Imagining A National Food Truck Association

By Josh | TheSocialFoodie

The recent-ish spread of food trucks in America isn’t easy to map out perfectly. So I’ll keep it super simple.

LA makes it sexy. NYC soon catches on. The rest of the nation wants it too. Chicago finally catches up (still shaking my head at Chicago city government).

Okay, so that’s a REALLY simple way of putting it, but you get the picture. Throughout the nation, food trucks are becoming more ingrained in our food culture. They’re relatively inexpensive to launch (compared to brick and mortar), offer a different type of experience, and rely heavily on social media.

In each city where food trucks have made a serious go, there have been skirmishes. The road block is often local government. Other times, restaurants. Sometimes, a combination of both. Working on Capitol Hill for a year, I witnessed the amount of people that are represented by organizations, associations, and lobbyists. Food trucks should be no different.

Although there are issues specific to each city or state, the obstacles food trucks face across the country are largely the same. There’s been some organization in LA, NYC, DC, and a few other cities. As a food truck fan, I’m excited for a national association to emerge. Here’s why:

  • Strength in Numbers: We’ve all heard the saying that there’s strength in numbers. That’s especially the case in Washington, D.C. The American food truck industry continues to grow at a rapid pace. The owners are many, but the fans and advocates of street food are even greater. There’s an opportunity to harness this passion. Unfortunately, not everyone can hire Betty White to lead the charge with wit and charm (I’m looking at you AARP!)
  • Zapping the “Fad” Notion: I’ve heard numerous times from people that food trucks are just another fad. Some brick and mortar restaurants owners are waiting for the “hurricane to pass”. Don’t hold your breath. Google searches alone show a peak in September of 2010, a slight dip, and now searches continue to climb. A national organization could bring a structure that nips the fad notion in the butt. Food truck are here to stay!
  • Trucks Crossing Industries: A national food truck association could even represent interests outside of culinary. I listened to a fascinating talk at the National Restaurant Association show about how retail and other industries are putting wheels on the ground to reach their customers. Retailers hitting the streets, in addition to food, will demand an organization to look out for their interests as well.
  • Doing Well By Doing Good: A national network of food truck owners and their fans could lead to some really interesting philanthropic opportunities. Opportunities that could bring food and other nutritional possibilities that would only be a dream for certain communities, whether they be rural or urban.
  • Community-Oriented Culture: I absolutely love that there is a sense of community, mentoring, sharing, and collaboration among food truck owners. From mentoring new owners, to advocating for better laws and promoting ideas such as the slow food movement and local food, the result of nationwide organizing gets me so excited! Food trucks literally go out and drive the streets together. Why not band together to look out for one another?

The Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association and the New York City Food Truck Association are paving the way by organizing in their respective cities. Both of these associations are setting the standard for other food truck communities across the nation.

It’s only a matter of time before food trucks get organized and represented the way they deserve. In one way or another, I want to be involved that effort.

Are there other ways you think food trucks could benefit from a national association?