we want to work with people, but we can’t work with them if they don’t come back.”

Many food truck owners still believe that the city is sending mixed messages towards food trucks. Aaron Crumbaugh of Wagyu Wagon has been discouraged by the process of obtaining licenses in Chicago, and has turned his attentions to outfitting food trucks in other cities with straightforward licensing procedures. Another truck, Beavers Coffee + Donuts Truck has been forced to operate solely on private property without an onboard cooking license. The truck still must work with a local commissary to assist with a number services including wastewater and grease disposal. Food trucks so far have not found any such commissaries.

The Chicago Tribune recently confirmed one known commissary as well as a shared kitchen facility which allegedly qualifies as one, though the owner was unaware because of a miscommunication.
It seems that miscommunication and confusion have been paramount in preventing food trucks from fully operating within Chicago, and many truck operators are calling for a city liaison to assist them in the licensing process. This licensing debacle has already caused several trucks to shut down permanently, and raises questions as to whether Chicago truly intends to allow food trucks after years of back and forth debate on the topic.

DailyFoodtoEat is the official blog of FoodtoEat, a sustainable online food ordering and concierge catering service featuring your favorite restaurants, food trucks and caterers. Check out the deliciousness here: www.foodtoeat.com

 

The Battle Between Restaurants and Food Trucks Continues

The Battle Between Restaurants and Food Trucks Continues

With the rise of food trucks in major cities across America, brick-and-mortar restaurants have been angered and pressed by increased competition. As a result, several ordinances have been put in place by each city limiting the operation of food trucks and affecting business and sales. Food truck vendors have been fighting these regulations so they are able to serve their mobile meals to the public with ease, and restaurants have been pushing back to protect their economic interests and maintain their establishments. Who will win the battle? Let us know what you think!

DailyFoodtoEat is the official blog of FoodtoEat, a sustainable online food ordering and concierge catering service featuring your favorite restaurants, food trucks and caterers. Check out the deliciousness here: www.foodtoeat.com

 

Food Trucks in Chicago Still Heavily Regulated

This Wednesday the Chicago City Council is expected to approve a new food truck ordinance in Chicago, which will finally allow the mobile vendors to operate legally within the city. However food trucks will most likely not become more accessible for the people of Chicago, as the new ordinance seems like it will successfully contain the food truck trend.

On the plus side food trucks will soon be able to cook and prepare their food on site rather than packaging everything beforehand. Food trucks should also now be allowed to operate between 5 a.m. to 2 a.m., and the city will call for a minimum of five “truck stands” in six major business districts. However these rulings are the few aspects of the new ordinance that actually support food trucks.

Aside from these allotted spaces, food trucks still will not be able to park within 200 feet of any existing food establishment, including stores like Starbucks or 7-Eleven. Fines for parking in the areas start at around $1,000, meaning potential customers still won’t have access to food trucks in many of the busiest areas. However during lunch hours there will still most likely be food trucks roaming the streets or double-parking to allow a quick escape if they are forced to move. Food trucks cannot successfully operate like this, one of the largest draws of a food truck is it’s mobility, customers can expect a food trucks at accessible locations revealed through Twitter; the trucks in turn serve food until the line dwindles or the food runs out. With food trucks unsure how long they can stay in any spot, there’s no guarantee that a customer will even get their food after placing an order.

Food trucks will also be required to install GPS devices in their trucks to allow the police to track their movements if they park outside of their allotted spaces. A map has already been produced showing the small ‘islands’ where food trucks would be allowed to park, if the spots have not already been taken.

Food trucks will still have a considerable disadvantage to brick-and-mortar restaurants in Chicago, as the new ordinance doesn’t try to help people seeking lunch, but looks out for the interests of brick-and-mortar restaurants which would prefer to avoid the competition. Restaurants complain that food trucks steal their customers by parking nearby, without the high overhead costs and taxes. Given how many food trucks have expanded into brick-and-mortar, and vice versa, the two are becoming increasingly related. However as long as brick-and-mortar restaurants still feel slighted by food trucks, they will use their influence to contain the food truck industry in Chicago.

