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Food Trucks Rule!

By D. Aileen Dodd Contributing Writer | 6/21/2013, 8:10 a.m.
Food trucks, such as the one pictured above, offer a budget-friendly solution for folks looking to eating out, with cheap eats and convenient locations. (Photo by Vincent Christie).

In the afternoon sun, hot plates of jerk chicken, gourmet tacos and home style barbecue are being served up to lunch crowds lining up hungry at the windows of roadside kitchens in metro Atlanta.

Food trucks are quickly becoming the new fast food haunts for people in search of mouth-watering selections of healthy meals on wheels. They save customers gas and time by offering the convenience of a drive-through burger joint without the need for a car trip. 

And for food truck owners, peddling cuisine from a mobile kitchen affords them an opportunity to explore the restaurant industry without having to invest $100,000 to $300,000 in a building.

For Troy and Mia Anglin of One Love Jerk Grill, doing business from a food truck for two years has been key to growing a loyal following. The Anglins plan to open a restaurant by December if they find a location that fits their budget. 

“I love food with all of my heart; cooking is one of my passions,” said Troy Anglin, the chef behind a menu of Caribbean delicacies inspired by recipes he learned in the kitchens of Montego Bay, his childhood home. 

“I came up with the idea for a food truck because when I first moved here I was working for a hotel that wasn’t really paying much. I decided to go into business for myself.”

Food trucks were listed in Forbes Magazine among the hottest start-up businesses being launched in recent years. 

The nearly $3 billion dollar industry is nearing its fifth year of substantial growth. According to the National Restaurant Association, rolling restaurants generate about $650 million annually in revenue and account for 1 percent of U.S. restaurant sales. An industry study by IBIS World reported that food truck businesses nationally had a steady  growth rate of 8.4 percent annually between 2007 and 2012 and saw revenues for 2009 approach $2 billion.

Ethnic and gourmet foods have been among the most successful fare sold on food trucks, which allow customers to experience international cuisine they may not normally try.

In Los Angeles, two college classmates invested $25,000 on an idea for a Vietnamese “bahn mi” food truck in 2009 that made a quick profit. A year later, their Nom Nom trucks brought in more than $300,000 in revenues. By 2011, revenues topped $1 million. 

Yumbii is often credited with bringing the rolling gourmet restaurant concept to metro Atlanta four years ago. Owners said it took a couple of years to turn a profit, but their Asian fusion street food was an instant hit.

Customers line up for their $3 entrees including their fresh cut french fries tossed in Sesame oil and their Asian rib eye beef tacos. Yumbii sells 900 pounds of Sesame fries and 300 pounds of beef tacos each week.

“Yumbii was the first gourmet food truck in Atlanta,” said Carson Young, the mastermind behind a rolling restaurant that now employs seven people. “When we first started, there weren’t a lot of ground rules. We worked with the Atlanta Police Department, the Fulton County Department of Health and the City of Atlanta to get some laws established.”