Truck-to-Mortar: The Natural Progression for Restaurant Entrepreneurs
Food trucks are a great way for restaurant entrepreneurs who are eager to get their hands dirty and test out new food concepts in a particular market. As these trucks grow in popularity, many operators choose to move into a more permanent space.
Many see it as a natural progression for this type of business. Having a permanent space opens the restaurant to a broader audience and takes away the anxiety that comes with operating a food truck. Operating a food truck is not the most economical endeavor either. Dining options need to be priced lower to meet the patrons’ expectations and in most instances kitchen space must be rented to prepare what cannot be made inside the truck. Brick-and-mortar sites allow for more kitchen space for experimentation and ability to make everything in one place.
Several well-known restaurants first started as food trucks. Franklin’s Barbeque in Austin first started with a customized trailer and within two years converted to its current location. Komodo in Los Angeles was one of the first food trucks to follow the trend to create a more permanent location and currently has two permanent restaurants. Lardo in Portland moved to a permanent location in part due to the demand of its customers who wanted to linger and did not want to take their meal to go. Its three locations have ample indoor and outdoor seating for people to hangout.
“Food trucks are great incubators to test out various concepts with different demographics,” states Sasha Levine with CBRE. “Traveling to different neighborhoods allows a truck to solidify its identity and also determine which area supports its concept the most. A truck will identify where a majority of its customers live and choose a site in that area for a permanent location.” Sasha Levine has worked with several food truck operators, including Cajun Tailgators and Nammi, to help place them at Dallas Farmers Market’s newest addition The Market, an artisanal food hall.
Even after moving to a permanent space, restaurant entrepreneurs are not quick to trade in their trucks. Most operators continue to use their trucks to test out new food items as well as market their restaurant. The brick-and-mortar locations complement their trucks, not replace them, and provide another channel to reach their customer base.