We are a nation that loves to eat in the street. Let’s face it, there’s something so satisfying about standing in front of a beach and chowing down bhel poori, that Mumbai’s Chowpatty Beach stalls see patrons stopping by on bicycles and Ferraris alike, rubbing shoulders, plate in hand. While cheap, greasy roadside food will never go out of fashion, India is suddenly showing interest in the very American concept of the food truck, that evolved from the chuckwagon of the 1860s. And though the oldest food trucks in the country started a couple of years ago, there are still no laws, rules or guidelines for these moving kitchens, and just a handful of cities seem friendly towards the concept. “There are no laws for food trucks yet,” says Chennai-based restaurateur Vipin Sachdev, adding that one could easily run into trouble with authorities, as he cites how difficult the legal formalities can be. Just last week, Bangalore’s newest addition to the bandwagon, The SWAT Truck, had to shut shop as the cops played havoc. So they, along with The Square Ruth, have to keep changing their spots, according to police whims.
Laying the rules
Food truck owners across the country agree with this, pointing out that it’s entirely left to the local authorities. For instance, brothers TJ and Jagjit Singh have been operating Parathawallas & Grills as a “mobile canteen” near the Film Nagar Club in Hyderabad for two years now, with a municipality and FSSAI license. Further South, Raiju Ramanadhan’s Kitchen Caravan in Muvattupuzha, a small town near Ernakulam, has also been in operation for two years now. In addition to the FSSAI and municipality, Ramanadhan also has a small scale industry license. But the man with the most number of food trucks in the country, Ajay Koneru of Dosa Place from Hyderabad, says, “I just take whatever license the authorities ask me to take.” He adds that one needs to get the truck certified by the RTO after it is modified. And speaking of modifications, Koneru, the owner of three food trucks that sell a variety of dosas and idlis, points out that there is no equipment designed for trucks, nor any specialists in modifying them yet. One has to make do with regular kitchen equipment and in most cases approach several people to get various aspects of the truck installed. And if you’re wondering about the capital, it can take anywhere between `4 lakh to `5 lakh to set up a basic food truck, agree Mumbai-based Shreyansh Madiwale and Nikhil Marathe. They sell a variety of quick fixes from milkshakes to momos and even biryani, through Eat N Run, a Tata Ace that is manned by their team of two employees.
Siddhanth Sawkar, who started The Spitfire BBQ Truck with partner Pratika Binani a year ago, is currently in the process of re-fabricating his Bangalore-based vehicle. He takes pride in having done all the modifications to his Force Tempo Traveller himself, and is also open to helping others with their food trucks. While Sawkar agrees with his counterparts on the need for legal provisions for food trucks, he disagrees with the premise that these trucks are about quick food. “For us it’s about fresh food and not fast food,” insists Sawkar, whose customers go where his burgers and hot dogs go, thanks to Facebook, the platform through which most food truckers inform their patrons about the whereabouts and specials of the day. But this will soon be replaced by real time tracking, shares Yelamanchili Karthik, who is working on a GPS app that will enable his customers to track The Yum Stop across Hyderabad. Karthik happens to be the only food trucker who operates from 7 am to 2 am (most of the other trucks are open only for lunch and dinner), with staff working on shifts to provide for the huge IT crowd that they cater to. Currently seeing around 300 customers a day since he started last August, Karthik’s mission is to have at least 50 trucks operating in the next six months.
While food trucks are meant to reach out to a large audience by operating in new locations regularly, this is something only a handful of food truckers dare to do, since one has to approach the local authorities before setting up in a new place. Thankfully, Karan Malik from South Delhi begs to differ. He gives new meaning to the concept of a food truck, having driven his Super Sucker Food Truck from Delhi to Goa, twice. In just 14 months of starting Super Sucker Food Truck, Malik is already a regular in the music festival circuit and was recently seen at VH1 Supersonic Goa 2014. Focusing on taking his brand of wraps, kheema pao and more to events, this food trucker has been to NH7, Sunburn and other festivals on invitation by the organisers. And when he’s not rocking festivals, he’s busy signing up at events in and around Delhi.
