The Food Truck Industry is Poised for Continual Growth

It's 1 PM on a Tuesday in New York City's Midtown West. The lobby doors to imposing office buildings open up. The trickle of lunch-break bound employees, ranging from executives to interns, swells as more people leave the office seeking food. Lines stretch from the multiple, conveniently located food trucks. The hungry workforce is out looking for a quick meal that doesn't bore them. Folks scan their options: Italian sandwiches, Greek platters, chorizo and egg wraps, Bengali-spiced whitefish, Korean BBQ tacos. The list goes on. The bounty of food trucks allows for myriad options, all cooked with the aptitude and confidence of a chef who specializes in a small menu. The specialization allows for quick turnaround, high-quality, and low cost. Despite various bureaucratic speedbumps, and the usual challenges of a small-business, Food Trucks are in a position to experience continued growth in the near future.

In 2012, the National Restaurant Association reported that mobile eateries generated about $650M in revenue. Only 1% of total restaurant sales in the US. Emergent Research projects that by the rapidly-approaching end of 2017, food trucks will generate 3-4% of restaurant sales, or roughly $2.7B. Large brands like Chic-Fil-A, TCBY, and Burger King are putting trucks on the road. Events dedicated solely to mobile vendors are popping up in major cities. Music Festivals continue to rely on the artisan crafts of dedicated, mobile chefs.

The benefits of a Food Truck are tantalizing. The average startup costs are remarkably low next to a brick-and-mortar shop. Mobile Vendors generally pay $55-75K to get their business growing, while a brick-and-mortar can at times hit up to $500K. The restaurant business is notorious for chewing up chefs and restaurateurs; mobile food is primed to disrupt the food industry.

There is room for improvement. Regulatory practices and enforcement can be stifling, licensing is tricky and not always well-structured. Inspections and standards are inconsistent from city-to-city, and even from one inspector to another. But we're moving in the right direction. As Food Trucks continue to demonstrate that mobile food is more than a fad, governments and city officials are forced to reconsider how the industry is handled. NYC is considering legislation that would double food truck permits. Chicago City Council and Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently worked to drastically reduce license fees for vendors, making it cheaper and more feasible to vend food from a mobile platform.

The mobile food industry is carving a $2.7B foothold for itself. In the coming years, the growth will continue as more people patronize vendors and as cities start to winnow out archaic policies. Paired with the advent of food-tech designed to help small business owners, like Food Moves, the mobile food industry is ready to accelerate and grow at an increased clip.

Sam Beck