A small but growing number of chains—such as Cousins Submarines Inc., Tasti D-Lite LLC and Toppers Pizza Inc.—are following in the tire tracks of those local food-truck businesses popping up on city streets around the U.S. Many brick-and-mortar eateries have added mobile units in recent years, and more are expected to do the same, including national brands.
“By the end of next year, you’ll begin to see some big brands rolling this out,” says Robert Stidham, president of Franchise Dynamics LLC, a Homewood, Ill., company that helps businesses develop franchises. Mr. Stidham says he’s been involved in “serious” discussions with about a half-dozen national food franchises on strategies for going mobile. He declined to name specific chains.
Trucks or vans outfitted with fully operating kitchens, as opposed to the small, engine-free carts used by street vendors for more than a century, were a rarity until only a few years ago. Now they’re commonplace in cities such as Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and Portland, Ore., says Sean Basinski, director of the Street Vendor Project at the nonprofit Urban Justice Center in New York. It’s unclear just how many exist nationwide, but in New York, where year-round permits are limited to about 3,000 street-food vendors, he says the waiting list is at least 10 years. The city declined to confirm the waiting time.
Photo by Jason Riedy