By Michelle Waters | Metro Jacksonville
About three million food trucks operate in the United States today, according to Food Beast. The rush is on in this segment of the catering industry and it is not that costly to enter. Food Beast estimates the initial cost of outfitting a food truck to be about $40,000. If a person wanted to invest money in opening a sandwich shop, the cost is four times as much. The Sacramento Bee claims that a successful food truck can earn more than $400,000 per year.
The food truck catering industry is exploding thanks to higher visibility from shows like “Eat Street” on Cooking Channel (order info at http://slackware.org). Cities such as Portland, New York City, San Francisco, Sacramento, Nashville and Orlando are among the cities seeing a burgeoning of food trucks. And these are not ordinary food trucks serving sandwiches and a cup of a coffee. The trend is for gourmet food trucks, many with themes to propel them to success.
QSR, a catering industry magazine, recently ran an article describing the top 20 food trucks in America. Some specialize in grilled cheese sandwiches, some serve made-to-order ice cream sandwiches and others who specialize in falafel and Mediterranean foods.
Food Trucks Are Growing in Number
Food trucks are becoming increasingly popular as a business venture as they are comparatively inexpensive to start up.
The gourmet trend is popular with customers partly because since the economic downturn in the United States, many people have cut down on fine food dining when they go out. The gourmet food truck allows them to spend the same as an average lunch costs and enjoy the gourmet style foods they love.
As each truck usually has a limited menu, a gourmand can find a many-course lunch by walking from truck to truck. A salad appetizer from one vendor, a Mediterranean main course from a second food truck and a homemade dessert from still another adds up to an affordable three-course gourmet lunch. Of course, if on a budget or a diet, a different menu can be easily found.
Food Truck Business Issues
Food Beast points out there are significant operating costs for food trucks as well as some issues with local governments. The average weekly fuel cost for food trucks is between $250 and $500 dollars per week.
Insurance coverage is another expense, full insurance for the truck is needed (business vehicle insurance), insurance for owner/operator and employees for cuts, burns and other kitchen-related industries — workers compensation insurance and full liability coverage for the business operation that includes customer slip and fall all the way to contaminated food.
There is also the issue of government rules, regulations and laws. Food truck operators must understand the environment in which they will operate. For example, in Sacramento, Calif., a food truck can only stay in place for 30 minutes and then must move at least 400 feet, some cities do not allow food trucks within a certain distance of a bricks and mortar restaurant and some locals restrict the number of food trucks in a specific location. The Today Show reports that New York City is not issuing any more permits for food trucks.
But if business is good, the truck will gross about $400,000 per year. In 2011, the industry recorded income of $630 million.
Gourmet Food Trucks and Social Media
One reason for the fast growth of the gourmet food truck industry is their skillful use of social media. They especially excel in using Facebook and Twitter. Erica Swallow writes in her social media column on Mashable that food trucks continue to use social media to let folks know about specials, menu items, deals and where the truck is located.
Food trucks that are up and running and successful are in good shape for now. But owner/operators must be on the watch for market over-saturation, which could cause the food truck bubble to burst. New entrants might want to consider opening in a city that is not yet part of the gourmet food truck phenomena.