Can grocers get in on the ‘food truck revolution’?

Discussion
May 03, 2016

While certainly known for food, grocers have largely ignored the food truck craze. But Raley’s Family of Fine Stores and Whole Foods Markets recently took different twists on the opportunity in rolling out trucks.

In mid-February, Raley’s Family of Fine Stores, with locations in Northern California and Nevada, partnered with food truck operator Flavor Face “to introduce a new audience” to its signature fresh, “carefully sourced, lovingly crafted, distinctive culinary choices.”

The 20-foot truck — co-branded with Raley’s logos and the tagline, “Rollin’ with Raley’s” — will source all its food from the grocery chain. The truck will attend community events as well as the retailer’s own sponsored events.

“Raley’s is in the food business and customers are changing the way they want food,” said Dean Owens, Raley’s senior director of food service, in a statement. “The food truck revolution has become the newest, convenient, entertaining dining experience and Raley’s is eager to be a part of it.”

At its flagship store in Austin, Whole Foods recently launched a food truck test kitchen to experiment with new ideas for store eateries, and to explore collaborations with chefs and supplier partners.

Bearing the name Tartinette, the truck began serving open-faced sandwiches and creative salads prepared by Tien Ho, an executive chef who last year became Whole Food’s global vice president of culinary and hospitality. The concept, menu and name of the truck will be updated every two months to explore food trends, seasonal flavors and vendor partnerships.

“Guests visiting the truck can expect the same high-quality, fresh ingredients found in our stores, and a menu that’s completely revamped each season,” said Mr. Ho, in a statement. “Changing it up will give us the chance to collaborate with local chefs and suppliers to create eating experiences you won’t find in any other grocery store.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:
What has held back grocers from participating more fully in the “food truck revolution”? Do you see a bigger opportunity in branding, as with Raley’s truck, or in testing food ideas, as with Whole Foods’ truck?

Braintrust
"Confession up front: I’m a bit of a food truck groupie!"
"I suspect there will be more activity going forward, however, as the topic came up in three of the sessions I attended at the NGA show earlier this year."
"It’s a chance to highlight your products and suggested preparations, to further expose potential customers to what you have in store."

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10 Comments on "Can grocers get in on the ‘food truck revolution’?"

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Kevin Graff
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

Confession up front: I’m a bit of a food truck groupie! So, having said that, I love the idea of any well-executed, experience-based outreach initiative that takes the grocer’s brand out to the community and to a much higher level. Just parking the food truck outside the grocery store itself screams for attention and expands the possibilities for customers and the grocer alike.

Food on a shelf is just food. Food cooked up deliciously, presented exquisitely and served in a way you typically don’t expect is what creates the experience needed to set a grocer apart.

Ron Margulis
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

Capital expenditure, insurance costs, training, diversion of resources away from core business activities, risk and more have inhibited retailers from investing in food trucks. I suspect there will be more activity going forward, however, as the topic came up in three of the sessions I attended at the NGA show earlier this year. Also, the two or three examples of food trucks at supermarkets that I’ve experienced, especially one in Phoenix last month that was coupled with farm stand-like produce merchandising, were extremely popular.

David Livingston
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

Some unique grocers can certainly do a food truck. But for most it would be like McDonald’s having a food truck. With Whole Foods, it helps being in a market like Austin that has a food truck culture. At the Wisconsin State Fair we have a local independent that has a food booth. To me that’s the same as a food truck. Plum has a store in the Detroit airport. It doesn’t have to be a “truck.” Perhaps a train station, baseball stadium, etc. Possibilities are endless.

Gajendra Ratnavel
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

The food truck idea may be part of the marketing world more than operations. It can bring awareness and branding. Remind people they need to get groceries.

Jonathan Spooner
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

If their plan is to become a portable Eataly — then go for it! The blended CPG and prepared meals model is a grocery juggernaut and these trucks could be the tip of the spear.

Gordon Arnold
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

It wouldn’t surprise me to see big retailers running down lemonade stands in the continuing search for sustainable new market profits as a nest endeavor. This is much too entrepreneurial for the big boys. Remember it wasn’t Ben and Jerry’s intention to grow small. They wanted a path to being big against the monster clan.

Naomi K. Shapiro
Guest
Naomi K. Shapiro
1 year 7 months ago

Not all grocers are cut out for the food truck revolution, maybe they don’t have the kind of product presentations or deli inclinations that others have.

But those that are cut out for the food truck revolution should have a bonanza. Not just a reminder that you need to get groceries, but that you need to go and get groceries from the store that presented such a wonderful food truck experience. A superb advertising venue. A chance to highlight your products and suggested preparations, to further expose potential customers to what you have in store.

Karen McNeely
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

I don’t think that a grocery store going into the food truck business is a natural transition. It’s a far enough leap from their core business that for most, it would likely be a distraction. It may make sense for some well run high-end grocers, but in general it seems more like folly.

Tony Orlando
Guest
1 year 7 months ago
I’d do it in a second if we actually had a great economy, as our signature foods would sell like hot cakes. This works in high-end income areas, where people are willing to shell out decent money for a unique product, and it takes a nice crowd to support the effort. There will be more of this happening in the urban areas, where supermarket chains will start competing for more of the foodie business, and they better be prepared to deal with the local trucks, that already have a following, and don’t think for a second, these local trucks aren’t seeing what is coming their way. I’ve eaten from a few food trucks in my travels, and like any business, some are great, and others pretty blah. The winning trucks also have one or two of the workers that are very engaging with the customers and in my opinion, that is part of the fun. But still, if the food is so so, it won’t bring business. I think Wegmans, Publix, and other strong regional… Read more »
Matt Talbot
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

Grocers that have embarked on food truck experiments are undoubtedly doing so in a market expansion effort. The brand exposure alone could very well offset the expense related to launching a campaign like this. In addition, with the proliferation of mobile POS systems, BI tools and more, facilitating and tracking the ROI for a campaign from the field is easier to execute than it would have been just a few years ago.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Confession up front: I’m a bit of a food truck groupie!"
"I suspect there will be more activity going forward, however, as the topic came up in three of the sessions I attended at the NGA show earlier this year."
"It’s a chance to highlight your products and suggested preparations, to further expose potential customers to what you have in store."

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