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8 successful restaurants that began as food trucks

Posted by Ilona Wallace on Nov 8, 2016 8:25:00 AM

The history of food trucks can be traced back to one guy, Walter Scott, who parked his “lunch wagon” outside a Rhode Island news bureau in 1872.

Now, food trucks are part of the American landscape, with coffee carts and hot dog stands representing the nation’s entrepreneurial spirit. Food trucks are a great way to enter and test a market, without blowing a huge amount of capital.

They can also teach potential restaurateurs how to navigate legal and bureaucratic issues. Food trucks can help build a brand’s profile before the launch of a fully fledged sit-down eatery.

Here are eight food trucks that traded in the nomad life for a bricks and mortar restaurant existence. Each made the journey in their own way and for different reasons.

1. Burrasca (Portland, Oregon, USA)

Cuisine: Italian
Food truck launched: 2013
Restaurant established: 2015

Burrasca completed their transformation from meals-on-wheels to charming restaurant with the help of a crowdfunding campaign. Having built up a keen clientele, they were able to raise nearly $2,000 over their Kickstarter goal.

2. Low and Slow American BBQ
(Port Adelaide, South Australia, Australia)

Cuisine: American barbecue
Food truck launched: 2013
Restaurant established: 2016

Low & Slow got their break when they won the tender for a government-sponsored program. The program, Renew Adelaide, finds temporary tenants for disused premises, in the hope of revitalizing parts of town. Low & Slow received a six-month residency through the program, and have successfully extended their lease for five years.

3. Mei Mei (Boston & New York, USA)

Cuisine: Chinese American fusion
Food truck launched: 2012
Restaurant established: 2013  

This sibling-run business thinks and cooks ethically, sourcing local, small-farm produce. They got their start by running a pop-up event out of another restaurant. Here, they tested their recipes and had customers fill out feedback forms so they knew exactly where to improve. Once word of mouth started to spread, they launched the food truck.

With their popularity off the charts, they’ve now gone on to diversify into a number of businesses – a sauce company, a shipping-container pop-up, and a restaurant.

4. Toasta & Co (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia)

Cuisine: Toasted sandwiches
Food truck launched: 2014
Restaurant established: 2016

The Toasta truck was regularly being booked for private events, and was ‘disappearing’ from the local scene when the opportunity to start a café arose. Toasta has a sister-truck, Von Crumb, and together these two businesses combine into the bricks-and-mortar Toasta & Co. Here, customers can get the best of both worlds, sampling food from the two trucks in one neat, indoor space.

5. Burger Theory (Global)

Cuisine: Burgers
Food truck launched: 2011
Restaurant established: 2013

Burger Theory was one of the first food trucks to launch in Adelaide (aside from the historic pie carts any local will tell you about…), and is often credited with sparking the South Australian food truck frenzy.

They’ve been through a few iterations: first a truck, then a diner, and finally the burger bar in Adelaide city. With two more Burger Theory shops open in their home town, they expanded interstate to a diner in Melbourne.

Most recently, Burger Theory announced a whopping franchise deal in China, with 120 stores set to open.

6. Franklin Barbecue (Austin, Texas, USA)

Cuisine: Brisket
Food truck launched: 2009
Restaurant established: 2011 

If you want to take popularity, look no further than Franklin. This food truck became so ridiculously renowned that a Twitter account was set up to post pictures of the “barbe-queue” lining up down the street.

The restaurant is only open for lunch trade, so the window for delicious brisket is super slim. People turn up in the mornings with chairs and supplies to wait it out for their bit of brisket.

7. The Halal Guys (Global)

Cuisine: Halal gyro/kebab/yiros
Food truck launched: 1990
Restaurant established: 2014

The Halal Guys started as a hot-dog stand in a crowded New York City hot-dog market. Quickly realising that they had to change things up or go bust, they started serving halal meals – gyro chicken with rice, or in a wrap.

Twenty-six years later, they still have the food truck, but are also in the process of a global roll out. More than 200 restaurants are planned across the USA, Malaysia, The Philippines, Canada and Indonesia.

8. Sassy Spoon (Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA)

Cuisine: Gluten-free health food
Food truck launched: 2012
Restaurant established: 2015  

Yes, you read that right – a healthy food truck. You won’t find barbecue sauce or deep-fried mac ‘n’ cheese at Sassy Spoon. Tamara Brown is a qualified nutritionist, who decided to road-test her knowledge and go from being adviser to chef. Figuring a food truck was a manageable way to give hospitality a go, she jumped into it and was able to transform the truck into a café in under three years.


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