BAHRAIN is in the midst of a food truck revolution, thanks to new rules that came into effect in 2016.
Since then applications from 48 Commercial Registration (CR) holders looking to set up their own mobile dining operation have been submitted.
Of those 19 are now active, while 29 others are awaiting approvals from relevant bodies.
As a result food trucks can now be spotted at locations across the country, whether serving up dishes to office workers in business districts or catering at outdoor weekend events.
Among those to identify the food truck potential was Wejdan Ismail, a Saudi entrepreneur who is the founder of Burrito Loco, Noodle Wok and Sandwich Guys.
“Bahrain is a great market with good demand for food trucks, which are slowly becoming popular among the masses,” she told the GDN.
Her company customised two food trucks in October with the help of CIMC, a Chinese company specialised in food transport that has a manufacturing facility in Hidd.
“We customised two food trucks based on our requirements last October with the help of Bahrain-based CIMC and have a got an overwhelming response,” said Ms Ismail.
“On a daily basis we get enquiries for private functions, events and from different clients to have our food truck visit their locations.”
While she has restaurants in Juffair, Busaiteen and Hamala – in addition to Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia – the food trucks are also providing delivery services if orders are received nearby.
“Food trucks are a great business opportunity in Bahrain and like rest of the world they are becoming popular here,” added Ms Wejdan.
Last March a new business incubator and accelerator programme was launched to help start-ups get the backing they need to develop.
In line with the service, accessible through the CR online portal Sijilat, permission was granted for food trucks to operate even if they did not belong to an established restaurant.
At the time Industry, Commerce and Tourism Ministry assistant under-secretary for commercial registration and companies, Ali Maki, said the aim was to encourage new ideas by streamlining the process of getting food truck approval through Sijilat, the Health Ministry and the General Directorate of Traffic.
A spokeswoman for the ministry told the GDN that there had been a positive response.
“The total number of active Commercial Registrations for the activity number 5610-5, which is food and beverage service activities that also includes mobile food service activities, has reached 48 to date,” she said.
“This includes 19 CR holders who are active and 29 who are active, but do not have a licence from other concerned authorities.”
The new demand for food truck modification has also had a positive impact on Bahraini entrepreneur Hussein Khalil, whose It’s On Wheels workshop in Salmabad manufactures concept vehicles.
“I have modified and delivered eight food trucks of different sizes in Bahrain and currently am working on eight new designs for clients in Saudi Arabia,” he said.
“There is lovely demand for food trucks, which is picking up now.”
He added the price for modifying a small vehicle costs more than BD2,000, but could reach more than BD20,000 for customising a bus or trailer.
“A small vehicle can be customised with all kitchen fittings, boards and electrical wiring in six weeks, while a bus would require about two months,” said Mr Khalil.
The Bahraini has even customised a mobile cylindrical meat smoker, which is the first of its kind in the Gulf and he has already applied for the patent.
“Our team recently customised a cash van, which took about three months, into a fully fledged food truck for a client,” he added.
However, one of the most recognisable food trucks on Bahrain’s roads is Planet Caravan, which was created using a 1972 Airstream Safari.
“We imported our trailer from the US and it is recognised because of its distinctive rounded aluminium body,” said a Planet Caravan spokesman.