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Wheels or walls?

  • Published at 10:13 pm January 21st, 2020
B Property

If restaurateurs had the means for both, should they choose walls over wheels or should it be the other way around?

Decisions can be tough, especially when they are about important aspects. 

And when it concerns financial matters that may have a long-lasting effect, the decision can be nerve-wracking. 

One such decision that many Bangladeshi entrepreneurs, who want to enter the food industry face nowadays, are whether to start off their venture with a food cart or invest in something more permanent, such as a restaurant or coffee shop. 

While one is mobile and less-costly, the other offers things that make it a far more popular choice among entrepreneurs everywhere. 

If restaurateurs had the means for both, should they choose walls over wheels or should it be the other way around?

The sight of small-sized food carts cooking or making some mouth-watering treat by the road is common in Bangladesh today — especially in the areas that have a number of educational institutions or recreational facilities. 

And next to those carts, there are always a few patrons waiting for the food they ordered as a few keen onlookers wonder about the food and whether they should indulge in them or not. 

While some of those curious individuals take the bold step and try out the foods available at those carts, many do not. Instead, if the desire to eat strikes, they go to a nearby restaurant that may sate their cravings. 

Such occurrences are the examples of how many of the entrepreneurs are losing a great deal of their customers to competitors with walls.

The reason for such deterrence by the onlookers or interested parties is mostly due to their perception of hygiene or a lack of proper seating arrangement, which many see as being “uncomfortable.” To them, seating out on the streets on stools in heat or cold is quite undesirable. And this is quite understandable, as is the hygiene factor. 

The food industry is thriving in Dhaka the most — a place where the pollution level is dangerously high. Constant roadwork, traffic, dust and an immeasurable number of pollutants are all over the city. 

And unfortunately, a big number of food carts are located in places where such pollutants may contaminate the food. 

This can result into health hazards — a growing concern in the community today. While such a scenario might not be the case always, it is something that is on the mind of many gourmands.

On the other hand, it is easy to see why joints or restaurants seem more appealing to such food lovers.

Most of the eateries today have fairly comfortable seating arrangements such as cushioned seats, air conditioner and whatnot. 

In cities like Dhaka, where there are only a handful of options to sit down and hang out with your loved ones, restaurants are usually the only options — which is not so bad for people from a culture who love to eat. 

But then again, this also makes eating at a food cart an afterthought for many. 

Even if the food at the cart may taste better and cost less, individuals — especially teenagers — much rather have a place to hang out together and spend some time. 

And for the older generations, those who have settled down and have a family, eating at a restaurant instead of a cart is almost always the only option.

Another aspect that is drawing away customers from food carts is social media. 

The younger generation today is captivated and preoccupied with social media. The desire to visit “instagrammable” locations or places where they can showcase their “flare” is at an all-time high — and restaurants make full use of this craving. 

A lot of the dining establishments of today have risen in popularity not mainly due to the quality or taste of the food they serve; rather, it is their decor and atmosphere that have made them “trendy.” 

The main goal of the patrons there — in most cases — is to “check-in,” take photos and be part of the current trend.

This phenomenon is something that is mostly out of reach for food carts of today. That is because the goal of the food carts — from the perspective of the entrepreneurs — is to invest less and maximize profit, which becomes difficult if they try to make their business fashionable. 

While it is true that some carts do gain popularity and begin trending, that is due to the taste of their food — which is quite rare in the modern landscape.

Food carts, however, are not without their merits. They are perfect for limited budgets. 

Although, the cost of food carts has increased over the years and buying a cart is now less costly than making one. 

The relative lower expenditure of food carts enables budding entrepreneurs to take the initial step in the food industry. 

From there, success on a limited scale can encourage a more permanent investment — which many make. After all, a proper establishment has the potential to rake in more profits.

Another reason for the popularity of food carts is mobility and lack of wall-bound space. Finding a commercial space in the hotspots in Dhaka can be difficult as existing occupants rarely evict their places. 

This prohibits entrepreneurs from finding a proper place they like. 

Food carts usually do not have such problems. 

They can be placed in any part near the footpath — with the right permissions, of course. This allows for more flexibility and accessibility to the desired area. 

However, it should be noted that permission is a big issue for such food carts. And more often than not, such businesses have to pay to unsanctioned individuals for placing their food cart.

A lack of resources and, often indecision, curtails the desire to succeed.

While food carts present the opportunity to easily step into the food industry, it is limited by its nature. 

Even with the advantages it holds, a proper establishment allows a business to reach its desired heights — something that most entrepreneurs would agree on. As a result, their goal always seems to be a place with walls. 

Wheels are good, but they are often viewed as a stop along the way for something better.