Restaurants grow wheels to avoid paying rental costs

Restaurants are going mobile, driven onto the streets in response to high rental prices in the city.

Several food trucks are now plying their trade on Yangon’s roads, with owners saying they have abandoned expensive shop rentals for the trucks.

“I sold Myitkyina noodles and snacks out of my apartment for three years, but now I can’t find a suitable shop and apartment – they’re too expensive,” said the owner of Myitkyina noodle food truck, who did not give her name.

The cost of the truck is about the same as a year’s rent, she said, adding it brings the advantages of being able to travel to where the customers are.

She parks the truck overnight on 46th Street in Botahtaung township to claim a space for the morning trade. In the evening, she often relocates to a parking spot near City Hall, where she pays for a space.

“We had loyal customers before setting up, so they knew our shop,” she said.

The food truck is a modern twist on traditional cart-based vendors, who push their carts up and down Yangon’s side streets, advertising their presence by yelling out – often with the support of loudspeakers. Long supported for delivering food right to the door and decried for preventing reporters from sleeping in, cart salespeople say they are counting on the convenience to sell their wares.

Ko So Moe Kyi has been selling sugarcane juice from his cart for three years.

“I chose this business because people don’t want to go far for food, and the food cart is easy and makes people satisfied,” he said.

Still, it can be tough having a job that does not allow sitting, and Ko So Moe Kyi said he is on his feet all day.

Customers say they agree it is the convenience bringing them to mobile food shops.

Ma Su Myat is a 22-year-old university student who says she is often eagerly on the lookout for her favourite hamburger fast food truck. When she comes across it, she stops to buy some foreign food, but it is not always parked nearby.

The hamburger truck has a habit of rapidly changing locations. After one near-miss last week, local residents said the truck would be returning – but probably not until Saturday.

In the meantime, Ma Su Myat is out of luck, even though she says she considers the truck’s food to be clean and tasty.

Not everyone is so enamoured of food from a truck, however.

Ma Ei Mon Htwe, a 23-year-old office worker, said she dislikes not having a place to sit after purchasing food from a truck.

“Sometimes I like the taste, but I can’t find a place to sit. At a restaurant with my friends, we have lots of space to chitchat,” she said.

Running a food truck can be an expensive business, said the Myitkyina food truck owner.

In addition to the costs of running the truck, there is the cost of a restaurant licence to the Yangon City Development Committee, as well as parking fees and overnight fees to secure a spot.

Still, the business is a good one so far, the she said. “It’s a more profitable business than owning a traditional restaurant.”


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