Tucked neatly among the soaring trees of Woodinville, the Barking Frog restaurant is a prized—though sometimes hidden—gem in northwest Washington.
While the upscale restaurant has earned considerable and consistent acclaim over its 13 years in operation, veteran chef Bobby Moore wondered how the restaurant could generate additional traffic and expand its reach. His ultimate solution seemed an unconventional one: Launch a food truck.
Moore traveled the West Coast gaining a deeper understanding of food truck businesses and operations. As he evaluated the potential synergy between his brick-and-mortar restaurant and a food truck, Moore began relishing the prospects.
“I thought having a food truck would not only give our brand a fresh edge and push us into the limelight, it would also allow us to capitalize on off-site catering opportunities,” Moore says.
In May 2013, the Barking Frog Mobile Kitchen hit the streets, a 26-foot restaurant-on-wheels featuring two full-sized ovens and deep fryers, a 36-inch grill, an under-counter freezer, and everything needed to rule the road.
“This was a massive investment, especially since we wanted the biggest, baddest restaurant on the road,” Moore says of the truck, affectionately nicknamed “The Road Toad.”
While many restaurants once looked at food trucks as an encroaching, pesky enemy—a thought some retain—a growing number of full-service restaurateurs have embraced the possibilities and joined the street-food ranks.
For many, a food truck’s most direct benefit is heightened revenue.
Agave Grill, an upscale casual restaurant in downtown Hartford, Connecticut, has been serving its modern Mexican cuisine for the last 10 years. About five years ago, Agave incorporated a food-cart program to fulfill the mounting number of off-premise requests.
While the food cart served its basic purpose, Agave leaders noted the cart’s limitations in production and reach, recognition that spurred an investment in the Agave Canteen food truck, which debuted last fall. Now, Agave is booking weddings, rehearsal dinners, and other private events, while also hitting farmers’ markets and street corners with a significant impact to the restaurant’s top line.
“We’re doing a number of things today we couldn’t dream of before,” Agave Grill managing partner Al Ferranti says.
Similarly, the Barking Frog Mobile Kitchen serves its inventive dishes, including seared sea scallops and braised short ribs, at local festivals, breweries, and concerts—in addition to manning daily lunch spots in the Seattle metro area. Recently, Moore says the Barking Frog has landed “bigger fish,” such as weddings, corporate events, and fundraisers.
“In the peak season, we’re operating seven days a week,” Moore says.