Mobile Bistros a Popular Choice for Owners, Customers

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COLLEGE STATION, Texas With low overhead and more menu selections, mobile restaurants are becoming a popular choice for restaurant owners in the Bryan, College Station area.

Sanif Maredia owns Wafology, a mobile bistro that sells everything from waffle fries to kabob burgers. He says when it came to mobile versus traditional brick and mortar, the choice was clear.

"The number one reason is mobility. Being able to go to your customers," said Maredia.

Maredia said he sees a waffle as a blank canvas "That I can pretty much do many kinds of fusion foods, and it's been working so far."

Mobility isn't the only advantage to a restaurant on wheels. Workspace inside the trucks can be limited, but owners and managers said it gives them fewer places to hide away from the public.

"You get to meet a lot of people," said Abby Townsend, manager for Mickey's Sliders. "and I like personal interaction, getting to talk to a lot of people."

The business isn't all gravy. Chef Tai Lee rolled Chef Tai's Mobile Bistro into town four years ago. He was the first mobile gourmet restaurant in the Bryan, College Station area, and has earned the respect of his peers. He said the harsh weather can be a rolling restaurant's worst enemy.

"It gets hot, it gets cold, it gets windy and it gets dusty," said Tai.

Tai said during the summer months, temperatures inside the tiny kitchens can reach upwards of 120 degrees. In the winter months, cold weather can drive customers to the shelter of indoor restaurants.

The secret to success is a passion for the business, Tai said.

"If you take this as a job, it can be miserable," said Tai. "But if you have a passion for it, and once you enjoy it, then it becomes a part of you."

Tai said he's all for more competition coming to town.

"It makes me better. It makes me sharper," said Tai. "And it obviously benefits the consumer."

In 2011, College Station issued 12 mobile food vendor permits. In 2012, 15 permits were issued.