The food truck is perhaps, in the eyes of many, the epitome of contemporary street food.
The funk factor and romance of food trucks are seductive.
A complete kitchen on wheels represent flexibility, freedom, adventure, creativity and endless possibilities. In the USA, the food truck is in a way an extension of Americans' romance with cars and the open road.
Singaporeans love cars as much as our food on our little island.
Food trucks gotta have a place in this car crazy, sunny food paradise (?).
In the USA, food trucks play the crucial social role of providing good food for the people at affordable prices.
New York City and other American metropolises have thriving food truck cultures. Every now and then, there is another new heartwarming story about a humble food truck owner breaking into the big time, e.g. Halal Guys, Wafels & Dingles, NY Dosas, Cinnamon Snail.
Everyone love such stories, especially people who champion street food.
There have been past attempts to introduce food trucks in Singapore but the idea hasn't taken off in any big way.
The challenges are so obvious, it feels
But, I do believe that there is a place for food trucks in Singapore.
Conditions in the USA are ideal for a food truck culture.
The USA is among, if not the world's cheapest place to own and operate a truck.
In comparison, Singapore is the most expensive place in the world to buy and operate a motor vehicle. Roughly 500+% more investment for the equivalent vehicle purchase in America - that's around SGD200,000+ sunk cost for every ten years of truck ownership. Licences, permits, parking, tolls, maintenance, fuel etc extra.
Fortunately, in Singapore, we have public hawker centres that fulfil the critical social role of feeding the people admirably.
Singapore is dotted with public hawker centres and nearly blanketed with neighbourhood coffee shops providing affordable meals.
Given the high capital investment and operating costs of a food truck in Singapore, it's unlikely that a Singapore food truck can deliver a meal that is price competitive with public hawker centre food. The average cost of a hawker centre meal is under SGD4.
So, costs pretty much rule out food trucks as the means to provide affordable meals for the people in Singapore.
American cities (as far as I know), do not have the equivalent of Singapore's public hawker centres.
So the critical role of providing affordable meals for the people where they are in American cities, fell on the shoulders of food trucks.
Singapore with it's public hawker centres is unlikely to be able to follow closely the New York City model of food trucks providing affordable meals where people need them.
The place of food trucks in Singapore is by necessity, special.
Singapore food trucks has to go where no one has gone before or where others cannot go.
Food trucks can thrive in the gaps of Singapore's culinary landscape, where public hawker centres and kopitiams (coffee shops) are the mainstays.
There may be rich pickings for those who can find these gaps.
Kf Seetoh of Makansutra mentioned mega events at the Sports Hub, for example.
The East Side King food truck at the World Street Food Congress 2015 was a huge success. It averaged around 1000 premium priced servings a day during the 5 day event.
Jazzy food trucks can add buzz to private functions, which I have seen in Johor Bahru and Kuala Lumpur. Instead of the usual caterer and buffet line, why not a cook-it-yourself lok lok truck for your home party?
I saw children, even adults, squeal with delight.
There must be more such "lobangs" (opportunities) you can think of.
A study will turn up where are and how many opportunities there are in Singapore to deploy food trucks. How many food trucks can these opportunities support? I have no figures without studies done but my intuition tells me that there is sufficient space for at least a small fleet of food trucks in Singapore.
Food trucks can only enliven Singapore's culinary landscape. The mobile kitchens complement the public hawker centres, kopitiams, food courts, restaurants, cafes etc.
It's the icing on the cake of the Singapore food paradise.
Of course, there are operational issues like safety, hygiene, running water and electricity. These can be solved but the first step is clarity on the place of food trucks in Singapore. Someone just needs to get down to the bolts and nuts of a plan to get the idea rolling.
Hope we can have a fruitful discussion by sharing your views in the comments below ;-D
Date: 11 Apr 2015
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