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Restaurants reinvent the food truck

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"We like to try different things [on the menu] and have fun, and the food truck allowed this," says Sienam Lulla of Momos & Buns. The bright red and orange truck offered piping-hot fusion Chinese food at a recent Boston food truck competition among nearly 20 Boston and New York City vendors. Ms. Lulla, who also owns two restaurants with her husband, says that once you go corporate, you get locked into doing menus a certain way. With a food truck, "you get instant feedback from customers."

The modern gourmet food truck movement is often traced to Roy Choi, who launched his Kogi BBQ food trucks selling fusion Korean tacos in Los Angeles in 2008. In his first year, he raked in $2 million selling $2 tacos. The trend quickly traveled up the coast to San Francisco, Seattle, and beyond. By 2010, gourmet food trucks were spotted in most major cities; "The Great Food Truck Race" was a show on the Food Network; the prestigious Zagat guide announced it would begin reviews.

Many restaurant owners see an opportunity to expand their customer base by launching their own trucks. A 2012 poll found that 22 percent of "fast casual" and 13 percent of "quick service" and "family-dining operators" are considering adding a food truck, according to the National Restaurant Association, a Washington-based trade group.

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