Thanks to a love of exotic foods and eat-on-the-go convenience, street vendors from pushcarts to food trucks are growing at a fast pace. While fast food businesses have experienced a slowdown due to changing consumer tastes and the struggling economy, demand for unique and gourmet food trucks has surged. In fact, food trucks are one of the biggest success stories in the restaurant industry. According to a survey from the National Restaurant Association, nearly 60% of Americans said they would visit a food truck offered by their favorite restaurant, up from 47% a year ago.
There is a broad opportunity for vendors in large metropolitan areas across the country. No one knows this better than Barbara “Sky” Burrell, owner of Sky’s Gourmet Tacos in Los Angeles. Burrell will lead a panel, “No Store, No Problem,” at the 2012 Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference + Expo (BEEC2012) in Chicago (May 23-26), featuring business owners who are deploying various retail models to bypass the costs of brick-and-mortar retailing, such as food trucks, online retail stores, pop-up shops, and flea markets.
Burrell is a former corporate executive who literally followed her dreams into the food world. She spent the last 19 years running a successful restaurant before shifting gears to add a food truck to her operations in 2010. Burrell didn’t want to open another restaurant in a different location while in a struggling economy. So, she spent more than $100,000 purchasing a diesel truck and retrofitting it with brand new kitchen equipment. This way, her soul-inspired Mexican food brand could serve customers within a 70-mile radius. “We knew the truck would not only pick up business on the street, but it would bring new business to the restaurant,” says Burrell, who runs the business along with her son, Victor Burrell, and business partner, Kevin Minor.
Last year, Sky’s food truck generated a little over $100,000. Not only has it contributed 30% more to the company’s bottom line since 2010, but Burrell received an extra jolt of publicity when she appeared on the Food Network’s Great Food Truck Race in the fall of 2011. “Now, we’re not just a destination,” she says. “We make the destination.”
Among the success secrets Burrell will share with BEEC2012 attendees:
- How to scale down the model of an existing business operation to fit a mobile or temporary retail location
- How to identify cost savings (such as no rent or other expenses associated with a brick-and-mortar location), as well as revenue growth opportunities
- How to handle securing permits, logistics, inventory, insurance and other issues for mobile or temporary retail locations
- How to use Twitter and other social media to attract new customers and generate repeat business, as well as identify new markets
- How to use non-store retail outlets to vet locations for possible brick-and-mortar expansion
Burrell is just one of the accomplished entrepreneurs who will share their success secrets at the 2012 Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference + Expo hosted by Nationwide, May 23-26, at the Hilton Chicago Hotel in Chicago, IL. Search and follow the hashtag #BEEC2012 on Twitter for the latest updates on conference speakers and sessions. Expect innovative sessions, high-powered speakers, and an early peek at the products, trends, and services you’ll need to stay ahead of the curve. To register and find out more, visit www.blackenterprise.com/ec/