Food trucks have come a long way since the days of overcooked hotdogs or stale pretzels, and they are certainly a huge leap forward from those mobile vending machines we derisively called roach coaches. With creativity and quality now the signature of food trucks, lunch time in office-park land doesn’t have to be a choice between bad and so-so food served at national sit down fast service chains.
Despite food trucks’ popularity and a projected market share jump to 3 or 4 percent in the next five years (according to Intuit), a recent survey from the Saint Leo University Polling Institute, indicated that nearly half of respondents have never purchased food from such trucks.
According to the National Restaurant Association, food trucks generate $650 million in annual revenue. By the year 2017, it’s expected to be a $2.7 billion national industry.
Of the 1,022 adult respondents in a nationwide poll, 48 percent said they had never had a meal from a food truck. Another 24 percent only frequent a food truck once or twice a year while 13 percent purchase food there once or twice a month. Only 11% buy lunch or dinner at a food truck from one to three times or more a week. In the polling institute’s statewide survey of 535 Florida adults, a similar number – 45 percent, had never eaten food from a food truck.
Peter Marian, a Saint Leo University instructor of International Hospitality and Tourism, said he thinks Hollywood – movies, TV shows, etc. – has made food trucks in vogue and their offerings sexy. “Current TV shows such as ‘The Great Food Truck Race’ and the movie ‘Chef’ have increased awareness of food trucks,” said Marian. “Food trucks are very trendy right now, especially in downtown, metropolitan areas.”
In addition, many local events such as festivals and fairs have food trucks provide a portion of the customer demands. “Where there are crowds of people, there are hungry mouths to feed. It’s all about timing and location for the customer to connect with a food truck. Additionally, convenience and quality play key roles in someone choosing a food truck rather than another food option,” stated Marian.
Kitchenboy reported earlier that at this year’s world’s fair, Expo Milano 2015, the USA Pavilion is featuring a selection of regional American food truck based street foods – both traditional and creative interpretations – with a nod toward wholesomeness and sustainability.
With the lack of centrally gathered groups, the logistics and marketing of the modern food truck service doesn’t lend itself well to a rural setting. Even many larger cities don’t have an adequate or consistent policy when it comes to where and when food trucks can serve meals. Local politicians are often caught in the middle of fights between bricks-and-mortar restaurants and the mobile, low overhead food truck operators.
When you take into account all these factors, it is easy to understand why so many haven’t had the chance to enjoy the wonderful food possible with food truck eateries.