Honest Buildings spoke to Matt Nardella, founder of moss design architecture firm, about the trend of food trucks moving to brick and mortar locations.

Food trucks have taken to the streets in the past few years, particularly in Los Angeles, New York and Boston. A more recent development however, is that these trucks are beginning to morph back into restaurant locations as well. Boston Magazine suggests this may be because a food truck is “market research on wheels, and a much smaller investment.” They believe that the ultimate goal is often a brick and mortar location but “the cost of launching a truck—between $40,000 and $150,000, depending on how souped-up it is—pales, financially, next to the commitment of signing a long-term lease for a restaurant space, which can run at least $200,000 and balloon to more than $1 million. “ Thus, a food truck is a good start. However, it doesn’t always have to end there.

The way Matt Nardella, moss design founder, sees it is simple: “a brick and mortar location strengthens the company’s brand and gives their brand a place to call home.” He has not only noticed a trend in mobile companies moving into physical storefronts but also an increasing number of ‘pop-up’ shops. These spaces act as temporary homes for food businesses to sell their items and increase brand awareness. Even Kayne West has a pop-up shop to sell items in advance of his concert sites.”

Nardella had the opportunity to work with Flirty Cupcakes, a Chicago-based mobile business ready for its brick and mortar location. “The idea behind Flirty was that the brick and mortar would be a ‘dessert garage’  where the Flirty food truck, which still does operate, would dock for the evening and ‘refuel.’” Today, Flirty Cupcakes sells its coquettish treats in its modern dessert garage where, unfortunately the proposed overhead door was eliminated due to cost considerations and zoning regulations.

For their storefront location, Flirty Cupcakes had picked a spot which had been heavily remodeled, covering up the  building’s original structure, when they met up with moss design.The firm was excited about the project because “we love to find ways to incorporate structure and the vernacular into our design,” explains Nardella. “It was a joy to find the masonry in such a fine condition, along with a long hidden arched, stained glass window.” Not only did the firm help the client uncover the building’s true form, but it also helped them reveal the right theme to represent their wares; moss design helped the cupcake company create an ambiance where industrial meets modern. moss incorporated a custom-designed steel and glass dessert display case which doubles as the check out counter and added vintage tins for wall coverings in the bathroom. Both touches served to complement the “manufactured-chic” vibe of the bakery.

Boston magazine argues that: “traditional restaurants may cost more to open than their food-truck counterparts, but they also offer a more-predictable operating experience. That’s why it can be a particularly good idea to combine the two: A restaurant can double as a prep station for existing trucks, making running the trucks easier and more profitable.” moss design helped Flirty cupcakes design a space to fulfill both needs.  Now Flirty Cupcakes runs both a mobile business, and has a storefront—they truly are having their (cup)cakes and eating them too.