In Hyderabad, food trucks are found in areas like Gachibowli, Madhapur and Hitec city where you have IT companies; and commercial areas where people congregate, such as Abids, Kukatpally and LB Nagar.

Hyderabad food truck
Features Food Friday, November 19, 2021 - 11:52

It was a cloudy October morning in Hyderabad, and Durga Prasad Kanumuri had prepared three types of batter – idli, dosa and vada –  and readied other ingredients that would be used on his food truck that specialises in tiffin items like mutton kheema dosa, idly and paaya, among others. That evening, he drove his truck to his regular spot in Kukatpally, where he expected to serve food to 150-200 people. But soon after he had set up Vinayaka Food Truck for the night, it started to pour. He only ended up serving a handful of customers. Not only did he hardly earn anything that night, but most of the food he had prepped went to waste.

“Rains are a nightmare situation for food trucks, as all the planning and prepping goes to waste,” says Durga Prasad. “We face this situation often during the rainy season from July to August,” he adds. 

Food trucks have the ability to go where customers are and serve them, and have fewer overheads as owners don’t have to spend on renting a space, paying for electricity, etc. But there are a lot of challenges they face as well. They have to stand for long hours and work in cramped areas, deal with wastage of food on days that see few patrons, and deal with parking and traffic issues. Not to mention, the COVID-19 pandemic, that led to food trucks having to close for months on end.

Over the past few years, Hyderabad has seen a spurt of food trucks. This has largely been driven by the IT industry. People from all over the country have moved to the city to work and made it their home over the last decade, which has prompted restaurants to specialise in different cuisines. To tap into this market, many food trucks have popped up too. They travel to areas where IT companies are located, like Gachibowli, Madhapur and Hitec city; or commercial areas where people congregate, such as Abids, Kukatpally and LB Nagar. These trucks serve everything from south Indian tiffin items and fried foods to burgers and Chinese food.

Long hours, cramped spaces

Sarada M runs a food truck in the busy area of Abids, one of the oldest commercial areas in Hyderabad. Hailing from Nellore in Andhra Pradesh, Saradha and her family have been living in Hyderabad for many years now. Her food truck, which she has been running for the past five years with her husband, specialises in breakfast items and is only open for a few hours every morning.

“All the prepping and grinding of batter takes place at home. We then load these into the truck, drive to Abids, set up the kitchen, and start cooking,” says Sarada.

The day starts early for these food truck owners. N Samrat runs a food truck called ‘Where’s The Food,’ which specialises in Indo-Chinese food like noodles, fried rice, Manchurian, etc. Parked in Gachibowli, the truck serves lunch and dinner. But for Samrat, and his two employees, the day starts early and ends late. "We begin our day at 8 am in a hired kitchen space where we chop vegetables, assemble the ingredients, and cook some food items beforehand. We then shift everything onto the truck and make sure to reach our location in time to serve lunch,” says Samrat.

“We also serve dinner and finish work at 11.30 pm or sometimes even midnight,” adds Samrat.

Most of Where's The Food’s customers are students and employees from surrounding offices. Staff from a corporate hospital nearby also frequent the food truck.

Working for long hours and serving dozens of customers from cramped quarters can be challenging. The food truck owners say that optimising the space becomes a necessity as most of these food trucks have at least 2-3 people working in them at a time, and everything from cooking to serving and packing food takes place in the small space.

“Every area inside the truck has to be properly designed and every item used should have an allotted space, and nothing should be moved," says Samrat.

These food trucks don’t come cheap either. Converting a vehicle into a food truck and customising it can cost anywhere from Rs 5 - Rs 10 lakh. Samrat started his food truck business after the first lockdown was lifted in Hyderabad. "I bought my truck second-hand from a friend, who had designed the interiors and had been running a food business from it. He, however, had to close it down due to the lockdown,” says Samrat.

Durga Prasad, on the other hand, rents his truck. This costs him Rs 15,000 a month. “I used to run a juice point earlier, but only saw regular business during summer. And when the first lockdown happened, I had to close down for good,” he says. He decided to change tactics, and serve food that would be welcome all year round. He hired a cook, and after obtaining a food licence from the municipality, started selling different types of meat-based food items.

All the food truck operators need to get a special license to run their business. This food license, which costs Rs 3,500, has to be obtained from the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) office from their particular zone. The license is valid for a year, after which it has to be renewed.

Stick to one location

Deeksha of Trucking Foodie, which offers fast food like burgers and pizzas in Yapral, also started her business after the first lockdown. “We had a restaurant in Jubilee Hills that we had to close during the first lockdown,” she says. So they started a food truck, which they park in Yapral permanently, and serve everything from gourmet burgers to salads and donuts to their customers.

Sometimes, due to weather conditions or lack of parking space, they are forced to change location. But many of the food trucks stick to a single spot as they build a regular customer base there.

“Sometimes we have moved a little away from our regular location due to traffic issues, but we always returned to our original spot as soon as we could as we have our regular customers who visit every day,” adds Sarada.

While the pandemic pushed Durga Prasad and Deeksha to start food trucks, Sarada says that COVID-19 and the lockdown was a tough time for her as she had to close her food truck for many months.

However, the food truck owners say that while business was slow after the lockdown lifted, now things are better and they are breaking even.

“Initially, after the lockdown was lifted and we were allowed to open, people were wary of coming and eating from food trucks,” says Sarada.

Sankalp, a Hyderabad- based food blogger says that some folks have concerns about the safety standards followed and quality of ingredients used to cook on these trucks, as officials don’t regularly inspect the food trucks.

Samrat, however, maintains that they are very particular regarding hygiene and following safety norms on the food truck. “We make sure that all our staff wear gloves, aprons and masks while cooking. We cover all our food items with lids and sanitise the place frequently,” he adds.

Become a TNM Member for just Rs 999!
You can also support us with a one-time payment.