On the road
Five months ago, a group of us went to a music festival in the city and two bands in, we wandered outside to the parking lot for a cigarette break. As the quasi-ritual of spinning the last remaining smoke between the four of us commenced, I noticed two young chaps standing by a car right opposite, throwing us furtive glances and trying to make eye contact. I remember thinking just how hilariously shady the whole thing felt, like the early seconds of cliché-replete ‘Say No To Drugs’ awareness campaign skit. Just then, one of them walked up to us and, in hushed tones, whispered: “Hey, are you guys hungry? I’ve got hot dogs in the car, if you want to buy.”
And that, folks, was my first brush with food trucks. The last year saw an explosion of food trucks in the city; some with all their ducks in a row. But it’s also a market saturated with bit-players like the aforementioned, who seemed to have put little thought into pricing, branding and the rudiments of taking that great idea you had at the pub and turning it into a sustainable business.
Siddhanth Sawkar’s The Spitfire BBQ Truck, the country’s first BBQ food truck though, is an exemplary model of how to hack it in the relatively unchartered territory of the mobile eatery business. Started in May, Sawkar now finds himself already expanding in 2015, upgrading his van, expanding his menus and possibly even adding a dessert truck. The fundamental trick, Sawkar says, is ‘realising the whole thing is a 24-hour business’. Plus, he’s tapped social media effectively to build a community that eagerly watches for his updates on the truck’s location and specials for the day. Sawkar’s truck thrives on changing things up: today it’s hot dogs in Indiranagar and then tomorrow it will be a Mediterranean-style veg burger across town in Sahakaranagar.
Along the same lines, there’s also Gypsy Kitchen and De3 food trucks, with their mean sandwiches, burgers and subs. Each of these roving restaurants draw from the food truck phenomenon that first surfaced on the streets of an economic recession-hit America. Shortly after the real estate bubble burst in 2008, many start-up restaurateurs were forced to adopt a leaner business model that didn’t require investment in bricks-and-mortar establishments. Bangalore’s food trucks, however, weren’t born in a similar economic climate and Sawkar, who’s also a restaurant owner, will tell you that it’s harder to run a food truck sometimes, with the ‘busted engines and broken radiators’. And yet, there’s an air that is equal parts surprise and pride when he tells you that his burgeoning food truck business was originally only meant to be a three-month experiment.
Freelance writer Paul Dharamraj brings you the latest start-up
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