Taking Life by the Wheel

by BTM

Fri, 04 September 2020

 Husain Khalil food trucks in Bahrain

Food has a way of making the heart sing, so it’s no surprise that we’re always searching for the next best thing when it comes to digging up the best grub across Bahrain. That being said, it’s hard not to notice the ever-growing food truck industry in the Kingdom. BTM caught up with the man that started it all, one eye-catching food truck at a time
– Husain Khalil.

Could you tell us about your business - It’s On Wheels? 
The name says it all. You want to start your business, so why not on wheels? Anything on wheels is a mobile business, from customized trucks to kiosks, and other solutions which can be used indoors or outdoors. To date, we’ve created unique solutions for trucks, trailers and more while helping young entrepreneurs to start their business, guiding them to finish their papers with Tamkeen and get any required support.  We started in early 2017 and now also import and export mobile trucks across the GCC and shall soon reach a global level.

What led to the idea of starting this concept in Bahrain?
The idea popped up when I travelled to London, Thailand, Philippines and Taiwan. I saw that mobile business food trucks and kiosks are very active in these countries. In fact, they have so much of a response that they have even organized regular events specifically for these businesses, sometimes weekly or monthly. During this time, these businesses are extremely active and people gather on street corners and other specific areas, in a bustling atmosphere with all kinds of exciting food, products, services and more! By 2016 I thought to myself, “Why we don’t have this in Bahrain?” and thought about how I could buy or import or even try to build one in Bahrain. In March of 2017, there was an announcement in the newspaper that the government is studying the industry in order to start the commercial registration for these trucks. So, that was my opportunity and the rest is history.

How has your idea changed or developed the Food and Beverage industry in Bahrain? 
Today we have over 240 trucks on road, with numbers increasing, in Bahrain. It’s turned into a big player for SMEs and is adding more than 300,000 BD to our GDP. You can also see that many of the present and established companies have purchased trucks and are fully operating in the country. There is also no event or activity that happens in the Kingdom that takes place without having a mobile truck or food truck present. Soon, in the near future, there will be specific allocated areas in each governorate to have this concept all year round, similar to Last Exit in Dubai.

On a side note, there is a proposal being studied by the government to open over twenty activities other than food for the mobile trucks, for instance mobile offices, tailors, beauty salons, clinics and more. Hopefully it gets approved and will significantly contribute to our GDP.

What are the different kinds of food trucks a person can get?
There are many types and models like the concession trailer in different sizes, with the smallest starting from 2.4m x 2m, which is an ideal beginner’s truck for those who want to start and test their product in the market to see how they can improve their business. 

Then you have the Mini Van which is a cargo van and the six-wheeler which are converted into food trucks. Last but not least is the big Bus (Chevrolet, TATA etc.) which are 8 to 12 meters long and can facilitate some dine-in as well.

That being said, we always advise our clients to start small, plan and dream big so in two years they can either start another truck or a restaurant and use the truck for events and outdoor catering.

What are the challenges of building a food truck and how long does it take?
There are many challenges when creating a food truck. No two food trucks are the same; they might look alike from the outside, yet the setup and the standards differ according to the activity or what will be served from the truck. For instance, a burger truck will be considerably different from one which serves coffee, or the equipment in the trucks might vary in size and shape. It also depends on the work flow of the client and so on and so forth. After all designs and details are agreed upon it takes between 4 to 6 weeks to deliver a truck and startoperating.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I believe I haven’t achieved enough until I see more mobile businesses and allocated areas in Bahrain for this segment. However, my greatest achievement to date in this field is that I was able to change the food and beverage industry, create a whole new segment and commercialize it so it has a GDP input of more than a quarter million to Bahrain’s economy and growing.

What would you consider the most memorable project you’ve worked on to date?
The most memorable project is the Ministry of Interior bus; I consider it an honor that I was able to get a project of this magnitude. It was a lot to work on, restoring and transforming it into a top of the line bus which took over 3 months to accomplish as it was made to meet global standards. They now have a truck of their own which caters and will represent the ministry in many events to come.

What would be your advice for anyone wanting to run or start a food truck?
My best advice is: please be innovative, do not copy or imitate. The trend of coffee, burgers, fries and sweets will eventually die out, so try to create and invent new concepts, there are millions of possible concepts! Also be patient and do not give up on your trucks; it takes time to create a name and brand for yourself in the market and then have a constant revenue. So, stop thinking about getting quick gains followed by eventually closing down. 

As a young entrepreneur, do you have any advice for those wanting to start a business?
Around 5 years ago, when I was still an employee, I came across a poem by Charles Bukowski entitled ‘No Leaders, Please’. It changed my life. It told me to invent, then reinvent myself. 

So, I sincerely request that young entrepreneurs stop being afraid and stop depending on what works. Don’t do things because you’re afraid. Face your fears, take the risk, never doubt yourself and always believe in your idea.

And a message for the young ones who do not like being criticised: please do not take negativity to heart, learn and improve, believe in yourself, have a vision, find good people and take action!

No Leaders, Please 
by Charles Bukowski

invent yourself and then reinvent yourself,
don‭'‬t swim in the same slough.
invent yourself and then reinvent yourself and
stay out of the clutches of mediocrity.

invent yourself and then reinvent yourself,
change your tone and shape so often that they can never categorize you.

reinvigorate yourself and
accept what is
but only on the terms that you have invented
and reinvented.

be self-taught.

and reinvent your life because you must;
it is your life and
its history
and the present
belong only to