DailyFoodtoEat is the official blog of FoodtoEat, a sustainable online food ordering and concierge catering service featuring your favorite restaurants, food trucks and caterers. Check out the deliciousness here: www.foodtoeat.com

 

Meals on Wheels for Dogs

The food truck industry has grown tremendously in recent years with the introduction of ethnic foods prepared and served by innovative vendors who put their own unique spin on food from their homelands. Walking down the streets of New York, I’ve seen any and every type of food from Indian biryani to Colombian arepas.

However, the business has taken a turn down a new avenue—gourmet food trucks for dogs. The philosophy behind such an obscure idea is that dogs should be pampered with delicious meals and desserts on-the-go (during their morning walk in the park) just as we are. Fido to Go, a food truck started by dog lovers Donna Santucci and Tracy Werner, opened up last year in Chicago. Ms. Santucci, who is now the sole owner of the truck, serves doggy cookies and ice cream during the summer months in the city’s dog parks. In Boston last week, The Chef Michael’s Food Truck for Dogs rolled out with a new menu. The line of freshly prepared foods is called Carvery Creations™ and includes savory, meaty meals for canines. The owners state, “we work with animal cognition experts, nutritionists, dog behaviorists and, of course, chefs, to understand everything we can about dogs and food.” Their goal is to take dogs, which make friendly companions for many of us, on a “culinary adventure.”

Another food truck in Orlando named Poochi Sushi serves exactly what its name suggests—sushi for dogs. Hicks’ Sit ‘n’ Stay Pet Café is a mobile food vendor that prepares organic foods for dogs. Some of the items on the menu are creatively named “Ruff-ins,” “Mutt-balls, and” Pup-sicles.”

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The response among the community of dog owners has been positive so far. Many are very receptive to the idea of taking their dog out to a gourmet lunch or dinner if they had the opportunity. The idea is especially popular among dog owners whose pets have food allergies or other illnesses that affect their diet.

Nevertheless, the success of this business depends exclusively on how many dog owners exist in the city and the popularity of dog parks, where owners bring their dogs for social hour. Without this culture, a food truck serving meals only targeted towards pets will probably not last long. I’d like to see how a food truck for dogs does in New York, where people walk their dogs at all times of the day and spend much time in parks letting their dogs run free. We’ll see what the future brings for both the food truck and pet industries.

DailyFoodtoEat is the official blog of FoodtoEat, a sustainable online food ordering and concierge catering service featuring your favorite restaurants, food trucks and caterers. Check out the deliciousness here: www.foodtoeat.com

 

Chicago Mayor Seeks to Reach Food Truck Compromise this Summer

Food trucks have had trouble co-existing with brick-and-mortar restaurants in most major cities, but local and state legislators have a done a fair job at ameliorating these issues and creating a compromise that both types of food vendors can live with. In Chicago, such an agreement has failed to pass so far, but Mayor Rahm Emanuel plans to break this two-year stalemate.

“The other cities – San Francisco, Seattle, New York – they’re not smarter than us. So, I said we’re gonna … find common ground to move forward. I’ve now introduced an ordinance that, in my view, moves us forwards. Other people will make changes along the way, but my goal here is to find common ground, move us forward, not stare off at each other and do nothing and wait two to three years while other cities move forward.”

Food truck owners are currently displeased with the mayor’s proposal to require food trucks to stay 200 feet away from restaurants, and their designation as ‘food stands’ in high density areas, as well as mandatory GPS devices they may need to install so that the city can track their movements. The mayor has said he’s open to compromise on the 200-foot buffer, but believes it is a ‘golden balance’ between the restaurants and the trucks.

The new proposed compromise aims to authorize food trucks this summer, and is designed to strike a balance based upon three basic criteria. Food trucks must park at least 200 feet away from any licensed restaurant except in the hours between midnight and 5 a.m., they must be in a location where they can legally park, and they cannot remain in any one location for more than two hours at a time.

This ordinance also creates designated food stands in areas of the city that are very congested in order to give food trucks a defined area where they know they can operate. These food stands would be exempt from the 200-foot buffer and be long enough for approximately two parking spaces. A minimum of five food stands would be located in each of the city’s six designated community areas, and they may be built in other parts of the city as well.

