The food truck has been gaining momentum since 2008, with some predicting a short-lived heyday. That has certainly not been the case, as new research by the National Restaurant Association confirms.
According to the research, six out of 10 consumers (59 percent) are now likely to visit a food truck if their favorite restaurant offered one, up from 47 percent last year. Also, nearly 20 percent of consumers spotted a food truck in their community this summer. Of those, 28 percent made a mobile foodservice purchase.
"Convenience is a major driver in restaurant growth, and food trucks are certainly a convenient option by essentially bringing the restaurant to the consumer," said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group for the NRA. "Our research shows that in just one year, the number of consumers who say they would be likely to visit a food truck has increased significantly. We also found that food trucks have a more noticeable presence in communities in the West and Northeast than in other parts of the United States."
In fact, consumers living in the West (29 percent) and Northeast (24 percent) are much more likely than those in the South (15 percent) and Midwest (9 percent) to see a food truck parked in their community.
That doesn't mean the Midwest region is void of the trend, however. Columbus, Ohio, for example, just hosted its first Food Truck and Cart Fest, with crowds estimated to be around 12,000 for 20 trucks.
Also, the Food Truck Spot at the NRA's annual show in Chicago doubled in size this year from its inaugural year in 2010.
According to Riehle, food trucks are on a roll for many reasons.
"Though food trucks are often equated with chefs and entrepreneurs, they also present opportunities for operators of established restaurants to expand their operations and presence, as a majority of consumers say they would visit a food truck run by their favorite restaurant. Mobile foodservice can be a good way to extend an existing restaurant brand beyond the four walls of the establishment," Riehle said.
When asked how they typically found the food truck they visited, 73 percent said they just saw it on the street, 54 percent said they selected it from an area where food trucks typically gather, 39 percent found out from a friend, and 13 percent found it through social medi.
Other findings from the NRA research includes:
- Adults with children (70 percent) were more likely than those without children (52 percent) to say that they would patronize a food truck if it was offered by their favorite restaurant;
- When asked how they typically found the food truck they visited, 73 percent said they just saw it on the street, 54 percent said they selected it from an area where food trucks typically gather, 39 percent found out from a friend, and 13 percent found it through social media;
- A solid majority of younger consumers said they would be likely to visit a food truck if offered by their favorite restaurant; more than two-thirds of those age 18-44 compared with only 38 percent of those 65 or older.
The NRA surveyed 1,004 American adults from Aug. 25-27 for this information.
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Alicia Kelso has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com has been featured in publications around the world, including Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, Consumerist.com and Franchise Asia magazine.