≡ Menu

Restaurant Chains See Food Trucks As An Opportunity To ‘Experiment’

If you can remember, we featured here last year how successful food trucks have been—how they have taken America by storm, how they have continuously gained momentum in the industry, and how many of those who were successful dared to go brick and mortar, coming up with their own permanent physical restaurants.

Today our news is somewhat the antithesis of that—brick and mortar restaurant chains are now the ones who are venturing to peddle their food on trucks.

Most food trucks are being run independently—mostly by top chefs who have entrepreneurial dreams and cooking ideals, or those who are connected to stylish restaurants across the country. It’s the first time that restaurant chains are actually going out of their way to take a crack at the food truck fad.

The Habit Burger, for instance, has launched its initial gourmet burger truck last summer to gain more brand and menu exposure.

“Our primary intention is for catered events, and this appears to be a sound move,” said The Habit Grill’s Mike Mirkil. “We are a relatively unknown brand, and we think the food truck concept can bring us out in the community; a logical marketing tool that could generate brand awareness, relevance, buzz and excitement for us.”

The Habit Grill, after all, has been an established brick-and-mortar chain with 40 years of operations and continuous expansions to lay claim to. “Our food trucks can give us the opportunity to bring our food and menu in elegant café menu covers to places where we still don’t have a presence,” Mirkil continued. “We don’t have the means to be like McDonald’s that has restaurants in every corner of the world, but food trucks will allow us to serve people even without having a physical restaurant.”

The Sizzler chain, on the other hand, has a different line of attack–its new ZZ Truck went with the flow, travelling with independent food trucks and its existing crowd. Its Sizzler brand is inconspicuously displayed on the truck, presenting new menus in quality café menu covers to its customers and not serving the usual Sizzlers food items that diners have been used to. The truck, as it turns out, is where new menus are rolled out for a test run—a test kitchen of sorts.

Sizzler’s Chef Chris Rahder explained: “We wanted to rebuild; we have remained in a plateau and we’re hoping that this marketing scheme will propel us up—get out with people and allow them to experience us once again. We are revitalizing the youth of the brand, ceasing from being patronized by only one crowd, which, by now are the seniors.”

“We’re also using ZZ Truck to experiment on future locations,” Rahder went on. “We are continuously looking for places where there still aren’t any Sizzlers, so if we want to check out how the community would love us, we’ll send the truck over and get some feedback.”

Others say that this new development is ruining the grassroots of the concept’s landscape, while others think that it’s a dazzling idea. Some consumers are excited into trying out “corporate trucks,” while others say that it doesn’t make sense—why not just go to the restaurant itself, then?

Long-time players, like Kogi Korean Taco Truck’s Chef Roy Choi, are excited and welcome the challenge. He believes that “the power, access, marketing and connections of restaurant chains can create an American hawker center,” and he’s all into taking that route.

“Food trucks, however, will always have an independent spirit—and that independence is what makes it appealing to its loyal customers,” he says.