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October 1, 2012

Putting The Cart Before The Store

Jamie Allebach
Jamie Allebach Chief Executive & Creative Officer

Combining street food convenience and restaurant quality, mobile kitchens are bringing good, cheap food to a pavement near you. And while some industry observers had begun to dismiss food trucks, declaring them promotional ploys or training wheels for brick-and-mortar – they are far from reaching their peak. Food trucks are like a test kitchen on wheels. From tacos, to falafels, to waffles – food trucks are known for their creative ingredients and newly fabricated cuts of meat, and artisan beverages.

Food trucks and carts have been around for generations. Most selling hot dogs, Popsicles and ice cream bars or are canteens on wheels that bring staple breakfast and lunch items to factories, auto repair shops and other businesses. What’s different about the mobile food vehicles that have popped up in cities and suburbs in the last few years is that they serve trendy fare like Korean barbecue, Jamaican jerk chicken and cupcakes. They travel from one spot to another, often congregating in high-traffic areas.

Many food truck vendors have their own websites, Twitter, and Facebook accounts so fans can find out when and where they’ll show up. Making creative use of new technology, like global positioning tools and smart phone apps, they promote themselves and become integrated with their customers’ social media rituals. Their elusive nature, tied to changing routes and schedules and rotating menus, appeal to customers.

Food trucks also create a unique opportunity for chefs, entrepreneurs and even operators of established restaurants to expand their operations and presence. By essentially bringing the restaurant to the consumer, food trucks are certainly a convenient dining option – a major driver in restaurant growth. According to research conducted by National Restaurant Association, six out of 10 consumers (59 percent) are now likely to visit a food truck if their favorite restaurant offered one up.

Do you think food trucks are here to stay or just a passing fad?