The Future of Food Carts In Bangladesh

Written by Syed Shahriyar

Is the fun over, or is this just the beginning?

From 2012 onwards, the food cart business completely took Bangladesh by storm. It was simply the perfect trade- very little investment and an endless queue of food fanatics- the recipe for a successful startup. Investors, big and small, rushed to set up their own carts and within no time, the streets of Dhaka city were buzzing with colorful and glittering mini vans or even mobile 50 square feet houses. Now that we are almost at the end of 2014, after nearly 3 years of commendable business, where exactly does the food cart industry stand in Bangladesh?

Despite the initial success, it’s no secret that a lot of owners are selling off their carts. Posts and advertisements seeking buyers are frequently seen in many Facebook groups and pages. It is only logical to conclude that the owners are having a torrid time keeping their business profitable and hence, are looking to invest elsewhere. So now, the question is, why exactly are owners selling off their food carts? Here’s a list of probable reasons as to why the food cart business is not looking as bright as it once did:

1.The Brand name– Just like every other trade, the irrevocable importance of branding is slowing creeping into the food cart business as well. A few months back, every other cart was doing quite well as long as its food was delicious. As days go on and more and more food carts occupy the streets, the customers are slowly inclining towards a particular group of well established brands. This has turned into a nightmare for entrepreneurs who are trying to stamp their authority into the trade, particularly ones with low budgets.

2.The Menu– From newbie amateurs to well established pros, all carts seem to be selling the same food! The customers need something unique that appeals to their taste buds. To make matters worse, every time an individual manages to come up with something new, his ideas are copied and in a matter of days, the new item becomes the national food for the month. Taco’s seemed to be a new addition to the food menu offered only by a selective group of carts. Today, Taco’s are found pretty much in every corner of the streets.

3.The quality– Almost all food cart ‘chefs’ are part time job holders-students, to be more precise. How is a college graduate supposed to cook a complex Mexican dish without ever even tasting one? The best he can manage to accomplish is, make the dish look like the actual delicacy, but what it lacks in flavor can never be compensated. This is one major turn off for customers. The scarcity and expense of quality chefs, especially the ones who specialize on international cuisines, have led to a rapid deterioration in the quality of food sold in carts.

4.Over population– Too much of anything, is never appreciated. The alarming rate at which food carts are being set up is, to be honest, quite disheartening. By the time I finish writing this article, a couple more might take the streets. The demand for quality, cheap food is definitely out there but when the customers are given too many options, some owners are bound to go out of business, at least that’s what basic Economics tends to suggest.

To sum it all up, the food cart business has definitely had its share of success. It allowed an excellent start up opportunity for new entrepreneurs and will definitely continue to be a success story for many. However, the bar has been raised. Without proper planning and sufficient capital, survival in this trade is going to be very difficult indeed.

SD Asia Desk