A number of food trucks can now be seen parked on Dubai streets. Not only to meet the growing appetite quite fashionably but also to deal with the city’s growing demand to eat out. While it might seem like an easy drive-by, it requires a meticulous plan given factors like the mobile kitchen, unpredictable footfall and keeping up with quick service.
To get a better look under the hood, we spoke to food truck businesses Calle Tacos, Yumtingz and Roundup that is in Association with 54 East, a Food and Beverage Global Enterprise.
With new food trucks hitting the streets every month, it is reported that the food truck culture is only expected to grow more with time. As the government and regulators have come out in support, they have also made the entire process much easier. “Street food is a corner stone of every culture and it is finally the perfect time to introduce it in the UAE. The food regulations are in place and the residence are ready to embrace this new trend,” says Dana Al Sharif, Operations Manager of Calle Tacos. Adding to this perspective, Pascal Zion Moser, owner of the Yumtingz food truck says, “I love the fact that more and more food trucks are coming up in Dubai. I just hope that they stay ‘homegrown’ and cool and not turn commercial because the whole idea of a food truck is to have that experience of street food served that is made by the owner and his/her team.”
This is how they roll
The recipe for launching a food–truck business involves the right amount of doability topped with inspiration. To dig deeper, we asked what goes behind planning a menu for a food truck, from pre-launch to daily ingredients, changes or additions. “It is about customer expectations, the local culture, the suppliers, event hours allotted and the seasonality of ingredients,” says Dana Al Sharif. Pascal, on the other hand, says the food he grew up with became a part of the menu. “For me it was about heart. The type of food I grew up eating with and adding a twist to it – things like my mother’s roasted vegetable dinner turned into a salad. The changes and additions are governed by experiences of events and being able to cater better to the different demographics but always sticking to our guns and taste.”
One of the most important things of the food truck business is maintaining quality and consistency given that you are mostly on the road and away from the source. “We take our quality standards very seriously and work closely with the chefs and cooks daily to make sure we maintain the same food experience to all our customers all the time. This includes always evolving our menu and supplier list to include the best/freshest quality available in the market,” says Dana. “Being in a food truck, it is harder to maintain due to changing weather and temperatures as well as items being transported more. However quality is always there if you care about and take care of your products,” shares Pascal.
Unlike restaurant establishments, a food truck is always on the go. Thus, it is important to get the right ‘parking spot’ to be able to get maximum footfall. “Location is probably the most important factor in the success or failure of a food truck. With the start of the outdoor season we are being faced with this decision every weekend as multiple events run weekly in a metropolitan city like Dubai. The factors that are involved in choosing the location are footfall, actual location, surrounding environment, and of course and back ground of the location visitors,” says Dana.
Basically, the unpredictability of the footfall, lease and the share model it therefore becomes difficult to anticipate and aim for a profit margin. “It is very difficult to set the margin or change prices, we also do not want to compromise our quality or brand so we come to each event with nearly the same prices and serve our quality food, this can hurt sometimes depending on the revenue share or fee asked for but we value our quality and brand over the profit margin and we believe if we do so customers will return and we will remain successful,” says Pascal.
Fueling the food trucks
Before starting off the business there are few concerns that each owner expresses. Be it licensing or permits, registration to health and safety inspections, a slew of processes must be followed to meet the requirements. Kris Haggie is the senior director of Consultancy and Head of the Food Truck Division at ROUNDUP that works in Association with 54 East, a Food and Beverage Global Enterprise. “We are a one-stop-shop for all mobile businesses including food trucks which are main stream.” Given the popularity of the business and consumers’ demand for it, he attributes the growing number to “the country (UAE) having highest number of events and festivities compared elsewhere worldwide that also entices creative in cuisines for all thus allowing optimal levels of business.”
When deciding where the food truck will be set up at, the things that matter are the cuisine and the brand itself. Each food truck caters to a different demographic and thus the area which enables them to adapt to the same, making it high versatile and low risk.
They not only help in simplifying the process but also in tracking the progress of the businesses. “Roundup has a constant media support to make sure that the footfall is at its highest with transparent exposure. We have an app that assists the owners to do just that. The footfall can easily be tracked at different events through it via ticketing or otherwise historical data, media coverage etc,” he says. Though, where the food truck is parked at and what cuisine is served matters as well. “When deciding where the food truck will be set up at, the things that matter are the cuisine and the brand itself. Each food truck caters to a different demographic and thus the area which enables them to adapt to the same, making it high versatile and low risk.”
Most of the food–truck businesses are extremely active on social media platforms as it helps them to connect with their customers on a real-time basis and keep them aware about their whereabouts. “Social media is important for us as it lets our customers know where we are. We only use Instagram but its more to showcase our brand and share quality images of our projects and create a relationship with the public and our staff,” says Pascal.
“As a SMB, social media plays a major part in our communication with our customers. It is also the best way to get feedback from our customers. In restaurants, customer service is a very important part of the equation and social media allows us to have open bi-directional communication with our visitors,” concludes Dana.