By Darrel R. Suderman, PhD | Food Technical Consulting for

Ever wonder who is setting the menu trends in the old brick and mortar restaurants? Food Trucks!

However, the bigger question to ask is “Why?” The answer is obvious. Brick and mortar restaurant chains have spent the last 20, 30, 40, 50 years expanding their ”store count” while trying to get consumers to eat the same old product recipes day after day, and month after month. And marketing department executives were handsomely paid to drive sales of stale menus and deploy risk adverse “line extensions” of the core menu. As a result, marketing programs were built around the core myth that it was bad business to try anything new – or “innovative”.

When I think about this core marketing concept, it sounds a lot like old industries that have come and gone in American history like AT&T phone systems tethered to a cord, the Ford Model A and T assembly lines, manual check writing, and stamped U.S. Postal Service letters. Even companies of recent fame like RIM, maker of BlackBerry phones, seems to be losing their significance in the worldwide marketplace of Apple and Google systems.

Food trucks in today’s restaurant economy are setting the menu trends, and the big marketers are starting to take notice. I recently talked to one major restaurant chain that has activated an internal mobile food team, and scheduled nationwide tours to learn about food trucks, and become a part of the food truck community. But the menu advantage that food trucks, and other mobile delivery systems, have is menu items that are consumer favorites built on specialty “home”, “ethnic national”, and “innovative chef inspired” recipes. Another advantage that food trucks now have is the marketing focus on one single menu category; this means that our free marketplace provides consumers a lot more options for great tasting food outside their office doors on the streets in front of their office building. Most consumers are tired of having mainstream burger and pizza restaurant chains telling them how great their products are that they have eaten for years.

Unfortunately, all good business practices have threats against the very existence and growth. And the biggest threat to food truck and other mobile food delivery systems is “government regulations”. Food regulations can come, and will come, in many forms and appearances. It is a given business axiom that regulations drive food costs up, and threaten the existence of our innovative and free mobile food marketplace.

But for now, I want to encourage food truck owners to keep up the pace of new food innovation, and watch creativity explode. Because at the end of every day, the consumer wins and spreads his happy experience to their circle of friends.

Dr. Darrel Suderman is both a food scientist and food innovation mentor. He teaches a series of food innovation classes annually for the restaurant industry at Johnson and Wales University in Denver, CO. He can be contacted at or 303-471-1443.The company website is His company, Food Technical Consulting, provides business and technical consulting to the food truck industry based on his work experiences at 8 major restaurant chains, and seven years of food and commissary processing companies.