He'll Eat Your Lunch
Food trucks are here to stay, and nowhere was this more evident than at an Off the Grid event last spring in San Francisco. The 35 trucks, tents and carts that made it through the application process took over Fort Mason Center's parking lot one nippy Friday evening, dishing out steadily dwindling supplies of empanadas, kalbi and mango-sticky-rice popsicles to a ravenous crowd.
In the midst of the aromatic chaos sat the Chairman, a Zagat-rated truck famous for its pork-belly Chinese bao (steamed buns). It was the first of dozens of trucks developed by Mobi Munch. Founded in 2009, Mobi Munch aimed to streamline the mobile food industry with a turnkey platform that standardizes every part of the operation--from vehicles and food sources to securing permits and negotiating with event promoters and office parks.
The goal, according to CEO Josh Tang, is to make every chef and restaurant owner feel they need a truck, just as they do a website. "Trucks are the one sector of the food-service industry that's still growing, and until now, there's been no regulation, and a lot of missed opportunities," he says, speaking from his downtown Los Angeles offices.
The Mobi revolution began with customized trucks, rebuilt by a manufacturing partner from the chassis up with features such as next-generation cloud-based POS systems and onboard generators. The low-mileage, late-model trucks are crash-test and sanitation certified, then leased out for as little as a year. If a chef strikes gold with a menu, Mobi can scale quickly, rolling out a fleet in two weeks.
The company recently launched MobileCravings.com, a nationwide food-truck private-lot booking system, to help its customers secure locations for their rigs. Tang is even looking into new engine technology to help power onboard kitchens more efficiently.
In the last three years, Mobi Munch has grown to 20 employees, scored a round of $7.8 million in funding and signed on pilot corporate clients such as Red Robin and Rubios, along with food-service companies like Aramark and Centerplate.
"We're not thinking linear growth," Tang says, stressing that Mobi's services not only help independent young chefs build a brand with lower risk, but also enable veteran restaurateurs to test new neighborhoods at a fraction of the cost of a commercial lease or advertising campaign. The end result is that consumers can try out more creative menus at a lower price. Who doesn't have an appetite for that?