Food trucks are on the move in Michigan
Mobile meals feature farm fresh foods.
The food truck trend is sweeping the country. The National Restaurant Association estimates that there are thousands of food trucks in operation across the U.S. The association’s annual survey of chefs highlighted food trucks as the top operational trend in the food service industry. The interest in food trucks can be seen everywhere. The Food Network, Time Magazine, and even the Harvard Business Review all have featured food trucks. Mobile Cuisine offers a comprehensive online resource devoted to the world of food trucks and food carts. The food truck trend has also surfaced locally and food trucks serving mobile meals can now be found dotting the landscape across Michigan.
The trucks move from one location to another dishing out an array of tasty cuisines. The food trucks of yesteryear were not much more than a vending machine on wheels and usually served hot dogs or cold sandwiches and beverages. The food trucks on the road today feature exciting menus with expertly prepared foods made by chefs.
Food trucks offer entrepreneurs a food service model that can be launched in a shorter amount of time and with a significantly smaller investment than a traditional restaurant. Mintel research contends that food trucks are competition to quick service and casual restaurants because they provide high quality, freshly prepared food for a reasonable price.
Being mobile offers a competitive advantage. The trucks can change locations and follow the customers. There is also some research that shows the reverse – the customers will follow the trucks. The social-network savvy Millennial generation watch for Facebook posts or Twitter tweets to find out where the trucks will be and often stand in line to purchase the special of the day.
A wide array of foods are disseminated out of the trucks. Some focus on a particular cuisine like Mexican or Thai. Others offer a specialty like seafood barbecue. Many food trucks also offering catering service where food is prepared and transported to special events or gatherings.
The Purple Carrot Truck which operates out of East Lansing, Mich. is known for being Michigan’s first farm to truck food stand. Business partners Nina Santucci and Anthony Maiale launched the Purple Carrot Truck in May with the goal of serving innovative, fresh cuisine that utilizes the abundance of flavors Michigan has to offer. They source 80 – 90% of their food locally depending on the season. They work directly with local farmers and businesses to secure fresh produce, meats, cheeses and breads that go into their spectacular food offerings.
The Purple Carrot Truck menu is constantly changing and features an eclectic mix of choices every day. A few recent seasonal favorites on the menu were chestnut bisque, butternut squash lasagna and fired up pork Panini. Randy Bell, an East Lansing, Mich. resident who enjoys the Purple Carrot Truck cuisine says, “There is no need to shy away from dessert when you can treat yourself to a cake pop.” The small dessert on a stick, comes in flavors like carrot, maple and cranberry-lemon, is the perfect petite dessert to eat on the go.
Santucci is an East Lansing, Mich. native and has farm family roots in the Traverse City, Mich. area. Maiale is an accomplished chef who has worked in restaurants across the country. In addition to the Purple Carrot Truck they plan to open a restaurant in the Lansing, Mich. area in the future. Food trucks are a venue to test the market and gain name recognition before launching a full-scale restaurant.
The Michigan State University Product Center offers business development assistance in the areas of food, agriculture and natural resources. Innovation counselors are located across Michigan to provide help in concept development, business planning and marketing to support entrepreneurs in ventures like food trucks.