Franchises Hop on the Food-Truck Trend Cooked up by epicurious entrepreneurs, the mobile food business is starting to whet the appetites of established companies.
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Farhad Assari wants to start a franchise empire. The former Washington, D.C.-based investment banker envisions a day when his Sâuçá brand is stamped on restaurants, clothing lines, music and even sauces in the grocery store. For the time being, however, the ambitious entrepreneur is content to sell his Sâuçá street food out of a truck.
But this isn't the roach coach of Health Department legend. Assari's franchise, which opened in March 2010 and currently has four trucks in the D.C. area, is wildly popular, with lines sometimes 50 people deep and franchise inquiries up and down the East Coast.
"This is gourmet food. It's very good quality," Assari says. "My idea was to bring street food from around the world to the U.S. People in the U.S. see street food as dirty. I knew if I cleaned it up and made it sanitary, people would like it."
Influential people like Assari's concept, too. Last year, Sâuçá was named the winner of the Great Emerging Franchise Challenge, a contest judged by some of the biggest names in the franchise industry. And Assari is not alone on the road. At this year's National Restaurant Association show in Chicago, food trucks garnered their own pavilion with six trucks--including Sâuçá's--on the convention floor. That type of buzz has caught the franchise world's attention. Not only are several food-truck concepts dipping their toes into franchising, but fast food and casual franchises are experimenting with a mobile presence as well.
The food-truck craze--whether it's a bubble that will eventually burst or a new fixture on the American culinary scene--is pulling in big numbers. In a 2010 survey by Chicago-based food industry research and consulting firm Technomic for American Express, 26 percent of Americans said they had visited a food truck in the last six months, despite the fact that most trucks are concentrated in a few big cities. A popular Food Network reality show, The Great Food Truck Race, in which seven mobile gourmands try to outsell each other, has primed millions of people for mobile dining.