Since its debut in 2008 in the US when the country’s labour market lost over 8.4 million jobs, the mobile restaurant business has continued gaining momentum the world over as a cheap way of running an eatery without necessarily having to cater for the high physical location costs.
The business is also known as the mobile food truck business is now gaining ground in Kenya especially in Nairobi where residents are increasingly preferring food deliveries closer to their work stations or homes.
Assuming the requirements to start this business are almost the same as any other restaurant with a specific location such as Sh120,000 equipment costs and Sh50,000 for licenses (Single business permit, food and hygiene license and food handler’s certificate), the mobile aspect makes it a bit different.
Here, one will need a truck, a large vehicle with a kitchen to make and serve food. The truck should therefore be designed in a way it makes operations easy and just before you consider this lucrative business, here are some factors to consider.
This includes one-time costs and costs that can vary by location because, for instance, costs for setting a mobile eatery at the CBD will certainly vary from any other place in Nairobi.
But, focusing on truck design first which is a one-time thing, you can start simple in a small bicycle or motorcycle with an extended cart.
This, according to Marf Limited, a company that designs and fabricates mobile restaurant trucks, comes with an approximate budget of Sh200,000 cost of the truck itself with installed solar power for a small refrigerator, fitted fryer and grill and a gas cooker.
However, this might not be enough as the image which is key should be achieved by ensuring top-notch hygiene by ensuring food preparation surfaces are made of stainless steel.
Nevertheless, as the business picks, one may see the need for expanding into larger trucks with bigger space to accommodate the increasing number of customers.
This can mean moving to a food truck, food trailer and food cart which comes with a budget of between Sh200k and Sh1.5M fabrication costs.
You can also opt for a locally sourced second-hand truck or pick-up due to ease of spares access for fabrication which can cost less depending on your menu and the size of the truck or pick-up for the kitchen space and equipment.
Remember, importing a small truck can cost up to Sh1.8M and you still have to part with clearance costs. Yes, importation is always the bottleneck as the customs is not always a walk-in-walk-out.
Future of mobile restaurant business
According to the 2016 Kenya Food Market Report (Restaurant in Kenya), the restaurant business in Kenya has been growing rapidly over the last couple of years and the mobile food truck business is no exception.
Indeed, investors in the food industry are slowly setting up mobile kitchens using food trucks to reach more customers.
Munchies, a product of Mobile Foods of Kenya Ltd, is one such mobile food restaurants in Nairobi which started in 2017 and kicked off operations in January 2018.
Today, the restaurant has employed seven young people who entirely run the business as well as providing skills training.
World over, the industry continues to grow. For instance, it is expected to close in on $1 billion dollars in annual revenues within the United States alone.