SAUGUS — Kowloon Restaurant already has more than 1,200 seats. Now, it’s adding four wheels.
The iconic Route 1 restaurant has purchased a food truck to take customer favorites like Saugus wings mobile.
“It’s fun to do different things,” said owner Bobby Wong. “This is one idea I’ve had for many years and never got off the ground.”
The food truck has already received such a positive response from potential clients that Wong is considering a second truck. If permitting is available, he said, he’d like to add a tiki drink truck, serving mai tais and other specialty drinks.
“There are a lot of beer gardens now, so we need a tiki garden,” he said.
Wong said the readiness to try new things started generations ago when his parents and grandparents ran the restaurant.
The iconic eatery was opened by Wong’s grandparents in 1950 with 50 seats. His parents took it over eight years later and started a series of expansions.
“Now we have 1,200 seats,” said Wong. “My mother and father had a lot of foresight and great dreams. I don’t think anyone would build a 1,200 seat restaurant today.”
He and his five siblings, who run the business together, have made an effort to continue their vision.
This summer, the restaurant created a seasonal 1,800-square-foot outdoor dining area with 100 additional seats. Next year, Wong said he’d like to have more fun with the outdoor space and create a more lively ambiance.
Wong envisions a tiki-themed tent with steel drums. The food truck could pull up to the tent and serve appetizers while patrons mingle or watch a football game.
“I’m looking from the standpoint of my employees. I’m trying to get them engaged in some of the things we can do together,” said Wong. “They’re pretty excited about the tent and the truck. It gets them rejuvenated and motivated. The bottom line is business but if you don’t always just think of the money aspect but try to do a good job and keep your employees engaged, business will come.”
The idea for the food truck crossed Wong’s mind more than two decades ago, but life was busy and food trucks were known mostly as canteen trucks at business parks, he said.
When his nephew, Jonathan Moy, was interested in starting his own restaurant several years ago, Wong suggested he instead try a food truck business. Moy started with one truck and now has three. Moyzilla Food Truck is known in and south of Boston for simple Asian street food and dumplings made with a creative twist.
Moy will help Kowloon get their first truck off the ground, said Wong.
Wong said the Kowloon truck will offer Kowloon favorites with its own twist.
“On the food truck you’re limited because the kitchen is small,” said Wong. “The way you cook is a lot different than in the restaurant. In the restaurant we have chefs going a mile a minute. The menu is going to be much more limited.”
Instead of trying to recreate Kowloon on wheels, he hopes to play off the strengths a food truck offers and the food that people want to eat on the go.
The menu is still being worked out, but Wong said it will offer rice and noodles, as well as chicken bites with favorite dipping sauces including the Saugus wing and General Gau sauce. There will also be sandwiches on Asian pastry bread.
“We’re going to evolve quite a bit,” said Wong. “It will be more eclectic, more Asian fusion. Not only the traditional (food) we have but we’re experimenting with other things.”
He said he hopes to secure a permit in the city next year, and to use the truck for catering and other events.