By Gloria Hong
While watching a recent episode of CBC’s “Dragon’s Den”, I was delightfully surprised to see local business owner Zane Caplansky of Caplansky’s Deli pitching to expand his business. The Dragon’s drooled while tasting the sandwich and proclaimed the product to be capital “D” Delicious; however, there was an all stop when they heard how Caplansky planned to expand his business nationally.
He unveiled a giant branded food truck and grinned like the preverbal cat with canary. He wanted the Dragons to help him build a fleet of food trucks. With expectant eyes he scanned the Dragons to see who would be the first one to just lay the money at his feet. But none of them did. Not one. In fact, they told him he had it all wrong. They didn’t agree with the financial evaluation. They asked him why he wasn’t satisfied with the money he was already making. One Dragon even told him that the trucks would “cheapen” his brand image and he should stick to brick and mortar restaurants. Sidenote: Caplansky admitted he lost money on the restaurant last year, but brought up his numbers with his mobile catering business – i.e. his food truck.
Now I can’t speak to the financial evaluation Caplansky provided, but I found it quite irritating that the Dragon’s couldn’t see the bigger picture. Food trucks are hot. In cities like New York, L.A. and Chicago, some of the most hyped eats come from a truck.
Kogi BBQ in L.A. will tell you that being in a truck has been the key to their success. They were one of the first food trucks to leverage their mobility by Tweeting their location everyday so customers would know where to find them. Newsweek proclaimed them “America’s first viral eatery”.
Why are food trucks a hit? Well to begin with they have micro-focused menus. The quality of truck food has also grown in leaps and bounds. Full kitchens on wheels can now prepare restaurant quality meals on the street. On a recent trip to San Francisco, the only eatery I visited twice was an Indian food truck in Golden Gate Park. They had a tandoori oven right in their truck. IN THEIR TRUCK.
I also see the appeal of mobility, for both vendor and customer. The vendor can literally bring their food to the people, to festivals, to stadiums, to your work! Meanwhile customers get a food court with restaurants that can change every day/week.
Toronto has already hosted a three part “Food Truck Eats” festival packed with trucks and people. Also, the Food Network has two shows devoted to food trucks – “Eat Street” and “The Great Food Truck Race”.
So did the Dragon’s get it wrong? Should they have backed Zane Caplansky’s plan for food truck domination? I think they got it wrong. They missed a huge opportunity because they weren’t on top of the food truck trend. Keep your eyes open and your stomachs hungry as there will be more food trucks in the near future, with or without Caplansky’s face painted on the side.