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business models, strategies and technologies

Food trucks – transience in a tin can or ultra-flexible business on wheels?

Food trucks are popular – but Danish food truck company HiiYou is selling a dream of entrepreneurial freedom and customer interaction instead

Following the food truck fad

Danes often seem to display an uncritical attitude to anything supposedly associated with “cool” – particularly when it’s perceived as coming from the US.

So it’s no surprise that American-style food trucks – riding high on the current Scandinavian gastronomic boom – are now catching on big in and around Denmark’s hipster havens, the wannabe cool crowd and the bizzy bunnies of the urban jungle. There’s a company like Food Truck Partners, for example, which highlights that they also provide design support, financial leasing along with the customised hardware – whose quality they emphasise by making materials and manufacturing facilities prominent on their website presentation.

What’s the real message?

Obviously, these food trucks are less about simply tackling the hunger pangs of passers-by and more about SoMe-driven fashion trends, consumer coding and social identity. There’s a juxtaposition of “on the go” cool food and the conflux of cool people, with FOMO meta-messages of “you can be part of something” and “be in on something new before your less-cool neighbour/social competitors”, often with some kind of metrosexual titillation sub-tones. Never too explicit – local government hygiene standards have to be complied with, after all.

Food truck or freedom vehicle?

Yes, food trucks are a popular fad – but one Danish food truck company declares that it’s really selling something very different and (potentially) much more interesting. The HiiYou organisation – not a company, in its own words – says it puts wheels on restaurant and retail businesses. They say they help entrepreneurs create a successful mobile business, with decor and design tailored to individual needs plus financing via affordable down payments and low monthly costs to help people get started. Confusingly (communication-wise), they write that they can also provide access to food truck catering based on 45 different food concepts.

Claim your freedom. Put wheels on your passion

But this particular food truck business isn’t really about the food trucks, it seems. Instead, HiiYou encourages budding entrepreneurial spirits to “Claim your freedom. Put wheels on your passion”, and explicitly provides entrepreneurial counselling that HiiYou declares to be the foundation for its setup. They reckon to have been mentoring 87 mobile business entrepreneurs in Denmark and Norway – to date (October 2018),

A business selling businesses

There’s a key part of the HiiYou website featuring a free e-book about how to achieve a successful mobile business and some tantalising – but seemingly not fully developed – “big picture” perspectives. This is where the most interesting part of the HiiYou business model seems to lie – in providing pre-packaged, ready-to-roll containers for cultivating and addressing the whole idea of flexibility and transience in consumer-centric business operations. It’s a way to take retailing as well as other business operations to where people actually are at any given time,  transcending bricks-and-mortar tie-downs and capital-hungry financial obligations. It’s a low-investment way to pretotype and try out new business ideas and retail concepts at an early stage, to see whether they’ll fly and to fail early if they don’t.

This is way beyond a discussion about street food or the face-feeding flavour-of-the-month popularity stakes.

A business selling interaction

Even the HiiYou name seems to be an attempt to recognise the importance and opportunity inherent in the face-to-face consumer/entrepreneur experience, selling an idea about a way to do business amid fluid, quick-morphing customer constellations and consumer preferences. For the entrepreneurially minded – whether food-connected or not – it’s also a way to quickly and cheaply trial new business ideas, retail concepts and customer interaction, and if necessary to fail quickly and learn from real-world business experiences and customer feedback before embarking on the next iteration of your big idea.

So it’s not a story about the nth reiteration of tacos – it’s about failing fast, iterating often, and making a splash while doing so. That’s another realm of cool.