Ever wondered what it takes to build a food truck? Each time we spot a food truck on the roads of Kolkata, we are reminded of the famous TV show ‘Eat Street’, where the host visits food trucks all across America and indulges in some ultimate gastronomic delicacies. Though lagging behind by international standards, food trucks have certainly hit the streets of Kolkata and has been almost three years since. Generally modified from mini trucks and vans, food trucks have refrigerators, ovens, and every other kitchen equipments installed inside them. Let us take you on a behind-the-scenes journey on ‘the making of a food truck’
Food trucks are part of the ‘pop-up restaurant’ bandwagon and an integral part of the street food industry, globally. Prompt services and healthy customer relationships are key to the popularity of a food truck. With the number of food fanatics growing daily, food trucks are both convenient and time saving. But it is their unique ‘on-the-go’ factor that makes them truly appealing. Historically, food trucks have descended from Texas ‘Chuckwagons’, a type of ‘field kitchen’ used by cowboys back in the days, to store kitchen equipments and sell food items on the prairies of the United States. Many attribute its invention to Charles Goodnight, a Texas cattle rancher, who modified an army wagon in 1866. In 1872, a food vendor named Walter Scott had conceived of the ‘Lunch wagon’ and sold sandwiches and pies to office goers in Providence, Rhode Island.
An evolving trend
In modern times, food trucks are a craze amongst people. From pop culture influenced decors, to the range of delicacies they have on offer, food trucks indeed have an inherent swagger about them and it is only too easy to gauge their ever increasing popularity. If you are a food lover with an entrepreneurial lookout, then food-truck business is definitely a lucrative one. According to an industry research, the global food truck business is soon to reach a maximum high of US$ 2.7 billion, in terms of annual revenue, by 2017. In the UAE, food trucks are touted as the next big start-up opportunity. In India, Bangalore leads the food truck brigade with a startling number of trucks operating day in and day out. Last year, they had a ‘Music and Food Truck Festival’ to savour on culinary delicacies while enjoying some live music. The demand of these food trucks has subsequently given rise to their manufacturing units as well.
Shiva Kitchen Equipments, a modular kitchen manufacturing unit from Kolkata, is leading the way with its innovative designs. They have recently bagged a deal from the West Bengal government, wherein they are into the manufacturing of ‘Haringhata Meat Trucks’. Ashok Sinha, the main enthusiast and the head of Shiva Kitchen Equipments, wants more people to come forward and cash in on this trend.
Setting up a food truck is quite simple. One has to first acquire a mini truck or a van and get it remodelled by the food truck manufacturing unit. This is done by the use of either stainless steel or mild steel sheets or by mixing both. In case of budget constraints, iron or cast iron can also be used. First, the external skeleton of the car is removed and the new look of the truck is designed on AutoCAD or any other alternate platform. Once the design is approved, the food truck is engineered accordingly. Food grade steel is used for cladding of the interiors and provisions are made for water tank, generator, etc. Standard kitchen equipments such as freezer, microwave oven, coffee vending machine, bain-marie are then installed, before the food truck is ready to hit the streets. “In the last two years, enquiries have been pouring in from all corners of the country for the construction of food trucks. We have bought a CNC (Computer Numeric Control) device from Japan to help us in the bending and punching of steel sheets. Building a food truck is not an overtly difficult process but the equipment to be fitted in, will depend on the products to be sold,” says Ashok Sinha of Shiva Kitchen Equipments.
Present predicaments and the road ahead
Apart from the cost of the vehicle, the cost of making a food truck can range from anywhere between `2 – 25 lakh, depending on the size and equipments used.
The registration of a food truck is rather an easy process. A ‘No Objection Certificate’ has to be obtained from the Traffic department of Kolkata Police and from the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, to run a food truck. The trade license will carry the car registration number and the area the car will operate in.
The major hindrance currently restricting boom of the food truck business is that this business itself and its licensing are not yet regularised by the government. For entreprenuers about to venture into the food truck business, cooperation with the local authorities is of utmost importance. Partha Chatterjee, owner of the Yummylicious food truck, remarks, “The government should make a separate provision for food trucks. We are ready to pay for sub-metres and taxes, as long as it is all regularised. The government should encourage this new wave of entrepreneurship.”
Kolkatans are avid food lovers; the industry is ready and hungry for work; people are willing to cash in on the food truck trend. With a proper system in place and encouragement from the government, Kolkata will surely make it big, internationally, in the food truck scene.
For aficionados of the mobile leisure industry, much like food trucks, motorhomes are also a big possibility. Enthusiasts like Partha Chatterjee and Ashok Sinha are flirting with the possibility of building a test model. If all goes well, we might just experience a boom in the Recreational Van industry as well.