Why Food Trucks Have Never Conquered City Centers

Emerged in the early 2010s in France, “mobile kitchens” have had to face various economic and political obstacles that have limited their implementation in cities.

Eating a foreign specialty, a hot dog or a poke bowl fresh from the kitchen of a truck, is it finally possible in the center of cities? At the center of a real craze at the beginning of the 2010s, the installation of “Food trucks” in public spaces quickly ran into the reluctance of the various executives of the main French cities. A lack of political will around the promotion of this concept, which came directly from the United States, which then accompanied the “migration» trucks for private sporting and cultural events. explanations.

Dense specifications that may deter some entrepreneurs

The concept had it all. Straight from New York, food trucks might have long been enthroned amidst the sidewalks and tourist spots of our cities. Unlike traditional chip stalls or pizzerias, the “mobile food trucks» I want to be more alternative «healthyto classic fast food offering home cooking from around the world. “French consumers quickly fell in love with the concept. The latter is also particularly brilliant in the sense that it is not up to the customer to move to look for the product, but the product that moves comes to him.explains Bernard Boutboul, president of Gira Conseil. Therefore, the first real food truck appeared in Paris in 2011 with the smoking truck and their homemade burgers. The latter, thanks to the media coverage he received, started a real movement within the capital, which later spread throughout France.

However, the observation has no appeal. The food truck is not at the top of the most popular places to eat in French cities. According to Bernard Boutboul”after the madness of the years 2013-2014, their number has also increased from 750 in the national territory in 2014 to 250-300 today“. How then to explain this decrease in supply, when the demand seemed to be there? “Food trucks have faced three headwinds that have limited their ability to grow in big citiesBernard Boutboul says:The outcry from the restaurant guilds that accused food trucks of unfair competition, the municipalities that do not want to see agglomerations of trucks in their cities and the repression of fraudsters who denounced risks around hygiene in trucksThese three factors therefore seem to have been powerful enough brakes to limit their deployment and sustainability in cities. With little political support and less profitable than traditional restaurants, food trucks naturally had a hard time resisting. .

Municipalities reluctant to encourage their establishment

The popularity of food trucks was such that the city of Paris decided, in 2015, to take over this phenomenon. “The city council has put out a call for tenders to award locations to the food trucks. We believed in it at the beginning. However, these places were clearly not the most touristic and strategic in the capital.laments Bernard Boutboul.

In July 2015, 56 food truckers were able to sign a “temporary private occupation agreement of the municipal public domaindirectly with the city, after a tender launched in April that mobilized 154 candidates. “Away from the tourist hotspots, it has been especially difficult for food trucks to be profitable» concede. “The municipality could normally have followed New York’s lead. Six years ago the mayor [Bill de Blasio] decided to reserve five entire avenues for more than thirty food trucks, in exchange for paying rent. And everything worked perfectly.“.

Towards deployment in the periphery and during private events

However, it may be a bit early to predict the end of food trucks in France. Although its deployment, generalization and sustainability in city centers has not been crowned with great success, the “mobile dining roomsthey are still indispensable in certain events. Customers flock to trucks present at festivals, around stadiums or concert halls. Something to inspire some professionals to take the plunge. Sébastien, originally from Martinique and owner of a small Caribbean restaurant on the outskirts of Paris, did not hesitate, in 2016, to invest in a food truck to cover certain events. “I move my restaurant to my truck during festivals or football games. I do it almost every week.he says. “It is really profitable because it allows me to have an absolutely significant additional income. I can earn between 300 and 900 euros per event“.

On the contrary, some food trucks have appeared as a launching pad for many restaurateurs, allowing them to diversify and expand their business. The best example is smoking truckthe pioneer of the French food truck that hassedentaryin 2016 to open restaurants in the center of the capital. Another example comes from the suburban side of Toulon. Lian, formerfood truck» of Chinese and Vietnamese specialties, later it also became a restaurant. “The food truck was my springboard that allowed me to settle permanently after» concede. “My business was profitable but I admit that after a while I got tired of the truck. In addition, it ended up being too small to accommodate the surplus of customers that increased a little more each year with the iron and as my reputation was consolidated.Lian explains. Food trucks always appear as backup or short-term solutions. “Today it is difficult for a food truck to be profitable because stocks quickly run out due to the low level of merchandise on board. The ones who do are the ones who work are the ones who work all the time, late and nightconcludes Bernard Boutboul.

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