Food Service Industry amidst COVID-19: Mobile Food Vending Becoming the New Norm
At the time when we started building food trucks and trailers back in 2007, we didn't know we were on the forefront of a new way of doing business. Mobile food vending.
Fast forward to 2020 and the the food service industry has undergone tremendous stress and challenges, from food supply chain shortages, to local government restrictions on dine-in, and operational limitations. Restaurants that have had traditional models have either adapted to offering primarily to-go and carry out options, or they have gone the way of the dinosaur and closed their doors.
Here in Eastern Washington State, it seems like every day we are hearing of more and more restaurants closing their doors, never to re-open them again. You might ask which restaurants are still open and thriving during this international crisis? Our observations point to restaurateurs that either already had a rigorous carry out/to-go model, or got their start in mobile food vending. Others have risen to the challenge of pivoting to a to-go carry out only model, or adopted some form of online ordering and delivery service like Door Dash, or in-house delivery options.
As each state begins the task of slowly re-opening restaurants to dine-in service, this doesn't mean customers will suddenly return in droves like they once did for a dine in meal. The climate of the food service industry has forever been impacted by the aftermath of COVID-19, social distancing, and concerns about public health and safety. Even if your business meets the lengthy requirements to re-open for dining in, many of your customers may still choose to socially distance themselves out of caution for their health.
How Can a Food Truck Help Your Business?
Local restaurants that got their start in a truck or trailer built a huge following early in their businesses, and mastered the take out/to-go business model. A food truck or trailer can do two things for your business: First, it can give you a secondary location with little operational overhead that allows you to get your brand name and food out to the masses. This also opens you up to catering opportunities if built correctly. Second, it gives you flexibility to go where the people are, or spread your brand to areas where potential customers are that your brick and mortar cannot reach. If you have amazing food, but your 20+ minutes from my home, I may not trek that far. (Although I have for amazing street tacos.)
A Valuable Asset That Retains Its Value
Another benefit is a food truck or trailer is a fixed asset that if built by a reputable food truck builder (i.e. Western Food Trucks & Trailers) you can sell for the majority of its value if the time ever comes to liquidate. If your build is approved by your state, and meets all code requirements, it's worth a lot more than if you built it yourself.
Social Distancing Standard
A food truck by nature doesn't have to do much to meet the social distancing requests of local health departments for customer take out. Put a few cones outside for your line six feed apart, and you are good. Give customers a number for their order so they only approach the pick up window when their order is ready. When you combine that with ensuring employees are healthy, and providing them with masks, hand sanitizer and other PPE while on the job, you have a pretty low risk food option for your customers.
The Future: Fast Casual and Take Out are King
If one thing is constant, it is change. Sounds like a contradiction I know, but in the food industry, we bend and move at the will of the customers, our supply chains, and trends that are demanding attention. In the future I see people being more cautious of their environment, dining rooms requiring more square footage and less tables, and drive-thru/drive up dining being the popular methods of eating out.
Joel Kruse General Manager Western Restaurant Supply & Design
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