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Food truck evolution: Owners strategize as novelty wears off

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NEW YORK (AP) – Starting a food truck to sell tacos or barbecue on downtown streets may seem easy or fun, but owners are finding they need more sophisticated plans now that the novelty has worn off. A culinary fad a decade ago, food trucks have lost some luster and even new ones may not draw a crowd. Many prospective restaurateurs now use trucks as low-cost test kitchens and as literal marketing vehicles.

And food truck operators soon realize they need to think strategically – especially about the winter. Jack and Max Barber started a food truck called Mainely Burgers in 2012, selling burgers and fries at the beach in Scarborough, Maine, and the next year added a second truck in Portland and an ice cream truck. But the competition with Portland’s restaurants was tough.

In this Friday, June 8, 2018, photo customers get their lunch at the Japanese food truck Okamoto Kitchen in Beverly Hills, Calif. Rather than sushi and tempura, they serve meat, fish and sandwiches using traditional Japanese flavors like ponzu. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

“We were definitely bummed out that doing the streets of Portland wasn’t working,” Jack Barber says. The brothers realized they had to change their business model. While the trucks are still a big part of the business, catering is a better way to bring in revenue.

The Barbers now have a full catering calendar, and business has been good enough that they have a restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Food trucks are still appealing to chefs and entrepreneurs because they cost less than restaurants to open – tens of thousands of dollars versus hundreds of thousands or more, says John Gordon, a restaurant consultant with Pacific Management Consulting Group. That difference was particularly attractive during the Great Recession, and the cheap menus drew consumers who could get unique food for less than at a restaurant.

But trucks feel less special to customers now, particularly in big cities, restaurant consultant Clark Wolf says. “They’re no longer a kind of secret, movable, underground treasure,” he says. The biggest growth in the industry is past, according to market research firm IBISWorld.

It counted 4,046 food trucks in the U.S. last year, nearly twice the number of 2008. But it projects annual revenue growth of 3 percent from 2017 to 2022, compared to 7.3 percent from 2012 to last year, when revenue totaled nearly £1 billion. When Gerald and Chizuru Abraham started their Japanese food truck in Los Angeles three years ago, they were undaunted by the fact that “the glory days are over,” Gerald Abraham says.

“The heyday when trucks could pull up just about anywhere and build a line in minutes is nothing short of a fantasy to us,” he says. But Okamoto Kitchen has been successful, and added a second truck a year ago, because the couple has chosen their menu carefully. Rather than sushi and tempura, they serve meat, fish and sandwiches using traditional Japanese flavors like ponzu.

“To survive, you have to have some sort of unique concept,” Abraham says. The couple also doesn’t bring the truck to the same locations too often so customers won’t tire of their cuisine. But selling vegan pizza daily at the same spot, outside Buzz Mill, an Austin, Texas, bar and coffee house, works for Robbie Lordi.

“We feed their regular customers, so they don’t have to leave to eat elsewhere,” says Lordi, who started his truck, Li’l Nonna’s, two years ago. It’s common for Austin bars without their own food operations to arrange with trucks to park nearby. Lordi also has a regular clientele, and business is growing enough that he’s considering adding a truck or opening a restaurant.

Finding a regular place has made Bruce Smith’s fried chicken truck, Chick-N-Nooga, a success – a turnaround from his first food truck, which succumbed to slow winter sales in 2013. Now Smith sells to employees of Amazon’s warehouse in Chattanooga, Tennessee, several days a week. That meant a 50 percent increase in revenue last month compared to May 2017.

“Amazon is the reason I survived,” Smith says. He’s now considering whether to expand, and like Lordi, deciding whether to do so with another truck or a restaurant. The owners’ struggles are proof that food trucks require a strategy, says Matt Geller, president of the industry group National Food Truck Association.

“If your dream is to own one food truck and make money, don’t do it,” he advises. Drew Pumphrey also needed a new plan. The first three years for his barbecue truck, The Smoking Swine, were tough; winters in Baltimore are lean times.

But two years ago, Smith’s truck was featured on the Food Network show, “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” and Pumphrey began getting catering orders from companies and organizations. “Most of that activity comes through the months when we’re not on the road that much, from November to March,” he says. Being in the right place at the right time helps.

