For the past 20 years or more, the food truck industry has ballooned into mainstream popularity. A report put out in December 2018 by Off the Grid in San Francisco, has researched this phenomenon. According to them, the industry is expected to grow by 20% in 2019. Today, that sort of business growth seems remarkable. Why is the food truck industry so profitable right now?
To understand the future of the food truck industry, one must look to its history.
It’s generally accepted that the whole food truck industry got started in the late 1800s by a man named Walter Scott, even though America had enterprising individuals selling food out of push carts as far back as the 1600s. In 1872, Walter Scott sold sandwiches, pies, and coffee out of a covered wagon in front of a newspaper office in Providence, Rhode Island.
Walter, and others like him, knew that it made sense to take good affordable food to hard-working individuals that didn’t have access to restaurants. In the mid-20th century, post-war population growth spurred the further development of the food truck industry. Unfortunately, these mobile kitchens weren’t well-known for their culinary delights. They basically served hot dogs, burgers, and pre-made sandwiches to laborers and construction workers.
The first taco truck was “born” in 1974 and eventually led to its own brick-and-mortar restaurant chain across Southern California worth $21 million dollars by the mid-1990s. This proved two things, 1) there was a place in the food industry for ethnic cuisine and 2) food trucks were an easier stepping stone towards a successful restaurant enterprise.
Then 2008 happened. Construction stalled, many labor-focused mobile kitchens were left standing idle. Restaurants were hit hard, too, and many urban chefs found themselves unemployed. With an aversion to the risk of a brick-and-mortar restaurant, another batch of enterprising individuals rediscovered the benefits of taking food to the streets.
It was perfect timing. Food trucks started serving unique and interesting items and social media started to play a bigger role in how people experienced life. Suddenly, word of mouth marketing made well-designed and quality-staffed food trucks popular with the crowds. By 2010, it was such a big deal that companies like Off the Grid sprang up to help organize open-air food events.
By 2017, the food truck industry reached $800 million dollars in revenue. It is estimated that 2019 will see the industry earn $985 million dollars.
Again, why is the food truck industry so profitable right now?
Across the board industry-wise, consumers are demanding adaptable, specialized, on-demand services and products. Food-wise, food trucks are that and more. They are super flexible and adaptable. They can serve people anywhere, anytime. They can easily experiment with menu items. They can take advantage of modern technology, like GPS tracking and social media. It’s kind of like the story of David and Goliath, with food trucks playing the role of the young and nimble David who was able to focus his specific talent and destroy the slow, lumbering giant was stuck in his ways. Restaurants by nature are slow and lumbering, which is partly why they fail so easily in today’s market.
Matt Cohen, CEO & Founder of Off the Grid, says in their report, “In 2019, the mobile food industry will be defined by holistic hospitality experiences that go beyond food; new entrepreneurial pathways and flexible vending opportunities will also give cooks direct access to the market and allow them to scale without pain.”
That’s why food trucks are flourishing and that’s why their future is bright. Consumers are getting unique dining experiences from these mobile kitchens.” There is more opportunity for cooks to be inventive and at less financial risk. Ultimately, food trucks and concession trailers allow a food business to flourish and scale up.
Here at Concession Nation, we are proud to be an integral part of making the industry what it is. We’ve worked with different businesses, large and small, to design their ideal mobile kitchens. We’ve helped these enterprising business-owners achieve their scalable dreams. We’d like to help you with yours.