Saying that the mobile food industry is thriving is a gross understatement! One only has to look at the jaw-dropping number of food trucks and mobile restaurants that are popping out of nowhere like mushrooms.
Especially in New York and Los Angeles, these food trucks are giving well-established brick-and-mortar restaurants and fast food chains a very tough competition. However, before food trucks came to be, food carts were the kings and princes of the mobile food industry.
They’re like hipsters: serving food on the go before it was cool or mainstream.
They may have been overshadowed by fancy-looking food trucks, BUT they will always have a place in the mobile food market. If you’re someone who can’t seem to decide whether to go for a food truck or cart, a quick lowdown on what food carts can do might help you make up your mind.
“So What EXACTLY Are Food Carts?”
If you’ve seen hotdog and ice cream carts (and I’m pretty sure you have), then you’ve seen food carts in action! While they could vary in size, use, etc., food trucks can be narrowed down to two basic types:
(1) The first one has enough space to allow the seller to sit and stand inside it…able to serve hotdogs, sushi, sandwiches, and other food items through the window.
(2) The second type of food carts, on the other hand, is built from the ground up for storing and cooking food items inside the vehicle. But unlike the former, it doesn’t have sufficient space for the seller to move around.
As you can tell, food carts are significantly smaller than food trucks. ‘Thanks’ to its average size of 12 to 20 square feet, the amount of food, cooking equipment, and staff you can squeeze in a food cart is SEVERELY limited, which means the number of customers you can cater to and the profit you can generate in a day will be limited.
Having said that, the small size of food carts does have its share of advantages. For starters, having less space means you don’t need to spend an exorbitant amount to power your food cart with propane and electricity, which means the operating expenses you have to deal with are substantially lower compared to that of a food truck. This gives you the opportunity to keep your prices lower than the competition. Combine that with excellent customer service and unique food offerings and even a humble food cart can give massive mobile restaurant a run for their money!
However, you should also consider the food cart’s mobility. While their small size makes them easy to operate and maintain, they surprisingly suck BIG time at the mobility department as they can’t travel using their own power. The carts are towed by a larger vehicle and dropped off to the location where they’re permitted to sell. In some cases, they stay on the same spot for years!
Is It For Me?
If you’re someone who wants to start a mobile food business BUT don’t want to deal with off-the-roof costs of licensing and maintenance, a reliable food cart could give you that modest yet solid start.
You better make sure, however, that the spot where you intend to do business isn’t too competitive. People love variety…something that food carts are hard-pressed to provide. And if there are too many food trucks or brick-and-mortar restaurants nearby, the competition might prove to be too stiff for you to profit!