There are approximately 20 food trucks operating across the country currently and the numbers are growing. But despite owners like Shakti Subbarao of eight-month-old Gypsy Kitchen in Bangalore looking to start more trucks across the country on a franchisee model, how long will it be before the food truck gets its own laws and governing guidelines? Restaurateur and president of the National Restaurant Association of India, Riyaaz Amlani feels that there is hope, “but the government has to be convinced. Like in the case of microbreweries, we will have to wait for an intervention.” He adds that once the laws are in place, “every restaurateur will jump to own one.” And if you can’t wait that long for more of these to join the circuit in our city, here’s a quick look at the food trucks creating a buzz across the country.
Also look out for:
Awestruck, Gurgaon — 08470039124; Eggjactly The Food
Truck, Gurgaon — 09673870000;
Super Sucker Food Truck,
South Delhi — 09871547714 ;
Bite & Run, Pune — 09960536148;
The Yum Stop, Hyderabad — 07032997796; Parathawalas & Grills,
Hyderabad — 09494624132; Mumbai Rolling Kitchen, Navi Mumbai — 09820118713; Eat N Run, Mumbai — facebook.com/eatnrunfoodvan;
The Spitfire BBQ Truck, Bangalore — 09611539310; Hunger Chase, Bangalore — 09035852774;
De3 – The Eatery, Bangalore — 09591105369; Sumeru Wassup,
Kakkanad — 09745014266
This Mumbai-based company has been making natural, preservative-free popsicles for over a year and owner Pallavi Kuchroo decided to take her business to her hometown, Delhi. Since November the Frugurpop truck has been spotted around Gurgaon, at societies and corporate offices. For a real treat, ask for their tiramisu and cheesecake on a stick. Rs.100-Rs.150. Details: 08171719777
Kobri: Flavour Labs, a startup by Nandita R Shetty, took off in March 2014 and they launched their first food truck, Kobri, in October. Operating for lunch and dinner, they serve between 100-300 customers in Delhi-NCR region. Prices between Rs.140-Rs.180. Details: 01244266041
The Rolling Taste Buds: Located near the Chandigarh Group of Colleges, this truck is a hit with the students in the area. The menu has comfort food like channa bhatura, kadi rice, rajmah rice and kati rolls too. Rs.30-Rs.300. Details: 08283815961
What The Truck:
Just two months old, this truck by Gaurav Gianchandani runs on solar power and operates in Sector 32 and other areas around Gurgaon. While they also serve biryani, their forte is their wraps, burgers and hot dogs (ask for the one topped with mutton kheema). Rs.80-Rs.130. Details: 09810337934
Indiano Grill: This two-year-old food truck by Saurabh Dadarkar can be found on Sinhagad Road, offering wood-fired pizza, burgers and Hyderabad’s famous dum biryani. Pizzas from Rs.130. Details: 09423568677
Call O Roll: A chain of three cafes and one food truck, Call O Roll offers tortilla-based rolls (think barbecue crab roll, chicken fajita, etc) for the Indian palate. While you will not get Kolkata’s famous kati roll here, do ask for their fried fish like betki and basa. Find the truck at Highland Park. Rs.80-Rs.300. Details: 033 65003333
Sweetish House Mafia:
Neha Sethi’s Tata Nano needs no introduction in Mumbai. The home baker has been selling cookies around the city in a colourful car since April 2013 and recently opened a store as well. While the store offers cookies, coffee, shakes and sundaes, the car is exclusively for the cookies. Ask for the Nutella Seasalt that is her best. Rs.100 each. Details: facebook.com/SweetishHouseMafia
Dosa Place: Expect over 100 dosas like the Kerala Open, Teen Maar and Pizza Dosa, in addition to idlis. While their Mobile Truck Version 1 covers Ayyappa Society from 5 pm to 11 pm, their Mobile Truck Version 1 and the Idli & Tea trucks cover gated communities, corporate and social events. Their restaurant, Dosa Place Signature, is located on Necklace Road. From Rs.30 to Rs.150. Details: 07032907576
Gypsy Kitchen: This Tempo Traveller that currently covers HSR Layout, serves burgers, hot dogs and sandwiches will soon be coming to Indiranagar as well, says owner Shakti Subbarao. Ask for their signatures, the Gypsy and Ultimeat. Burgers from Rs.100-Rs.200. Details: 9019548565
Kitchen Caravan – Meals On Wheels: Inspired by the Jackie Chan flick Meals on Wheels, Raiju Ramanadhan dreamed of starting a food truck as a boy. His Kitchen Caravan now offers a dose of Malabar food near KSRTC bus stand in Muvattupuzha. Don’t leave without trying the kozhi varutharachathu. Prices from Rs.70. Details: 09946808028