Greg Tillery knew a food truck in New Orleans could lead to a bigger business, but “five years later I never would have guessed in my wildest dreams I would have a restaurant on Canal Street.” Two years later, the truck, We Dat’s, had a line of 60 people waiting for chicken and shrimp at the Bayou Classic, an annual football game between Grambling State and Southern universities. Tillery realized his potential – that day led to the opening of a We Dat’s restaurant in 2016, and a second nearly a year ago.

The vision Natasha Case and Freya Estreller had was ice cream trucks in different cities across the country. They ended up with a brand of ice cream in 6,000 grocery stores. Case and Estreller founded Coolhaus with one food truck in Los Angeles in 2009.

Within a few years, they had a handful of trucks in the city, Dallas and New York. They also began test-marketing their ice cream at Whole Foods, and realized the best way to go national was selling ice cream in grocery stores. The trucks, which now number nine, and three stores in Southern California are laboratories, Case says.

“We can build a following before we bring our products to grocery stores,” she says. _____ Follow Joyce Rosenberg at www.twitter.com/JoyceMRosenberg.

Her work can be found here: https://apnews.com/search/joyce%20rosenberg

Food truck evolution: Owners strategize as novelty wears off

In this Friday, June 8, 2018, photo Gerald Abraham and Chizuru Abraham, who started their Japanese food truck in Los Angeles three years ago, pose for photo inside one of their Okamoto Kitchen trucks in Beverly Hills, Calif. Okamoto Kitchen has been successful, and added a second truck a year ago, because the couple has chosen their menu carefully.

Rather than sushi and tempura, they serve meat, fish and sandwiches using traditional Japanese flavors like ponzu. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Food truck evolution: Owners strategize as novelty wears off

In this Friday, June 8, 2018, photo customers get their lunch at the Japanese food truck Okamoto Kitchen in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Rather than sushi and tempura, they serve meat, fish and sandwiches using traditional Japanese flavors like ponzu. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Food truck evolution: Owners strategize as novelty wears off

In this Friday, June 8, 2018, photo chef Raimundo Bobadilla prepares a plate of Japanese Fried Chicken J.F.C. plate at the Japanese food truck Okamoto Kitchen in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Rather than sushi and tempura, they serve meat, fish and sandwiches using traditional Japanese flavors like ponzu. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Food truck evolution: Owners strategize as novelty wears off

In this Friday, June 8, 2018, photo Okamoto Kitchen’s Gerald Abraham, left, talks to regular customer, Eduardo Arias, at Okamoto Kitchen in Beverly Hills, Calif. When Gerald and Chizuru Abraham started their Japanese food truck in Los Angeles three years ago, they were undaunted by the fact that “the glory days are over,” Gerald Abraham says.

But Okamoto Kitchen has been successful, and added a second truck a year ago, because the couple has chosen their menu carefully. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Food truck evolution: Owners strategize as novelty wears off

In this Friday, June 8, 2018, photo spicy tuna stacks are prepared at the Japanese food truck Okamoto Kitchen serves in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Rather than sushi and tempura, they serve meat, fish and sandwiches using traditional Japanese flavors like ponzu. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Food truck evolution: Owners strategize as novelty wears off

In this Friday, June 8, 2018, photo a skateboarder rides past the Japanese food truck Okamoto Kitchen in Beverly Hills, Calif. But Okamoto Kitchen has been successful, and added a second truck a year ago, because the Gerald and Chizuru Abraham have chosen their menu carefully.

Rather than sushi and tempura, they serve meat, fish and sandwiches using traditional Japanese flavors like ponzu. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

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Mercedes Benz Truck & Van, Newtownabbey

Mercedes Benz Truck & Van, Newtownabbey

About Mercedes Benz Truck & Van

Mercedes-Benz Truck & Van (NI) is Northern Ireland’s one stop shop for all your truck and van needs.

??As Northern Ireland’s only official Mercedes-Benz commercial dealer, Mercedes-Benz Truck & Van (NI) have an extensive range of new and used stock in vans and trucks. We are sure to have the Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicle to meet your requirements. ??Our experienced truck and van sales teams are always on hand to offer advice and assistance to help you choose the right Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicle for your business.??

We also have state-of-the art service and parts facilities at our Belfast site with the latest diagnostic equipment and genuine Mercedes-Benz truck and van parts, ensuring that all vehicles serviced by us receive the treatment you expect from Mercedes-Benz.

