KUYANG: Pinoy-style Food Truck (OAP)

(This feature was published in OurAwesomePlanet.com last September 12, 2013)

Inspiration can strike anywhere and in the case of Lyle and Jane de Leon, it was an international television show called Eat St.

At first, they wanted to produce a simple grilling station that is mounted on a tricycle, which could go around their village. But they thought of upping the ante a bit and turn their food truck dream into reality. According to Lyle, “We’re a fan of food trucks and we realized that it’s such a new industry in the Philippines that’s why we wanted to bring the concept here, not knowing that there were already existing food trucks in the market.”

It was a couple of years ago when the business-minded couple created their first food truck, Kuyang, which offers classic Filipino food in the form of rice toppings. They initially catered to students around the Katipunan area, and the duo had fun manning the truck while it was still gaining ground. They didn’t have any crew, just a driver. It was the couple doing all the food prep, cooking and everything in between.

Fast forward to the present time where Kuyang has four franchisees already—in Los Baños, Quezon City, Manila and Cucina Andare.

It wasn’t a walk in the park though, as they had to go through some birthing pains with this line of business.

“Right now we are trying to boost the popularity of food trucks in Manila.” Lyle shares that he’s part of a group that formed an association to support local food trucks, Philippine Food Truck Association. The organization was established just recently and Lyle was appointed president of the group.

“Why did we form it? It’s because it’s a fairly new business here in the Philippines and we want to support all the food truck owners on how to do business legally. We wanted of course to have the support of the local government because, as of now, food trucks are not classified as anything. It’s such a gray market in the Philippines.”

Food trucks are sometimes mistaken for food carts, which are two different business concepts. Jane further shares, “Actually, we’re very thankful to Cucina Andare for giving food trucks a chance to expose themselves because there are a lot of new players who just came in. They must have thought that’s fun but didn’t know that behind the scenes it’s quite difficult to thrive the business.”

Slowly, it’s becoming easier for food trucks to manage a business in the metro.

At the same time, Kuyang’s is gradually becoming a household name with its affordable rice toppings such as the Liempo Meal and Lechon Kawali Meal, both bestsellers. Other items on the menu are the traditional Tapa Meal, Chicken Longga Meal, Barbecue Meal, Hotdog Meal, and there’s also a Tenga Meal.

But the standout item on the menu, for me, is the ChickaPork Chicharon, a combination of crunchy chicken and pork rind bits that is truly a heart-stopper. Although it is convenient to munch on like chips, it should not be mistaken for such. Best to eat in moderation.

I learned that Lyle and Jane have their own research and development team that continually formulates products for Kuyang’s. By September, they will be coming out with must-try items. (Hint: one of the items is a creative mix of rice porridge and bulalo.)

Both are full-time with this food truck business. “We believed in the concept that’s why we pushed for it,” reveals Jane. “The concept of the food truck is there but we localized it. The size of the food truck is small so it’s easier to park in our streets. Our food is rice toppings, which is on-the-go food.”

“It’s a community-based business,” says Lyle. “Eventually, we hope that at every corner, you’d see a Kuyang going around catering to their needs. We want to become a household name. When you say Kuyang, you know already it’s grilled, a food truck in the corner.