The Growing Phenomenon of Food Trucks
Street food may seem like a recent phenomenon in the States but believe it or not, America has quite the history when it comes to mobile meal stations. Consumers have been getting their food from portable venues for over 200 years. Beginning with a pushcart to the Chuck Wagon to a horse-drawn freight carriage to the famous “roach coaches” to what we have today – gourmet food trucks.
The History of Food Trucks
Street food in America dates back hundreds of years ago to the late 17th century when New Amsterdam (currently New York City) began regulating vendors selling food from push carts. These carts were found in a number of the larger cities on the east coast. In 1866, Charles Goodnight invented the Chuck wagon [above] to feed the cattlemen and wagon trains that were traveling to the Old West. The first diner came soon after in 1872 with a horse-drawn freight carriage in Rhode Island. Less than 100 years later, the infamous “Roach Coaches” came to the scene in the 1960s by showing up to popular construction sites around the country.
It then took 40 years before the first gourmet food trucks began popping up in Los Angeles after Kogi BBQ hit the streets in November of 2008, introducing Los Angeles to Asian infused tacos. Now, over 4700 food trucks vendors are spread throughout the country at any given time. Websites like roaminghunger and foodtrucksmap direct you to where a food truck will be parked in a particular day such and many food truck operators have websites that provide schedules for whole the week.
What it is like to own Food Trucks
The life of a food truck owner/worker is not as easy as one would think. In a video called “The Food Truck Phenomenon,” produced by Thrash Lab in December 2012, describes the food truck vendor’s ups and downs. John Gibson owner of the Slider City food truck says in the video that, “…the greatest misconception is that there is a lotta lotta money to be made in the food truck business. There really isn’t.” There is just so much to take into consideration when deciding to operate a food truck, as Rich Mintzer puts together just a small number of items in an entrepreneur.com such as:
- Your start up cost, budget and potential for returns
- Your commitment to the business: part time, full time, etc
- Your creative ideas and what it will take to fulfill them
- Your experience at running a business
- The size of the business you want to start
- Your ideal demographic
The items listed above are only a few of the components that would determine the income of a food truck business. The infographic [below] put together by Intuit also gives a break down of many realities that come with a food truck business.
Types of Food that Patrons Love
There’s a food truck for almost every patron, especially in Los Angeles. If it hasn’t been done yet someone is trying to figure out how to make it happen. With that said, there is plenty to think about when designing a menu for a food truck. Courtesy of entrepreneur.com, below are a few things to keep in mind when determining what type of cuisine to serve:
- What do you know how to cook?
- What are popular foods in your town, county, city, or region?
- What ingredients are easy to get from wholesalers, markets, or farms in your area?
- What food can customers easily carry around with them?
- What foods aren’t being sold at other food trucks, carts, kiosks, or mobile caterers in your area?
Once you have reviewed the “ins and outs” of the food truck business, be sure to talk to and sample some of the food from your local competitors, after all sharing is caring.
I am a twenty- something graduate of California State University, Northridge (CSUN). My major was journalism, with a focus in photojournalism and I minored in Central American Studies.