A little more than a year after bringing the food truck movement to Chattanooga, owner of Southern Burger Company Christian Siler is preparing to open his third location.
“We are looking into expansion right now,” he said. “Hopefully in the next month or so, we are going to announce another location for Southern Burger. It’s out of the downtown area.”
Siler said he couldn’t provide additional details until the business transaction is complete, but said business with his truck and first brick-and-mortar location in Warehouse Row has done well and that he is “pumped” about the expansion.
Southern Burger Company was the city’s first food truck. Siler hit the streets in March 2011. The following year would be a whirlwind for Siler—he started the truck, got married, opened a second location and is preparing to open a third.
"Plan for the worst, hope for the best is what you’re told a lot, but what you don’t plan for is how you are going to do more than we planned. Now, when we add a new menu item, we think, 'What are going to do if we sell 1,000 of these?' It may be a simple side of guacamole, but how are we going to do 3 pounds? Think ahead to how you’ll do a larger scale."
—Christian Siler, owner of Southern Burger Company
Some people think the truck is a side project, Siler said. But dollar to dollar, the truck and the brick-and-mortar location bring in a comparable amount, he said.
“I can’t say that I ever planned from day one to lose money,” Siler said. “We spent a little bit of time breaking even, but we have exceeded expectations.”
Between the truck and Warehouse Row location, Siler employs an average of eight people—although he is always looking for new, hardworking people to add to the team.
The new location, which will serve dinner, will likely mean 15 new jobs for the area, Siler said.
When Siler started, he was the only food truck on the streets. Then came Famous Nater’s, and two more—Taco Sherpa and A Taste of Argentina—opened this year.
Meanwhile, other street food options, such as The Chattanooga Cookie Company and Monkey Town Donuts, are also frequenting events, such as Fresh on Fridays.
Mashable.com traced the food truck trend to 2008.
In March, The Wall Street Journal wrote about a new trend of “pop-ups,” which the article described as “temporary eateries that set up shop for a few days, weeks or months in spaces such as hotel lobbies or other restaurants that close for the night.”
Some have said that pop-ups could threaten the food truck business.
But Chattanooga can expect more food trucks soon, Siler said, echoing what owner of Famous Nater’s Nathan Flynt said recently.
The area’s food truck owners have created a coalition, called the Chattanooga Street Food Project, and working together has helped Siler’s business, he said.
“It does help business,” he said. “We were the first food truck in Chattanooga, and I can definitely see an increase in crowds from last year to this year. I could almost directly cite [the fact that] people know what food trucks are now, and one of the things that has really helped that is more food trucks.”