Meals on Wheels: Food Trucks Are Here To Stay

Food trucks have become the incubator of culinary innovation. While consumers still want food fast, the dropping market shares of your traditional fast food giants suggests that they want it better. If you’re a chef who wants to stretch your legs a little, perhaps a multi-million dollar brick and mortar establishment doesn’t sound so great in an industry that shuts down 90% of the new guys each year.

Food trucks lend an air of authenticity to mobile dining—which, in the United States, has been limited largely to hot dog carts in decades past. Many of the most authentic cuisines from around the world can be categorized as “street food,” and encompass everything from crisp Vietnamese bahn mi to the fiery and pungent Thai noodle soup, the rich Greek gyro and the flaky Nigerian samosa. Even hot dog trucks are stretching their culinary legs and getting creative with this traditional American food.

Give the people what they want

While hearing the consumer cry for local ingredients, food trucks are better able to adapt to the often smaller-scale fulfillments of local farms and vendors. An agile approach to daily menus isn’t often possible for more traditional establishments, but the flexibility of the food cart menu is both necessary for adapting to the changing local produce, meat and seafood availability and giving the people what they want — variety, spontaneity and local ingredients.

New mPOS tools allow food trucks to conveniently take orders, ring up customers, track sales, and keep the line moving without the high overhead of a traditional POS system.

Benefit to the local economy

After initially resisting the spread of food trucks, local governments are finally beginning to embrace this growing industry. Food trucks make up one of the fastest-growing sectors of the restaurant industry, with 2013 sales of nearly $700 million, or about 1 percent of total U.S. restaurant sales — not bad for a business model that didn’t technically exist before 2008. A 2012 study by Emergent Research projects that food truck revenue will quadruple to $2.7 billion by 2017.

With the food truck chefs’ focus on local ingredients, small farms and vendors are also able to capitalize on this new and growing market. The businesses spotlight their use of local farm-fresh fruit and produce, and the farms are able to independently sell their goods to reliable customers who are able to adapt to the ever-changing product lineup that a local growing season affords.

Alongside the lobster rolls, shawarma, and poutine, food trucks are selling a social and cultural experience. They are reviving international traditions stateside, and innovating to provide Americans with the convenience, quality and authenticity we expect.

While many of these niche business owners still have a long battle ahead with regard to local municipal zoning ordinances and regulations, the food truck industry has tapped into powerful consumer trends, especially the desire for fresh, local, quality food served quickly and conveniently. They can test new products real-time with daily menus. Using social media and geolocation tools, they broadcast new food concepts while being easily found in unique and often changing locations. These trends, coupled with their low cost and flexible business model, will drive food trucks to continued success.

Interested in launching a food truck business? Check out our primer to getting started.