Some Food Truck Operators Go Stationary
The Valley’s food truck scene has grown significantly over the past several years, and now some operators are moving to a…less mobile…environment.
"Hi, I’m Jeff Kraus. I’m the owner of TG Food Concepts, formerly owned Truckin’ Good Food, I’m currently at Crepe Bar in Tempe, Arizona," Kraus explained.
Kraus parked his food truck for good when he opened Crepe Bar a little more than a year ago. During the transition, he said he was a guest chef in Valley restaurants and did some pop-ups and catering around town. He said having a brick-and-mortar restaurant was an appealing change.
"More stability, something a little bit more grounded, something that I could have more staff, have more creativity, more of an outlet for just doing things on a regular basis versus on the food truck where it was a couple of days a week," Kraus said.
Kraus said the restaurant has allowed him to expand his menu. He also said he has had to deal with a lot of things he never even thought about with a food truck, like a water hose in his dish pit that sprung a leak last week but even with the unexpected problems that can crop up, other food truck operators are also taking the plunge to brick-and-mortar restaurants.
"My name is Brad Moore, and my wife Kat and I own Short Leash Hot Dogs," Moore said.
Which is made up of two food trucks, but a few weeks ago, the Moores opened Sit…Stay, which, as the name implies, is a stand-alone restaurant. Moore said it was always a goal to have a permanent location. He said having the trucks has been helpful, since it allowed the business to build its brand.
"We’ve basically been out there marketing our business for three years. So, when we moved into this space, it made it a little bit easier as opposed to just opening a restaurant and throwing a marquee and then trying to educate people on what you do," Moore said.
Moore said the cooking space at Sit…Stay is actually a bit smaller than the one in his truck. He said the biggest difference between being on wheels and un-moving ground is the work flow.
"With the truck, everything is immediate – you try and get every single hot dog out in two (to) three minutes and people don’t wait, they kind of grab-and-go. Whereas here, with the sit-down, it’s just a different dynamic, it’s completely different," Moore said.
Moore also helped start the Phoenix Street Food Coalition and serves as its chair. He said more than a few food truck operators have opened brick-and-mortar restaurants around the Valley, and he expects more to come.
"I think it’s just a great incubator for aspiring restaurateurs to get into this business, learn the ropes, you’re challenged in so many different ways, and you learn a lot about your business, the viability of your concept, marketing and branding," Moore said.
Moore said food trucks give their owners the flexibility to test the culinary waters. He said starting a food truck is not too expensive, and if it does not work out, you have an asset you can sell, but he said sometimes a move is more necessity than anything else.
"When your business grows in the food truck, you kind of start to maximize your space and your capacity, and that’s where you start to run in to some logistical issues that kind of almost force you to move into a space at some point," Moore explained.
Moore said that might not be a full-fledged restaurant but could be as simple as a commercial kitchen space. Kraus said trucks allow for good market research. He is impressed with the variety that has come about since he hung up his keys.
"Food trucks can get by with that, much more than brick-and-mortar, there’s limitations on how much you can do. On a food truck you can do whatever, because you’re out there for a day," Kraus said. "If the audience doesn’t like it, well, you’re back the next day."
Kraus plans to get back in the mobile food game. He is hoping to have a truck on the roads by the end of the year and to eventually have more brick-and-mortar restaurants as well. He said having trucks turning into restaurants is a sign that the Valley’s food scene is maturing.
"I think we are having our own identify, our own personality, and the food trucks for me was kind of the start of that. What we do is completely different than what most brick-and-mortars do, and I couldn’t have done this without the food truck," Kraus said.
And, Kraus is optimistic the Valley’s food truck culture will continue to grow, even as some operators choose to use their keys to open a front door…rather than start an engine.