Mobile kitchens selling food on the streets, or as people call them – food carts, have always been somewhat popular in the United States, as a simple way of getting your meal when you don’t want to sit at a restaurant, but don’t want to prepare food yourself either. Some of these food carts sell hot dogs, burritos or some other fast food, while others are associated with some restaurants and serve food that is the same as the one served in those restaurants – the only difference being the fact that you eat your meal outside, and it may be cheaper than the ‘restaurant food’.
- Portland – Food cart capital
Even though they are designed in such a way so that they can be moved around, most of the food carts stay in one place almost all the time. Some time ago, food carts were the real deal, they were very popular and many of them even became famous for the food you could buy there. Just because the food is sold on the street doesn’t mean it lacks in quality or taste. But lately, the popularity of food carts has somewhat been replaced by food trucks. However, in the U.S., one city still holds on to the food cart tradition. In fact, when you try to google ‘food carts’, among the first things that pop out there is ‘Food Carts in Portland’. This city probably has the most food carts in the entire U.S. and the number goes beyond 600. We can freely say that Portland is the place where the food cart businesses flourish and are more successful than in most other U.S. cities. Besides the quantity, Portland doesn’t fall behind when it comes to the quality of the food served in these food carts, and according to CNN, the best street food is served here. The food carts are grouped and placed close to one another, so you can go from cart to cart if you are in a mood for some sampling.
- Is it profitable?
Buying the food from the food carts, you must have wondered – Is that profitable? It is estimated that the food cart business brings in $1bn in annual revenue in the U.S. But, can a person expand the business and make it big with food carts? Well, it depends on the food cart, the owner, and many other factors. Some do make it big, expand into bigger ventures, but others remain the owners of only their food carts (sometimes by choice and sometimes by lack of choice). Sometimes people just need to be satisfied with only making a living out of it.
For this food cart business to be legal, a vendor needs a permit for the kind of cart they are using to sell their food. This can be expensive and maybe even not profitable for those that lead such a small business. The other downside, if you are not making huge profits, is paying taxes. These taxes can put salesmen to the positive zero when it comes to income, as when they pay for the permit, pay the taxes, they are barely left with any money. This is why many decide on leading a mostly illegal business with these carts, which means constantly being at risk of getting caught and imprisoned, or having to pay the fines which will again be very damaging to the salesmen or food cart owner.
- Food Carts: A pit-stop to greater things?
For some, the food cart business is a way to start working as an entrepreneur, where people get to know them and they become famous for their food which helps them when they decide to spread out or open a restaurant or expand in some other way. The food carts that become famous for the taste and quality of the food are the ones that are visited the most and those that consequently profit more than other, not so famous, food carts. Many of the profitable food cart owners decide either to open their own restaurant when they acquire enough funds to do so, or open more food carts in the same style and continue in the same manner.
When it comes to legalizing a food cart, each city has its own rules and regulations, but you can get all the needed information at the local health department. As for making it big, there is no universal rule on how to succeed. What you can do is make sure the food you are selling is excellent, so it attracts the attention of many people (and that way, people from other places will also come to try your food), put your cart in a good place where many people pass by, so that they can effortlessly get to you, and finally – don’t let the quality drop once you become known for your food and service.
Following these advices, you might actually become known and people will come back to eat at your place, whether you stay working with a food cart or decide to open a restaurant after your food has brought you enough profit to do so.