With the introduction of mobile food services, the culinary landscape is witnessing a drastic change. Carts and kiosks are taking over the food industry. These ventures are highly lucrative and deliver an upscale dining experience. The mobile food industry offers many opportunities for anyone who wants to share culinary creations without investing heavily.
Michelle Nguyen, a young entrepreneur who recently launched her Vietnamese street food cart, shares her experience. She says, “The low startup costs and flexibility of operating a mobile business were crucial factors that enabled me to transform my culinary dreams into reality.“
Before leaping into this industry, you must opt for the right medium (vehicle). Naturally, the choice of vehicle will depend on the scope of your business, the foods you plan to serve, the budget for the company, and operation locations.
Kiosks, carts, trailers, and food trucks are common vehicles to break into the mobile food industry. By embracing these new methods, culinary ventures can bring delectable flavors and impressive marketing tactics to the streets. Moreover, these innovative culinary concepts are bound to evolve taste with various fusion foods.
Bringing a new level of convenience and creativity, kiosks are adaptable structures that have transformed the food industry. You can get a pre-built or custom-built kiosk for your products. The cost of a kiosk ranges from $3000 to $50,000.
Typically, kiosks are semi-permanent or permanent structures, often freestanding or built into existing establishments like airports, malls, or food courts. Amusement parks can have bigger outdoor kiosks. Compared with carts, this mobile station is larger and accommodates a wider selection.
“Kiosks have brought a new level of culinary creativity and is transforming the way chefs operate, allowing them to showcase their skills and serve high-quality food in a mobile setting,” says Anthony Bourdain, renowned chef and television personality.
Foods that do not require cooking or heating can be sold through a kiosk, such as donuts, pretzels, and cupcakes. Cooking in a cubicle is tricky, requiring proper ventilation systems. Generally, stalls that serve food are placed in the food court.
Branding and customization opportunities are higher when operating a kiosk. Brands can use distinct visual designs to stand out.
Startup Costs: $3,000 to $50,000
Purpose: Ideal for self-ordering food businesses and ones that do not require cooking.
Franchises: Has the potential to expand
Online Operation: Convenient ordering options
Compared with kiosks and food trucks, carts are smaller, portable structures that sell food. Mike Boyd from Cart King, a major food cart seller, says, “Carts are like cars – you can build a VW or a Mercedes Benz.”
You can opt for various features and designs, ultimately impacting the cost. Carts are generally designed to be highly mobile and intend to reach multiple customer bases. Naturally, carts are suited for pre-prepared or simple foods such as sandwiches, hot dogs, or snacks.
Cart owners can flexibly move their vehicles to high-traffic areas based on demand. Carts tend to have limited space or in-built equipment, making them a cost-effective option for startups. Initial capital investment and overhead expenses are much lower. It is an ideal business model for brands that want to test a new food concept before taking it on a larger scale.
Since carts are smaller, it has limited space for customization. However, the sky is the limit for branding creatively. It is imperative to remember state rules and regulations before purchasing a cart.
Startup Costs: $4,000 to $20,000
Purpose: Ideal for side businesses or testing out new products
Franchises: Limited cart franchise options
Online Operation: Little to no presence
With low investment compared to retail shops, food trucks are gaining popularity. Potentially lucrative alternative for brick-and-mortar stores, food trucks are becoming a go-to model for several food categories. Whether you want to sell tacos, seafood, or burger, food trucks are a unique option.
Food trucks offer higher mobility, allowing businesses to cater to festivals, events, markets, or other high-traffic areas. This business model is super effective in the food industry since it can quickly adapt to changing demands and trends. Small businesses can stay relevant by keeping up with the trends without breaking the bank.
The cost of opening a food business with this model will vary depending on the truck’s size and the equipment needed. The majority of food truck owners opt for used or retrofitted trucks.
Startup Costs: $15,000 to more than $100,000 depending on customization and condition of the truck
Franchises: Some food truck franchise opportunities
Online Operation: Potential for online pre-orders and promotions. Can also use digital platforms for marketing
Jane Simmons, a food critic, aptly summarizes, “Running carts, kiosks, and food trucks are rewriting the rules of the dining scene. They have become an integral part of the culinary experience, showcasing the diversity and creativity that defines our modern food culture.”
Adapting to changing customer preferences and using creativity to attract customers is the key to success. Running a cart or kiosk optimally will enable you to compete against traditional food stores.