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    Mobile Style on the Streets of Tokyo


A creative take on the food truck offers fresh experiences and hope for the hard-hit hospitality industry.

Over the past decade, the food truck business has undergone a significant transformation. For many years, the trucks’ primary role was to provide quick-fix fare to festival-goers and long-haul drivers in remote fields and service areas. However, in recent years, an increasing number of trucks have rebranded and started journeying into the heart of urban centers to offer nourishing meals that align with shifting consumer choices toward healthier convenience food.

If you visited one of Tokyo’s many business districts on an average pre-COVID lunchtime, you would find tightly-packed groups of trucks serving freshly-prepared meals to long lines of office workers. However, the pandemic dealt a huge blow to this thriving industry. With their customer base forced to work from home, many truck owners had to rethink how they operated.

Some mobile kitchens moved to the suburbs and set up shop outside large apartment complexes, offering WFHers a welcome break from cooking. But such options simply weren’t available for brick-and-mortar bars and restaurants, and the harsh combination of government restrictions and a decline in foot traffic made it impossible for many businesses to stay open.

Japanese entrepreneur Tomonori Shinozaki was in the planning stage of opening a restaurant before the pandemic took its devastating toll on the hospitality industry, and he suddenly started seeing countless indoor eateries around him going under.

Determined not to give up on his dream, Tomonori needed to think fast. Taking inspiration from how food truck businesses had evolved over the years to respond to changing demands, he combined adaptability with creative solutions to craft what would become an award-winning enterprise. In October 2020, he launched BAR TRUCK MEDIA TLUX.

STREET-CORNER SOPHISTICATION  BAR TRUCK MEDIA TLUX has repurposed a small fleet of light-duty trucks into sleek coffee houses and bars. Parking up in some of Tokyo’s most upscale neighborhoods—from bustling Shibuya to leafy Futakotamagawa to the port city of Yokohama—Tomonori invites his clientele up the steps of the matte-black vehicles to perch at the bespoke walnut-paneled bar counters, or on the terrace tables and chairs arranged outside.

Tomonori explains, “The concept was to create a high-end bar and café that comes to you.” The name, TLUX—a combination of the words truck and luxury—was a reference to this vision. By offering people a place to sit and relax rather than just wait at a service hatch to take their order elsewhere, Tomonori is evolving the food truck business model. Customers are part of the complete experience, interacting with the staff as they would in a regular bar or café.

“I get excited when I imagine people thinking, ‘Wow, I didn’t expect to be sitting in a bar in a place like this!’”

BIG AIR  Enjoying a mojito in an unconventional location not only provides the perfect scene for Instagrammers, but TLUX also addresses the important concern for safety-conscience clientele—ventilation. The trucks were purposefully conceived to provide maximum airflow. One side of the vehicle completely opens up, a design element that not only showcases the truck’s stylish interior to passers-by but guarantees a constant supply of fresh air.

ARRIVING AT A CANTER  The decision behind choosing a FUSO Canter to drive the TLUX business was based on the truck’s fuel efficiency and ease of handling. Running costs were an essential consideration when entering a food and beverage business in such unpredictable times. On top of that, being able to maneuver the vehicle easily around tight corners was also a key component of the business plan.

Tomonori’s vision for TLUX is to set up in a wide range of unexpected locations, from street corners and parks to beaches and campsites. “I want to bring wonder and surprise,” he states. “I get excited when I imagine people thinking, ‘Wow, I didn’t expect to be sitting in a bar in a place like this!’ That’s the reaction I want my customers to have.”

STYLE BY DESIGN  The truck’s blend of both practical design and stylish aesthetic is a product of Tomonori’s diverse background—which includes a degree in science and technology and over a decade of experience in creative production and marketing. In 2017, he started CREATOR BOX INC, a Tokyo-based creative agency under which TLUX has become a key brand. Alongside attracting plenty of media attention, the company was awarded Japan’s prestigious Good Design Award in 2021, in recognition of the team’s ingenuity to re-imagine life in a post-COVID world.

By taking existing food truck culture and adapting it to suit the changing times, Tomonori’s TLUX business is contributing to the revival of the hospitality industry and offering customers exciting new experiences. But perhaps more importantly, he has proven how determination and creativity are essential tools to tackle the challenges we face and to move the world forward.