  • First Class Servicing Facilities
  • Repair & Maintenance Packages
  • Technologically Advanced Equipment
  • Fast & Efficient Service
  • All Makes Diagnostic Equipment
  • Extensive Parts Department
  • All Makes Parts
  • Site in Dungannon

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Mercedes Benz Truck & Van News

Mar 18, 2015

“Model Dealer” wins UK’s first full-year Van Pro stamp of approval from Mercedes-Benz


Northern Ireland’s official Mercedes-Benz Vans Dealer has become the first in Britain to pass a stringent quality audit covering all aspects of its light commercial vehicle sales and after sales operation. Mercedes-Benz Truck & Van (NI), which is based on Mallusk Road, Newtownabbey, was hailed a “model Dealer” by the manufacturer in recognition of its achievement.

The Van ProCenter programme is an international initiative by Mercedes-Benz that puts customer care at the very top of the agenda. Just over a year ago, having been pipped at the post by a fellow franchisee, Mercedes-Benz Truck & Van (NI) became only the second UK Dealer to meet all of the scheme’s demanding criteria and earn accreditation as a fully-fledged Van ProCenter – to underline just how tough the process is, most members of the Mercedes-Benz Dealer network are still working towards this goal. Now, 12 months on, Mercedes-Benz Truck & Van (NI) has just claimed top spot by becoming the first Dealer to pass a rigorous audit covering a full year’s operation as a Van ProCenter.

Significantly more demanding than the process it went through to secure its accreditation, the new audit effectively confirms that Mercedes-Benz Truck & Van (NI) has delivered on all of its promises. Steve Bridge, Managing Director for Mercedes-Benz Vans in the UK, explained: “Van Pro Dealers have to meet more than 50 separate standards of excellence which, taken together, mean their customers are assured of class-leading levels of service, not only when selecting, ordering and taking delivery of their new vehicles, but also once they’re on the road. “The excellence of our Dealer partner in Northern Ireland is reflected by its achievements over the past year, not only in terms of vehicle sales but also against a range of key performance indicators. Mercedes-Benz Truck & Van (NI) is a model Van Dealer.” Mercedes-Benz Van ProCenter Dealers must keep extended opening hours for customer convenience and meet the manufacturer’s strict requirements on everything from sales staff numbers, their training, qualifications and expertise in specific models and business sectors, to advice on bodybuilding options and the availability of award-winning Sprinter, Vito and Citan demonstration vehicles for test drives at short notice.

They will also demonstrate ‘best-in-class’ brand and product presentation at their premises where, as well as new models, they should retail a broad range of top-quality used vans and offer customers fair and transparent trade-in deals on their own vehicles. From an after sales perspective, meanwhile, Van ProCenter Dealers must have specially trained service advisors and technicians, and ensure customer mobility by providing replacement vehicles and collection and delivery services. Managing Director Neil McKibbin, who recently led celebrations to mark the 10th anniversary of the dealership he founded, added: “Our motivated, expert team have passed every test that MercedeMar 18, 2015

Mercedes-Benz Truck & Van (NI) is first for service


Northern Ireland’s Mercedes-Benz Truck and Van (NI) has underlined its position as a leading provider of round-the-clock back-up to local operators, by lifting the manufacturer’s coveted Truck Customer Service Dealer of the Year Award.

AfterSales Manager Colin Nicholl and his team took the trophy in recognition of their superb performance throughout 2014 – Mercedes-Benz Truck and Van (NI) beat off competition from 17 other franchised dealers nationwide to claim the title. A delighted Colin received the award at a ceremony in London, from Sam Whittaker, Customer Services Director for Mercedes-Benz and FUSO Trucks UK. “This award recognises the very best in Customer Service,” declared Sam. “Mercedes-Benz Truck & Van (NI) achieved an industry leading performance in all areas of their service and parts performance. They were also number one in the whole of the UK for their Zero Tolerance on Downtime.

This ensures the minimum of downtime for our customers and really delivers our Brand promise of ‘Trucks you can Trust’, and also people you can trust.” Colin said: “I’m really proud of our entire team, every one of whom has played a part in this success. In recent years we’ve put a lot of time and effort into training, recruiting the right people and investing in our facilities. But we could not have achieved anything without the enthusiastic co-operation of our staff.” The Dealer’s Service24h emergency assistance team once again demonstrated their readiness to help local truck operators when they need it most, by achieving an average roadside attendance time of less than 52 minutes.

