Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Mobile carts are on the rise. More and more vendors are seeing the value of placing their products on display in high traffic areas where potential customers are frequently strolling by. The results are not only increasing profits significantly but also providing a unique advantage over the competition.

Among the most successful mobile food vendors are frozen dessert carts. On a hot summer day, it's tough for anyone to pass on the opportunity to enjoy a cup of fresh gelato or fruity frozen yogurt. Even more successful are new sweet treat trucks. Sweet treat trucks or dessert trucks are really a trend in themselves, and becoming more and more popular. Offering an array of desserts such as brownies, cookies, bars, layer cakes, tiramisu, crème brulée, specialty chocolates and cupcakes consumers can purchase right out of their truck side windows.

According to Fortune Magazine, one estimate of street vending sales in New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, DC was $1.7 billion per year, with close to half of the sales coming from New York City. Many manufacturers recognize this growing retail market segment and are attempting to maximize their own sales by providing goods to the street vendors and/or owning their own mobile food and beverage units.¹

There are many advantages to owning your own mobile dessert cart:

  • Mobile carts offer product visibility and mobility, vendors can benefit from major sales increases during warmer months
  • Mobile carts can also be found in shopping malls and other indoor venues which can generate sales increases in the colder months
  • Many successful frozen dessert cart operators thrive by partnering with an organization such as a park, a country club or a golf course
  • Even though there are a lot of frozen dessert carts that are operated by larger food chains and/or food providers, you can also find many cart operators who invest in these units as a means of starting their own small business. Frozen dessert carts can be a huge money-maker for people who are interested in running their own business on their own time.
  • Frozen dessert carts or dessert trucks diversify street food options beyond the old standbys of hotdogs, popcorn, gyros and tacos
  • A mobile cart can be a good approach to market your products outside of your commercial operation during an event or at popular seasonal hangouts
  • Most carts a have a customizable face which can bear your company's trademark for brand exposure
  • If you strictly operate a mobile cart, businesses can cut down on fixed cost of owning a brick-and-mortar location such as rent, insurance, maintenance and even payroll

Some disadvantages of owning a mobile dessert cart can also include:

  • Health Department regulations vary across the country. Be sure to check the local Health Department for guidelines before even considering a purchase. Cart vendors can work with you to provide information about Health Department codes BEFORE buying a cart- then, once you receive your cart, the physical inspection and actual license issuance should be much easier.²
  • Mobile cart owners must follow police enforced regulations once operating their cart, which can include parking restrictions, zoning regulations
  • Taxes! Owning any type of business, mobile cart businesses included, requires that you work with the appropriate state agency to submit and follow the correct tax requirements. Taxes and information mobile carts can be held responsible for include: withholding taxes, real estate taxes, sales taxes and business taxation.³

So whether you're in the frozen dessert or pastry and confections arena, it's never too early to start thinking about the future. The potential revenue growth a mobile cart can bring to your business is something to consider as you launch or expand your brand. Now is the time to consider as mobile carts are truly in a transition from novelty to mainstream. Simply put, mobile food carts are the wave of the future.


¹,³  Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs. Street Vendor: Business and Industry Profile 

² Thornton, Paul. Why should you consider mobile ice cream catering? Carts and Grills, Inc.