Call them what you will…“roach coach,” “mobile kitchen,” “grease truck,”…food trucks are killing it.
They’re nothing new if you really think about it. In the olden days, NYC had oyster carts rolling about. Military food kitchens were a thing. And then there’s the all-American hot dog cart and the ever-so-creepy ice cream truck. History aside, food on wheels has EXPLODED in the last five years. Jumpstarting in LA, there are now over 4,000 food trucks in the U.S., with other hot spots including Washington D.C., Austin, Miami and San Francisco. To put growth in perspective, the National Restaurant Association estimated U.S. food truck revenue at $650 million in 2012 (when Zagat rolled out an entirely new category for food truck reviews) and predicts numbers will hit 2.7 billion in 2017.
So what’s with America’s obsession?
- Convenience. There’s something novel about food coming to you (without the delivery charge). And when one pops up unexpectedly? Those spontaneous truck visits can be a cheap thrill on a busy day.
- Choice. They often travel in packs, opening the door to experimentation. In fact, three out of four customers make purchases from two or more operators during a single meal.
- Global immersion. Known for offering an array of styles and flavors, from Mexican and Asian to good old fashioned soul food, food trucks present an opportunity for shared cultural experiences and choices to accommodate a range of palates.
Why should brick and mortar restaurant owners/operators care?
- Food trucks could be your next direct competition. Torchy’s Tacos is a great example. The brand was built upon a food truck operation and now has brick and mortar locations in Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado. Already a brick and mortar? Think about food trucks as incubators for recipe experimentation and sampling.
- You don’t have to abandon the idea of a holistic brand experience. Few have presented a multi-sensory environment. The G’Raj Mahal Café & Lounge is one of the only that has gone beyond the truck, inviting its visitors to sit down and stay a while. Throw in a little music to set the mood? You’ve got a comprehensive, pop-up dining experience.
- The social engagement opportunity is truly unique. Food truck consumers are known for being hyper-connected. They’re using Facebook, Twitter and apps like Roaming Hunger to read up on reviews and get real-time updates on truck locations. Technology aside, food trucks create an opportunity to insert your brand into meaningful occasions and demonstrate a sense of community.
Are you ready to dip your already greasy fingers in the food truck world? We sure hope so…