How Food Trucks Will Keep On Trucking

Food TruckEven though food trucks have its fair share of skeptics, food trucks are here to stay. The numbers are indisputable. 91 percent of people who have tried food trucks believe food trucks’ success is not a fluke, according to Food Trucks Innovation Report by Technomic. Even as most Americans haven’t taken the plunge as of yet and sampled food truck fare, for many others, attitudes are changing. Now social media fuels food trucks evangelists who will do anything to prove that food trucks, especially their favorites, top the average quick-service restaurant. Indeed food trucks don’t threaten casual or fine dining restaurants, but quick-service restaurants in the same price range, as they have equivalent menus. In fact, 54 percent of people who have eaten food truck fare say they would likely end up in a quick-service restaurants in the absence of a food truck. Minus the food trucks with devoted followings, food trucks are for a quick “bite,” not something to replace a true meal with table menus and waiters. Therefore, restaurants shouldn’t panic when they see a food truck down the street if your cuisine couldn’t be produced in a truck.

And yet, we tend to forget that food trucks predate the Internet, social media and smartphones, having been around for decades. Up until recently, food trucks would cluster in certain areas with a lot of foot traffic, or if they were an ice cream truck, the truck would roam around neighborhoods with their characteristic jingle. But technology is largely responsible for the current urban explosion in the number of food trucks as they become more and more commonplace.

Food Truck Frenzy from Ross on Vimeo.

Social media has changed the rules of the game for food trucks. Nearly all mobile food venders beyond those with the basic street cart post their location for that day, whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook or through the ever-growing apps for food trucks. Many use multiple methods. They do this because constant connectivity with familiar customers makes food trucks less vulnerable to swings in business. Much as a brick-and-mortar restaurant, in the right neighborhood, they don’t have to put themselves entirely at the mercy of the curiosity of passer-bys. Still, it is not through social media that food trucks obtain new customers, but by being at the right place at the right time. Even with the Internet, every food truck has to consider foot traffic in their equation.

When food trucks popularity peaks, it may actually help certain types of restaurants. Many times, customers try out certain ethnic foods for the first time from a food truck, acquainting them to new types of food at a rather cheap price. Food trucks can be a gateway into cuisines they were unfamiliar with before. For this reason, a growing number of brick-and-mortar restaurants are getting into the mix, creating a greater brand awareness that may pay off at their fixed location.

There has also been a push for food truck parks in major cities. With enough foot traffic, this can definitely be profitable. In the end, however, if the truck stays in the same lots all the time, customers may start to think it defeats the purpose of a food truck since it becomes essentially an outdoor restaurant in a truck. It certainly interferes with the fun and unpredictable quality of food trucks that make people follow them on social media. A combination of movement and fixedness seems superior, unless the truck is mostly reliant on tourists.

For food truck owners, the intensifying competition means that they have to consider marketing in ways other than just posting a location. A good start for ideas is to check out the Food Trucks Innovation Report by Technomic to measure customer’s desires and expectations. Location cannot be overstated, but when there are three trucks on a street, a marketing advantage can tip the balance in your favor.

Next week, I will discuss a couple marketing ideas specifically suited for food trucks. Especially as competition is becoming fierce between food trucks, a simple social media post telling your customers your location will not have enough marketing weight to grow your business.