Why food trucks have never managed to conquer city centers

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By Théo GIANGRÉCO Published on 17/06/2022 at 18:41, Updated on 17/06/2022 at 18:41 Their number would have fallen from 750 to 250 between 2014 and 2021 in France. Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP Appearing at the beginning of the 2010s in France, “mobile canteens” have had to face several economic and political obstacles that have limited their implementation in cities. Is eating a foreign specialty, a hot dog or a poke bowl straight out of a truck kitchen finally possible in the inner cities? In the heart of a true craze at the beginning of the 2010s, the installation of “Food trucks” in public space, however, quickly faced the reluctance of the various managers of the large French cities. The lack of political will around the promotion of this concept came directly from the United States, which then accompanied the “migration” of trucks to private sporting and cultural events. Explanations A dense specification that may deter some entrepreneurs. The concept had everything to like. Directly from New York, Food trucks could have long been enthroned in the middle of the sidewalks and tourist spots of our cities. Unlike traditional chip stands or pizza trucks, “mobile canteen trucks” aim to be healthier alternatives to classic fast food by offering homemade cuisine from around the world. “French consumers quickly loved the concept. The latter is also particularly brilliant in the sense that it is not up to the customer to travel to look for the product, but the product that travels to come to him,” explains Bernard Boutboul, president of Gira Conseil. So, in 2011, the first real food truck appeared in Paris with the Camion qui Fume and its homemade burgers.The latter, thanks to the media coverage it received, started a real movement in the capital, which subsequently spread throughout France, but without 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 2013-2014, their number has also increased from 750 in the national territory in 2014 to 250-300 today”. So how to explain this decrease in supply, when there seemed to be demand? “Food trucks have had to face three headwinds eu have limited their ability to develop in big cities,” says Bernard Boutboul: “The clamor of restaurant unions who have accused food trucks of unfair competition, municipalities that do not want to see trucks swarming their cities and the crackdown on fraud which denounced the risks around hygiene in trucks”. Therefore, these three factors seem to have been strong enough brakes to limit their deployment and sustainability in cities. With little political support and less profitable than traditional restaurants, food trucks naturally found it difficult to resist. Municipalities reluctant to encourage their establishment The popularity of food trucks was such that the City Council of Paris decided, in 2015, to capture this phenomenon. “The city council has put out a tender to allocate locations to food trucks. At first we believed it. However, these locations were clearly not the most touristic and strategic in the capital”, laments Bernard Boutboul. municipals” directly with the city, after a tender launched in April that had then mobilized 154 candidates. “Away from tourist spots, it was especially difficult for food trucks to be profitable,” he admits. “The municipality could have normally followed the example of New York. 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 outside and at private events However, it may be a bit early to predict the end of food trucks in France. Although their deployment, generalization and sustainability in city centers have not been crowned with great success, “mobile canteens” continue to be indispensable in certain events. Customers flock to the 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 in the suburbs of Paris, did not hesitate, in 2016, to invest in a food truck to cover certain events. “I relocate my restaurant to my truck during festivals or football matches. I do it about every week.” he specifies. “It’s really profitable because it allows me to have an absolutely significant additional income. I can earn between 300 and 900 euros per event, it allowed them to diversify and expand their trade. The best example is Camion qui fume, the pioneer of the French food truck that set up in 2016 to open restaurants in the center of the capital. Another example comes from the suburbs of Toulon. Lian, a former “food truck” of Chinese specialties and Vietnamese, later it also became a restaurant. “The food truck was my springboard that allowed me to establish myself for good after that,” he admits. “My business was profitable, but I admit that after a while I I got tired of the truck. Also, in the end it was too small to accommodate the surplus of customers that increased every year a little more with the iron and as my reputation was consolidated,” explains Lian. Food trucks always appear as alone security or short-term operations. “Today it is difficult for a food truck to be profitable because there are fast sell-outs due to the low level of goods sent. Those who do it are those who work, those who work all the time, at lunchtime and at night” concludes Bernard Boutboul.
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