First came the taco trucks, then mobile street food went upscale with Twitter-driven ventures like Kogi and the many fellow travelers that have come in its wake. This bunch consisted of scrappy outsiders to the restaurant world, but now it looks like the whole scene is going corporate with the arrival of Mobi Munch, a “scalable mobile food truck infrastructure” provider that's looking for a few good chefs.
No, Mobi Munch isn't hiring chefs. Instead, it's trying to sell them a turnkey package of goods and services they'll need to get started in the gourmet food truck business. The pitch: Buy in and the chefs can concentrate solely on the food. Mobi Munch will handle everything else — not just the truck, but also the all-important social media food portal where customers can go to find who's cooking what, where and when.
The Mobi Munch crew seems to have the right credentials. Co-founder Ray Villaman was once head of 1,600-unit sandwich chain Blimpie International and was executive director of the California Restaurant Association. Josh Tang, who has investment banking and media startup experience, ran MediaVast and its constituent websites, including wireimage.com. The third partner, Aaron Noveshen, once a fine-dining chef, founded both The Culinary Edge, which provides chain restaurants with culinary, creative and operational solutions, and the World Wrapps chain.
This trio certainly has definitely identified the hot growth segment in the restaurant business. Here's their pitch:
“We envision a world of widely accessible mobile cuisine opportunities for chefs and food lovers alike, where affordable gourmet meals are conveniently created and consumed at the curb and where fun, interactive dining experiences spark meaningful offline community building.”
Their first customer is Los Angeles chef Ludovic “Ludo” Lefebvre, who once ran two of L.A.'s premier French restaurants, L'Orangerie and Bastide. His media gambits have produced uneven results — twice he's played the role of the chef you love to hate on Top Chef Masters — so now he's hoping a food truck venture in conjunction with Mobi Munch, Ludo Fried Chicken, will invigorate his career.
“I'm confident we can offer a truly revolutionary take on the food truck experience and pioneer a new class of affordable gourmet cuisine that's free from the constraints of a permanent address and accessible to everyone,” chef Ludo says.
Be prepared to pay $125,000 and up for a Mobi Munch truck. The key point of differentiation is that its equipment setup enables chefs to do all their cooking on board. There's fresh water, gas heat, even waste water containment. Most other food trucks serve food that's been prepped at a commissary, then loaded onto the truck for service.
So does the cost seem steep? Contrast the Mobi Munch fee against the cost of starting a bricks-and-mortar restaurant. Then that price tag becomes a selling point to prospective chefs, not a drawback. Not to mention that the instant access to social media followers alone would cost a bundle to set up and monitor if you had to do it yourself.
So will Mobi Munch sweep the world? We don't know, but it has already rolled out a company-owned truck in San Francisco. This one, Chairman Bao, sells steamed buns. Get ready to see plenty more in big cities soon, at least in areas with tolerable year-round weather.