If you had any questions about the huge impact that food carts have had on food services in Portland, look no further than Burgerville's new food cart "Nomad".
A rough economy combined with an explosive growth in food carts in Portland has motivated one of the Northwest's biggest chains to jump in the mix in a 'if you can't beat them, then join them' move. It's not only a significant endorsement to Portland's food cart scene, but a recognition that both the physics and the economics of running a restaurant have changed.
The importance of Burgerville's move is important beyond the fact that they are trying to keep up with the changing landscape. Burgerville CEO Jeff Harvey seems to understand the potential for using the food cart to expand his business in a way that wasn't fiscally viable before. Harvey plans to use Nomad to test out new markets, serve markets where a full restaurant isn't economically viable and extend their brand into places they haven't been able to reach before.
The real question to be answered though: is the boom in food carts a function of the bad economy or do they represent a real and fundamental change in the way people get food? It'll be interesting to see how Nomad fairs and if it becomes central to Burgerville's long terms strategy or just a tool they use to weather the storm of the great recession.
Here's our interview with Jeff Harvey CEO of Burgerville:
For more information on Nomad and Portland's food cart scene: