Food trucks definitely gaining some traction in Malaysia. With such easy set up and support from the government, I think we are about to see a new culinary scene here revolutionized.
In 2017, Selangor has about 130 operating food trucks, and the number is expected to double by 2018, as pointed out by Amirudin Shari, Selangor State Executive Councilor for Youth Development, Sports, Cultural and Entrepreneurship Development. We definitely seeing the trend hiking. You may ask why; why now as food truck was never something new even in Malaysia, and why is it food truck and not automated food service such as vending machines?
And yes, you’re right. Food truck has been long existed in Malaysia. Selling food from trucks has been around for decades especially with local delights such as Kuih Muih, Pisang Goreng and Lok Lok in locations such as Malaysians night market which usually happened in their neighborhood in a designated day weekly. So why food truck? We Malaysian somehow do wish to own our own food joint one day. We love our food and we do love to share our passion with others, and seeing others appreciate your efforts and passions are always satisfying and enjoyable.
Owning a restaurant is not easy; expensive rents & high operation costs, together with the limitations of demographics challenges in restaurants, really had pushed up the trends of food entrepreneurs to look into food truck as a viable replacement medium. On the other hand, owning a restaurant also means serving a more complete menu, which is way more challenging comparing with just a food truck where usually the market is more forgiving on varieties. Finally, the benefit of mobility and flexibility of food trucks, eliminating the boundaries and unlock more potential markets and regulars as well as business opportunities such as private events and parties, decreasing the risks of a traditional restaurants.
So what do you need to plan to start a food truck business? Basically there are 5 areas according to my years of experience. Starting from the concept planning, locations and routes, legitimacy and licenses, operation procedures, and lastly local operational suppliers.
Planning & Concepts
The very first step is to identify your concept and the meals + cuisines you’re planning to sell. This will give you a guideline on how your operation will run and what equipment or customization you need for your food truck as space and efficiencies are essentials for a smooth daily operations.
Locations & Routes Planning
With your concept figured out, you should find suitable locations highly associated with your target market. With government support recently, few locations has been identified and recognized for food trucks’ entities to operate on. Locations such as downtown Kuala Lumpur, Jalan Ampang, Anggerik Mall Shah Alam parking area, Jalan Kenari at USJ 1 and SS 15 at Subang Jaya are currently well known for their daily convergence of food trucks. Routings are also very important for those who plan having their food trucks serving several locations depending of the day, putting considerations of timing of your target customers.
Legitimacy & Licenses in Malaysia
After knowing your chosen location, you should start working towards getting your food truck business legit. Head to Suruhanjaya Syarikat Malaysia (SSM) get your entities incorporated. Then register your business to the targeted location city council. However, this is also the biggest and most formidable one is the lack of a licensing framework governing food trucks by the local. So far only Selangor State Government will be the first state in Malaysia which indicated by Amirudin Shari at the Food Mega Festival Launch Ceremony at Melawati Stadium, Shah Alam on December 2016. On the other scene in Kuala Lumpur, although DBKL, the local city council, is actively supporting the food truck scene through KLFTF, it still not yet established a way of licensing food trucks for the time being.
With the concept and planning out of the way, you should use it to identify the equipment, resources and supply that you need. Your truck, condition new or used, the truck’s interior customization according to your concept, designs and decorations, and packaging suppliers should be well sorted out. Other operational decisions should also be made such as food presentations, manpower as well as operational hours together with a daily tasks schedule and flow written down will definitely help on ensuring daily smooth operations.
Operation Suppliers in Malaysia
Finally, your food and beverages suppliers, which will be the soul of ensuring your concepts operates as plan.
Food truckers whom opt for daily fresh and chilled ingredients, they can purchase their daily supply with their local markets (Pasar Pagi), where they will likely be delighted to supply you as they could also be benefiting from the increase their purchasing quantity and power. Daily fresh ingredients will be a very good selling point but do require more dedication and increases amount of mis-en-place.
However, for inexperience food truck starters, I do highly suggest considering using frozen supplies for your source of food for 2 points, efficiencies and consistencies. Products such as pastries, desserts, ready-to-cook (RTC), ready-to-eat (RTE) and condiments can be served well by frozen supplies. One of the major benefit of frozen supplies are their long shelf life which can really help on improving the operational flow. They are also usually can be prepared and handled easily in comparison to fresh chilled ingredients. With the latest freezing technologies such as instant quick frozen (IQF), frozen quality are no longer being compromised. Food are being frozen literally in minutes to preserve the quality and freshness. On the other hand, these products are also usually governed by food safety compliance standard, such as HALAL and HACCP, ensuring a piece of mind for you and your customers.
Using Social Media Marketing
One last thing that any food truck starters should consider about, customers retention. This is where you should ask the question how. How do you communicate with your target customers? How do you make your regulars feel privilege?
Luckily, in this digital era, this is not a challenge anymore. With social media, your locations, selling points, promotions, and business information can be easily shared with your target audiences and regulars. Think of a good OVP (Online Value Proposition) which can easily help you pull new and maintain old customers. Together with consistent activities either postings or promotions should help you to establish a solid brand image, and brand familiarity within 3 – 6 months. Remember consistencies is most important factor to increase your social media flow traffic. With so many choices available for the market to follow, it is important to keep your presence consistent otherwise you’ll be forgotten.
This are my suggestions of steps and considerations while planning to start a food truck business in Malaysia. If you find this article helpful, feel free to share this on your social media platform. And to all you food lovers out there, keep calm and bon appetite!