Food Trucks Roll into Town
Your days of dreaming about Eat St and Chef are over; a new food revolution is rolling into your neighbourhood, finds Deepti Unni. Say hello to meals on wheels – food trucks are dishing it out
We’d always known of the existence of food trucks, much like we’d heard of blue whales – they’re there somewhere in our collective consciousness, we’ve seen them on TV, but they’ve never actually been a part of our waking hours. Our sandwichwala carts and the ever-present rastewala Chinese wagon filled a void we never knew there was in the first place. All that changed, though, when Jon Favreau’s Chef and Fox Traveller’s Eat St. rolled into town. Those visuals of juicy Cubanos, molten grilled cheese, po’boys, brisket and burgers launched a thousand food dreams, and a number of food trucks as well.
Today, there’s a sizeable number of them all across the country, a number that’s growing every week. From barbecue dude-food to dainty paletas – think sorbets meeting ice-pops – entrepreneurs are looking across the seas for inspiration and bringing new tastes back home. Across Gurgaon, Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru – the main hubs for food trucks – these are a godsend for office goers and students, who don’t have the time or the money for sit-down meals every day.
Smaller operating overheads mean that these trucks can sell great fast food at lower prices, at times and locations that suit them best. And for the entrepreneurs, food trucks are great testing grounds for future restaurant plans. You can fine-tune your food and find your area of expertise before you shell out large wads of cash to set up a restaurant that may or may not work.
But, like every new business in the country, food trucks have run into that old friend – red tape, one of the primary reasons why it’s taken this long for India to catch up with the food truck culture. Restaurateur Ashish Rajani, who has restaurants like OPA, PDT, Eat Thai and Le Café to his name, recently ventured into the meals-on-wheels space with The Bombay Food Truck, only to be mired in legislation. “Right now, there are no guidelines, rules or regulations for food trucks. I’m trying to get a licence but they don’t have a mandate for it.”
All the government has are hawker licences, which don’t cover mobile food trucks. The result is that all the trucks now operate in an ambiguous grey area, where there’s no law on their side and harassment is rampant. “I’m trying to get people together – people who’re interested in starting food trucks, who already have them, like-minded people – to start an association so that when we approach a governing body we can say, “hey, we’re an association and we also have the right to do business”. If you can give a vada pav guy a licence, why not a food truck. I understand there are parking constraints, but that’s something that can be easily regulated.”
But even if changing legislation is slow, ponderous, bureaucratic work, food truck owners can take heart from the victories scored by microbreweries, who had to push much the same way to win rights to small-scale brewing in places like Mumbai. If anything, they may have made the battle a bit easier.
But for now, Ashish has some choice advice for those looking to set up their own food trucks. “The only licence that is easily available is for branding on your truck, which the RTO will give you, and this is something all food truck owners should first do. The second is the licence from the Food and Drug Administration. The other three important factors to consider are food, the right vehicle and location. Once you have these figured out, you’re equipped for the battle ahead.”
All the food trucks you need to hit up in your neighbourhood
From TexMex burritos to very desi kathi rolls, Karan Malik’s SuperSucker is easy on the eyes and the wallet.
Where: Sarita Vihar/DLF Place, Delhi
You’ve never seen South Indian done like this. Pick from idli sandwiches or dosa wraps, with fillings like pan-seared chicken and caramelised onion in a creamy bacon gravy, or spinach and mushrooms in a white-wine cheese sauce. You’re vanakkam.
Where: Sushant Lok/DLF Phase 2 , Delhi
The S.W.A.T Truck
All the artery clogging deliciousness of American state-fair food at very Indian prices – think sloppy joes, molten cheese nachos and deep-fried Oreos. TGI-Fryday.
Where: HSR Layout, Bengaluru
The weather demands ice-cream but your waistline demands a break? Frugurpop serves paletas, fresh fruit-juice flavoured ice-pops, devoid of artificial flavours and preservatives. You’ll want to run behind this ice-cream truck.
Where: Ghatkopar, Mumbai
The SpitFire BBQ Truck
Now this is Man vs Food territory. Dude food with an extra serving of dude, this is the place to go when you need your fix of hot dogs in freshly baked buns.
Where: Kamanahalli, Koramangala, Bengaluru