Is the Food Truck Trend Dead?
Food trucks—at least the trendy, gourmet variety we think of today—hit the scene in 2008 when Kogi BBQ first made the news. Since then, food trucks have exploded in popularity, with everything from schnitzel to banh mi served street-side.
Food truck statistics are hard to pin down, but Foodbeast.com estimates that there are three million food trucks in the U.S. today. Numbers like that hardly indicate that food trucks are a passing fad. You could, however, argue that some of the novelty has worn off. The trend has gone mainstream.
Rachel Tepper, a blogger for Huffington Post, sums it up like this, “If you’re unconvinced, consider this: Taco Bell, Chick-fil-A and even Rachael Ray’s dog food line all have food trucks. Seriously.”
While it may no longer be a hip trend, food trucks remain a viable startup option for chefs and caterers who can’t afford the investment for a brick-and-mortar restaurant. Estimates of the capital investment required to start a mobile food operation range from $10,000 to $40,000, which sounds like a lot until you look at restaurant startup costs, which can exceed 10 times those figures.
The viability of a food truck business depends on many factors, but location is critical. Some states have very favorable environments for mobile food businesses, while others make it tough to overcome the regulatory red tape. Los Angeles is known as one of the better cities in which to operate a food truck business; New York City is notorious for its maze of regulatory complications.
Wherever they roam, food truck operators benefit when they leverage their social networks. Social media is inextricably linked to the success of a food truck; it’s how customers find their favorite trucks at mealtime.
Another blogger, Frances D’Imperio of The Foodess Files, notes, “It’s hard to find a cluster of people standing beside a food truck in Los Angeles, who are NOT on their phones. They are tweeting their experience by the minute, Instagramming their orders, and if they’re like me, blogging on the go.”
Food trucks, by their nature, offer a “bonus” for social media users in that they are perceived as limited opportunities. When a diner posts a food truck find on Facebook, he’s shown that he was in the right place at the right time—he didn’t just have dinner, he had a limited-time-only experience. Who knows when that truck will be back?
Social media was once considered a passing fad, too. Now it’s apparent that social media is becoming a ubiquitous part of how we experience life in general—including meals and dining experiences. Given their appeal to social media users, food trucks will continue to have a unique niche in the market if they continue to leverage that power.
If you’re interested in food trucks as a possible startup business, check out this great infographic on Foodbeast.com.