Food trucks have been on a major upswing in recent years. Chances are, if you live or work in a major metropolitan area, you have seen them roaming the streets. The era of mobile food serving only hot dogs and soda is over as well. Whether it’s tacos, falafel, barbecue or burgers, the variety and quality of food truck offerings are noticeably improved from decades past. Food trucks are becoming so popular and convenient that their presence near your restaurant may pose a serious threat to your business. With food trucks eating up profits, restaurant owners need to know what they can do to keep their clientele coming back.
According to a recent CBS News article, there are more than 4,100 food trucks in business across nearly 300 cities. Different cities have different regulations on where food trucks can hawk their wares. In Chicago, for instance, food trucks are banned within 200 feet of a restaurant, but many cities have no regulations at all.
We dug into the food truck phenomenon and came up with some tasty morsels of info:
They are on the rise
We mentioned that already, right? According to Emergent Research’s report on food trucks, the industry is poised to reach $2.7 billion by 2017, a 400 percent increase from 2012. Established brands such as Chick-Fil-A, Taco Bell, and Burger King have added food trucks to their repertoire. According to Roaming Hunger, a website about street food, food trucks have grown 197 percent between 2011 and 2013.
The market is there
Casual observation supports the rise of the food truck, but the market is overwhelmingly there. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, 2.5 billion people eat street food every day. This doesn’t necessarily translate to food trucks, but it’s evident that the customers are there when over a third of the world’s population is eating street food.
Surprisingly, propping up a kitchen on four wheels and taking it on the road doesn’t have to affect cleanliness and sanitary conditions. According to public interest law firm The Institute for Justice, food from trucks and carts in seven major American cities averaged significantly fewer sanitation violations than restaurants.
Social media is both a marketing and customer service tool
Social media is a crucial aspect of the food truck business. Customers don’t need to follow their favorite brick-and-mortar restaurants to know where they’ll be. Food trucks are, by their mobile nature, different. Social media is how customers can track their favorite trucks, and know where any food truck will be on any given day. It’s also a way to respond to complaints, feedback, and requests from customers in real time. According to a food truck owner, Twitter is their “virtual call center,” where customers could tweet feedback, praise, and customer complaints as well.
Whether mobile or a brick-and-mortar establishment, business owners should consider technology to enhance the guest experience.
They’re entering the mainstream
As noted above, there are now websites tracking food truck activity. Food truck fanatics follow their favorite rolling kitchens on social media. If that wasn’t enough, a film about a chef who quit his L.A. restaurant job to follow his dreams and open a food truck, opened this summer. Chef was written and directed by Jon Favreau, and features a star-studded cast, including Sofia Vergara, Robert Downey, Jr., John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson, and Favreau himself.
The food truck industry is on the rise and all signs point to the trend continuing for the foreseeable future. Some of the top reasons cited for their recent popularity are fast service, local and sustainable food, and affordability. Food trucks also have much less of a barrier to entry than full restaurants – often requiring a lower initial investment. For these reasons, the industry will likely continue to grow, and spread out of metropolitan areas. Both potential food truck owners, and their more stationary competitors, should take notice.
Learn How New Technologies are Enhancing the Customer Experience
Complete the form below to download The Value from Technology. This free eBook teaches you how to use technology to create a better guest experience and improve your company’s efficiency.
Skip Cass is the chief executive officer at LRS and an expert in operational efficiency and creating a memorable guest experience.