As of now Mayor Emanuel still plans for the food trucks to install GPS systems to “monitor and enforce truck locations and activity”. The Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection would also cap the number of food truck licenses and impose a lottery system to prevent crowding and safety concerns.

Mayor Emanuel again voiced his belief in restaurants and food trucks reaching a compromise, “Chicago is one of the culinary capitals of the world. We can do this. We can move forward, rather than talk about something and make no progress when it’s essential for the economy to move forward. I think we have the right type of resolution. It may not make everybody 100 percent happy. But doing nothing is not a choice we can make as a city.”

We’re pleased to see the mayor’s optimism toward the Chicago mobile food community, and hopefully by the end of the summer some original food trucks can roll out and begin operating legally.

DailyFoodtoEat is the official blog of FoodtoEat, a sustainable online food ordering and concierge catering service featuring your favorite restaurants, food trucks and caterers. Check out the deliciousness here: www.foodtoeat.com

 

Chicago Mayor Gives Food Trucks Two Thumbs Up

Blogged by: Anjali Kapur

Mayor Emanuel has made a proposal to loosen the mandates placed on food trucks that serve Chicago streets. Preparing fresh food in vehicles is currently illegal in the city; food trucks must sell food that is already prepared and packaged in a stationary licensed kitchen. However, the mayor believes that allowing food trucks to conduct their businesses properly will encourage the growth of “a vibrant food culture across the city.” He sees the expansion of the food truck industry to be an economically lucrative opportunity.

The most important provision of the ordinance presented by the Mayor will finally allow food trucks to fully prepare meals in their vehicles. Other conditions will require them to park in established food truck lots, or at least 200 feet away from other restaurants and food vendors. While they will be able to serve food around the clock, they can only remain in the same spot for a maximum of two hours. Employees must follow all food safety regulations and trucks will be inspected by city officials regularly. A GPS will be installed in each truck to track their daily whereabouts. Although there are a number of stipulations that food truck operators must abide by, approval of these regulations will finally establish a street food industry in Chicago that can hopefully match that of other major cities in the near future.

Some of the food trucks that are rooting for legal permission to prepare and serve their meals on wheels include Hummingbird Kitchen, Flirty Cupcakes, Gaztro-Wagon, and The Meatyballs Mobile. The ordinance was proposed to the City Council yesterday, and many await the decision which may be made as early as next month.

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DailyFoodtoEat is the official blog of FoodtoEat, a sustainable online food ordering and concierge catering service featuring your favorite restaurants, food trucks and caterers. Check out the deliciousness here: www.foodtoeat.com

 

Food Genius: The Netflix for Food?

Food Genius is a new application available for Android, iPhone and other platforms that acts as a customized food recommendation engine to help those who just cannot decide what to eat. It works in a similar way to Netflix in that users rate food they have tasted and enter in their preferences to receive customized suggestions based upon distinct flavors and ingredients.
                The app is based out of Chicago, and works with users and restaurants to help choose the perfect restaurant dish based upon a user’s taste profile. It’s no easy feat for technology to customize food based upon ingredients, and requires a great deal of understanding of each ingredient, cooking process and other variables that go into food preparation. The application links these variables together to classify how a dish would relate to each user’s taste profile. Reviews from across the internet are cross-referenced with the user’s preference to make impressively accurate recommendations.
                Food Genius’ founder, Justin Massa, says that what makes Food Genius unique is that it understands what makes a certain dish taste good, whether it be a crunch, smoothness or warmth. In this way Food Genius collects information from each dish and files them under its complex taxonomy system. Massa also notes that many user’s were not aware of what ingredients were in the food they eat out, and would sometimes rate an ingredient low without knowing that it’s in some of their favorite dishes. Because Food Genius is highly ingredient based, a working knowledge of what’s in the food we eat certainly helps the process along.
                Though based in Chicago now, Food Genius has over 150,000 dishes and is rapidly expanding. Expect to see this app in your area soon, and be ready to surrender your taste buds to this Netflix of food. To download this app, click here.
DailyFoodtoEat is the official blog of FoodtoEat, a sustainable online food ordering and concierge catering service featuring your favorite restaurants, food trucks and caterers. Check out the deliciousness here: www.foodtoeat.com