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How the Food Truck Concept is Spreading To Other Businesses

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How the Food Truck Concept is Spreading To Other Businesses

Photo Credit: Fashion Mobile

By Lloyd Alter, TreeHugger

Fifty years ago, Jane Jacobs wrote, “New ideas must use old buildings.” Today she might write “New ideas need old trucks.” It’s an important trend that mixes an old idea with new technology, and is changing the way people start and run businesses.

It used to be, if you wanted to start a business, that you needed an address so that you could get a land line and a Yellow Pages listing. You slowly built your business in your neighborhood, slowly building word-of-mouth. The only really mobile truck-based businesses were the “roach coaches,” mobile tool or work-clothing trucks that followed construction sites.

The internet, and more importantly the smart phone, are changing everything. Just as people are no longer tied to the office or home phone and computer to be in touch, the mobile business can follow its customers and the customers can follow it. Word-of-mouth can be generated in minutes, not years.

They aren’t just for food anymore, either. The Consumerist, which is hot on this trend, points to two new businesses unrelated to food:

In Minnesota, David and Theresa Grim ran a traditional bricks and mortar store and couldn’t make it work. But outfitting a truck costs a lot less, so they built the Fashion Mobile. They write:

“Realistically you can start a mobile store for about $20,000 or less. If you do a lot of the work you can save even more. There is absolutely no way that you could open a retail store for that amount when you figure in the long term lease, utilities and build outs. Plus, you are probably going to have employees to hire as you cant work there every single second it’s open. That really gets expensive.”

The Consumerist notes that there are advantages to having such a small store:

“And though the truck is not as spacious as your average clothing store, the owners turn that to their advantage by having a high turnover of their small inventory. This not only keeps customers coming back to the truck to see what new items are available, but lends itself to more impulse buys as customers fear the item might not be there the next time the truck rolls through.”

The Consumerist also points to another truck-based business that brings a gym and a personal trainer to your door.

The truck itself became a training apparatus and an opportunity for me to take my workouts and my programs and my ideas directly to my clients, the mobile gym’s owner tells CBS Boston. Im set up with the gym and everything you would need in your driveway.”

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63 comments

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2:37AM PDT on Aug 6, 2012

Everything old is new again. The traveling merchant has been around forever.

3:09PM PDT on Aug 2, 2012

those trucks are notorious fuel guzzlers, so coming up with an electric vehicle would be preferable but spendy. the mobile gym idea for one doesn't make much sense to me since you are only providing service for one client at a time. not very profitable.

2:48PM PDT on Aug 2, 2012

Wonderful concept!
Not new, but it's good to see it's gaining ground!

Many small villages do this in France and it is very good for the guy who does it, small business but it is a start and very good for the community who might not be able to go to a town often......I am all for it!

Remember when doctors made house calls!!!


10:37AM PDT on Aug 2, 2012

Laura S, You are so correct, smells shady, it probably is. here in the Tucson area, you can hardly drive two blocks w/o seeing two mobile food trucks.

Hey, the food is often wonderful, you must like Mexican cuisine. How much do you think they pay in City Tax? If you said little, you would be correct.

With the passing of time, we shall see more Mobile Business in trucks. Imagine going to your doctor or dentist, you think that their waiting rooms are small.

10:36AM PDT on Aug 2, 2012

Laura S, You are so correct, smells shady, it probably is. here in the Tucson area, you can hardly drive two blocks w/o seeing two mobile food trucks.

Hey, the food is often wonderful, you must like Mexican cuisine. How much do you think they pay in City Tax? If you said little, you would be correct.

With the passing of time, we shall see more Mobile Business in trucks. Imagine going to your doctor or dentist, you think that their waiting rooms are small.

12:10AM PDT on Aug 2, 2012

Wake up, people, are you all so brain dead...this just another canary in the coal mine, America is dying, in every manner possible, and you are just trying to rearrange to deck chairs on the aft deck of the Titanic.

What this represents is a NEW underground economy.

Try reading, "The Fall of the Roman Empire," there are dozens of various volumes and they say they same story, Game Over,

11:03PM PDT on Aug 1, 2012

Wonderful concept! Not new, but it's good to see it's gaining ground! Remember when doctors made house calls!!!

9:16PM PDT on Aug 1, 2012

What an interesting concept. Thanks.

8:07PM PDT on Aug 1, 2012

What a good idea! Think I'll add this to the brainstorming pile for consideration!

@ LauraS - regarding your concerns about retailing from a vehicle being 'shady' and how you'd deal with returns ... many online retailers run their businesses out of their homes yet still provide the basic protections for buyers. Buying from a "mobile retail outlet" that can provide, for example, a website address, would probably give you the same protection. I certainly wouldn't buy anything without, at the very least, a business card with phone contact details (and I'd probably try the phone number at the time of purchase to make sure I could contact the seller!)

6:06PM PDT on Aug 1, 2012

Food trucks are awesome!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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