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What Is A Mobile Food Strategy?

Updated: Nov 14, 2023

How having one can help your community’s small business ecosystem


Photo by Arturo Rey on Unsplash


I think we all recognize that the restaurant industry is a notoriously difficult environment to thrive in. Now, even more so. The effect COVID has had on our local businesses (particularly restaurants, bars, etc) is well documented.


I stumbled across this article about mobile food strategy. In each of our communities, there are opportunities to support our existing business, to offer a lower entry point for new businesses, and to activate public space in an incremental way.


Offer Flexibility

“The №1 advantage of mobile food facilities is flexibility. They can change location, cost less than brick and mortar restaurants, and present several revenue opportunities. The mobile food facility model, however, is not a replacement for traditional brick and mortars. Instead, it enhances your reach and allows for experimentation that de-risks your business and unlocks future growth.” — Ross Resnick

Image source: Roaming Hunger

Question

How might we be able to provide location opportunities (read: mobile food facilities) to our food businesses? As illustrated above, supporting mobile facilities positively impacts operation flexibility and revenue for the food industry.

Non-Dining Room Channels

“Since March, most restaurants have focused on off-premises channels such as third-party delivery, order ahead, and pickup. And rightly so. Within the span of a couple of weeks, most of America was doing everything from home. So far, however, the delivery radius is still dictated by location.” — Ross Resnick

Question

How might we be able to create socially distanced, off-premises channels (read: offsite pickup points/preparation points) for our food businesses?

Think Hub-and-Spoke Model

Similar to how airlines operate.


Image Source: Roaming Hunger


Question

How might we be able to help expand the service and delivery radius of food businesses in our community? How might we be able to help?


One Possible Way

Communities tend to own vacant lots all over their city. Usually, they put together an RFP and hope for a developer to come along. This takes years of planning, coordination, and construction. That’s if it goes well the first time.


What if the community chooses to activate the space now? You could adopt a mobile food support strategy to help our local restaurants and food trucks by activating some vacant land.


What if there was a vacant lot in every community that was turned into a food truck park? Giving restaurants and smalls businesses the opportunity to rotate through each community, build their audience, and continue to grow their businesses without having to take on another commercial space?


Not Just For Food Trucks



This concept shouldn’t just apply to food trucks. It can and should apply to all small businesses. Most communities have already adopted a framework to support their local farmers' markets.


The problem with a local farmer’s market is that it’s only open 8 hours a week. Depending on your climate it might only be open 6 months a year. Not a lot of time for those vendors to make money.


What if you take the hub-and-spoke model and allow anyone (food trucks, artisans, etc) to sell? You’ve now created a channel for up-and-coming businesses to spend thousands of dollars on a truck or trailer rather than committing to a multi-year lease in a neighborhood that might not be the right fit for them.


Some businesses in my home state of Michigan are already experimenting with these types of strategies. Little Fleet in Traverse City or the Backlot in Petoskey have built their businesses around supporting food trucks to come and rent space. All they have to worry about is running the bar. The trucks take care of the food.


More recently, Zinngermen’s Deli has been experimenting with the hub and spoke model setting up delivery points across Michigan and Ohio for customers who order online.


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