A photographer who's been documenting food trucks since before most Americans had heard of them says trucks which establish permanent locations - as Where Ya At Matt recently announced it plans to do - are nearly always primed to succeed.
"The folks who can make a successful run as a food truck vendor do a great job in brick-and-mortar spaces," says Angie Mosier, whose work will appear in John T. Edge's forthcoming The Truck Food Cookbook.
Food truckers' penchant for settling down was noted last year by the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle, papers in cities populated by early adopters of the food truck habit. If the food trucks cited in those stories are representative, it typically takes about two to three years for a truck to cultivate the brand recognition and capital needed to make a fixed location work. According to that timeline, Seattle might soon see still more trucks following the lead of Marination Mobile, Skillet Street Food and Where Ya At Matt.
And when truck operators open restaurants, Mosier says, they're often better prepared for the inevitable logistical challenges than chefs who haven't spent time on the road.
"They've come under much more scrutiny from inspectors and faced opposition from the businesses near where they park their vehicles," Mosier says. "They've had to procure raw materials, storage space and prep locations."
Truck operators have also dealt with the weather, which is why the idea of opening a real restaurant appeals to even truckers who believe in the freedom and flexibility of mobile food sales. A truck's revenue can drop by 20 percent during the winter.
Running a restaurant is pricier than operating a food truck, but a fixed location can attract an older clientele with more money to spend. Still, Mosier says, neither approach guarantees success in the restaurant business.
"Both jobs are incredibly difficult and can wound the body and spirit of those who are not up to the challenge," she says.