From humble beginnings to a culinary revolution, it might be time to stop calling food trucks a trend.
From the early ‘chuck wagons’ of the 1800’s, to the Weiner Mobile, then to the 1950s and the advent of the ice cream truck. Chip trucks came to be in the late 50s/early 60s. Taco trucks emerged in the US during the 1970s.
Often, referred to as “Roach Coaches” – not the most appetising name – the food truck wasn’t the hot off the grill, gourmet samplings that we know and love today. It was basic, blue collar, grab and go greasy fare.
One of the catalysts for the emergence of food trucks has been downturns in economic conditions. When the hospitality industry is struggling; many an out of work chef has taken the chance to start their own business without the financial layout and risks required to start up more traditional restaurant or even an immobile food stall.
Kanjanawattana, a former electrical engineer at Isuzu Motor Thailand, said he decided to seek some extra revenue five years ago by developing his family business, a sweet dipping sauce for raw mango.
“When seeking retail channels, the food booth requires a huge budget for investment, while the mini truck is a potential option for the startup,” Mr Kua said. At first he sold his product and the mangoes only on weekends, learning the ups and downs over one year while still a salaryman.
“I developed my products until I found the best-selling one, then I decided to quit my job and become a full-time food truck operator in 2017,” Mr Kua said. He now sells mango spicy salad at his truck and promotes the Kae Jang sweet dipping sauce on social media
Official Support For Food Trucks
The Commerce Ministry is now planning to promote the food-truck business, especially since it has grown amid the Covid-19 crisis. Deputy Commerce Minister Weerasak Wangsuphakijkosol said he had told the Department of Business Development to come up with promotions to draw more small operators into the food-truck business. He added that operators have more flexibility as they can use their trucks as a guarantee for loans.
Food trucks are expected to prosper after the government gave full support to a plan to attract self-starting entrepreneurs via SME loans and attractive interest rates from state banks. The department has teamed up with several state agencies and companies in the food and beverage business on further support for food truck entrepreneurs,” he said.
The department will provide many measures and programs for food truck startups, including low-cost training courses, cooking classes and loans. The department will maintain its network strength in the sector, he said, and food truck operators must pass safety and hygienic standards.
Two state-run financial institutions, the Government Savings Bank and the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Bank of Thailand, have been told to launch loan programs for food truck operators.
The food-truck business is flexible and has low risk, compared to normal restaurants. The value of the business in 2019 was 2.64 billion THB, which rose by 11.97 per cent to 2.95 billion THB in 2020.
Statistics show that 60 per cent of food-truck operators are in the Central region, followed by 14 per cent in the North, 9 per cent in Northeast, 6 per cent each in East and South and 5 per cent in the West of the country.
Products sold via food trucks in Thailand are international food (27 per cent), drink (26 per cent) and Thai food (22 per cent).
Food Truck Club
More support for the industry is available from the Food Truck Club (Thailand). This is the first and largest food truck business network organisation in Thailand. With more than 700 food truck operators (Sep ’62) as members.
Chanin Wattanapreksa, president and founder of Food Truck Club Thailand, said the sector will improve fast in the coming years from individual food and drink merchants in franchise form.
“The value of the food truck industry is expected to double in the next couple of years from 13 billion baht now,” he said. “The food truck market is drawing the attention of the young generations because they tend to be entrepreneurial.”
As a result, the food truck sector is a different picture than it was 10 years ago, Mr Chanin said.
“In the past, food trucks relied on word of mouth to gain a good reputation,” he said, “but the social media platform has shifted the communication landscape through online news and reviews from customers and bloggers.”
Gathering information, news and activities related to Food Truck is one of the missions of Food Truck Club (Thailand) to help entrepreneurs with Food Truck, those who do business related to Food Trucks, or those who are interested in entering the Food Truck business.
Helping to build brand awareness
Apart from single operator businesses, some of the big players in the food industry are discovering that operating food trucks can be an important part of their business model.
The KFC Food Truck had its first trial in front of Sathorn Square Tower in Bangkok in October 2020.
Dunkin ‘Donuts have begun to increase their distribution channels with Food Trucks to sell donuts and drinks since the end of last year. There are now four trucks focusing on different communities such as hospitals, community malls and educational institutions. The plan is to open for 6 months and then rotate to a new place which will give access to a wider audience.
The Minor Food Group Public Company Limited, owner of the Pizza Company, Sizzler, The Coffee Club and other brands now has food trucks for Dairy Queen and The Coffee Club. Krispy Kreme is another brand that has embraced Food Trucks.
It is mainly a strategy to build the brand to be known and to target customers.