Crucially, in more than 87% of cases the vehicle was repaired at the scene and sent on its way, thus avoiding the need for a time-consuming trip to the workshop.

The first time pass rate for trucks prepared for MoT test by Mercedes-Benz Truck & Van (NI), meanwhile, was a whisker away from 99%.

Mercedes-Benz Truck and Van (NI) sells and supports the German manufacturer’s award-winning commercial vehicle range from headquarters in Newtownabbey and a second branch in Dungannon.

Mercedes Benz Truck & Van Team

Name Role Email Telephone
Johnny Andrews Van Sales Executive 07825141924
Iain Kelly Van Sales Executive 07795642598
Paul McClurkin Van Sales Executive 07766715242
Jonathan McCabe Used Van Sales Executive 07795843263
Roy Owens Truck Sales Executive 07710650012
Paul McCrory Truck Sales Executive 07789394143

Location Map of Mercedes Benz Truck & Van

UAE remains regional gateway for air cargo

Dubai is not only the hub of UAE air cargo but the chief gateway for the whole GCC region, covering Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, writes Stuart Flitton. Dubai International (DXB) opened in 1960 and services grew at a fast pace with enormous increases in passenger numbers and freight traffic. In 2010 Dubai World Central (DWC), also known as Al Maktoum Airport, opened for cargo and has capacity for 16 million tonnes of cargo per annum.

It has five runways, 200 widebody aircraft stands and an eight square kilometre cargo facility to handle 16 million tonnes per year and is now the main airport in Dubai for freighter aircraft. The new city, built at a cost of £32 billion and dubbed “Dubai South” has commercial and residential areas built around the airport. The site is also located within a vast bonded economic region that stretches north to connect DWC with the bustling port of Jebel Ali, near Abu Dhabi.

UAE remains regional gateway for air cargoDubai Airports director – cargo business management, Faisal Al Mulla

The importance of the airport is highlighted by the 25 square kilometre Dubai Logistics City, with aviation and logistics businesses including DB Schenker, Panalpina and Hellman Worldwide Logistics.

It has the most high-tech warehousing infrastructure in the world. DXB still handles significant amounts of bellyhold and is complementary to DWC with cross-docking and cross-trucking between the two airports on a daily basis. There are multiple cross-docks at DXB that connect the north and south sides of the airport.

“Dubai is the hub of choice,” says Dubai Airport director, cargo business management, Faisal Al Mulla. “We invested a lot of time and resources to make it a fully integrated air cargo model. We diversified in terms of the commodities received at the airport.

“An example of that is the licence for the pharmaceutical movement. It is fully integrated with land traffic, so we have a network of trucking businesses going all over the GCC – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates,” Al Mulla says. One of the most important attributes of DWC is its proximity to the sea and large container terminals.

“You have a 10km bonded and secure zone [the Jebel Ali Free Zone] where every trader can come and connect from air to sea or sea to air in eight hours or less,” Al Mulla says. “We operate an integrated doctrine between ourselves and our customers. We work hard to ensure that the whole operation is seamless.”

He adds that Dubai Airports felt that even a connection of eight hours was a lot and was working to reduce this as much as possible. Al-Mulla said that there were still indications of concern from some businesses and exporters about the high temperatures in Dubai, which can reach 40C at the height of summer. “We have the necessary facilities to cover the entire temperature range from -8C to -2C for certain types of pharma products or -2C to 8C and 8C to 18C to cover the perishable area.

“Our biggest growing commodities are pharma, perishables and dangerous goods. All of these require highly controlled facilities and ULDs with temperature controls.” The Dubai airports are home to Emirates and its SkyCargo division.

In its latest annual report, Emirates recorded an annual revenue for its freight arm of £3.4 billion, an increase of 17 per cent over the previous year. There was a slight increase in tonnage of two per cent to reach 2.6 million tonnes as Freight yield per Freight Tonne Kilometre (FTKM) increased by 14 per cent. SkyCargo has 13 Boeing 777Fs, which have capacity for 103 tonnes with space for 550 cubic metres.

In the past year the airline launched new freighter services to Maastricht in the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Aguadilla in Puerto Rico.

In November last year it signed a memorandum of understanding with Dubai CommerCity to improve its services to e-commerce, using Dubai as a hub.

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