Could Food Trucks Bridge the Gap Until Restaurants Are Ready?
To put it mildly, 2020 hasn't been a great year to own a brick-and-mortar restaurant. COVID-19 saw the industry lose north of $80 billion in April, even as restaurants scrambled to beef up their takeout and delivery offerings as a stopgap measure. While certain states have eased restrictions against dining in over the past few weeks, there's no law requiring citizens to spend money dining out.
There's one possible way to partly fill the gap, though: food trucks. In 2020, the great dining trend of 2010 might just be the best path towards a return to "dining out" that works for both restaurants and their customers.
From a diner's perspective, food trucks could allay some of our fears about returning to bars and restaurants while simultaneously giving us a taste of our old routines and an excuse to leave the house. By naturally operating outdoors and in open spaces, food trucks can allow people to line up, order, and eat while maintaining social distancing. As evidenced by recent policy decisions in Philadelphia that have allowed for the return of food trucks, capping the number of people online to ten at a time and other similar measures could create extra peace of mind.
For restaurants, food trucks grant increased flexibility, streamlined operations, and greater independence. It's important to note that acquiring and outfitting a food truck isn't the easiest or cheapest thing in the world, especially given the restaurant industry's notoriously razor-thin operating margins. But given the horror stories about delivery services like Seamless and Doordash siphoning away delivery revenue, operating a food truck lets you bring fresher food to customers while keeping 100 percent of a sale. With the rise of order-ahead mobile payment systems and other customer-focused tech, it's even possible to pinpoint where demand is located to maximize the opportunity.
Look, people are going to be outside this summer one way or another. The best thing a restaurant can hope to do is to take its kitchen on the road and go to where the people are. It may not be enough to truly satisfy consumer demand or a restaurant's business needs, but, for now, it may be the best option we've got.
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