Food trucks have been a growing part of American culture over the past several years. Taco Bell was one of the first chains to go mobile, in the early ’90s. And with the rise in popularity of homegrown gourmet food trucks, a growing number of national brands, including Applebee’s, Sizzler, Red Robin and Jack in the Box have also tested mobile concepts.
Even companies that aren’t in the food business are looking to make a connection with this cultural trend. Food trucks have been used to market products from jeans (The Gap), to airline food (Air France), to television promotions (Today Show).
Is it all becoming too much of a good thing? Mobile Cuisine magazine, which tracks the mobile food industry, estimates that there are nearly 3 million food trucks in operation, with 10 new food trucks popping up across the country every week.
And critics have begun panning recent food truck trends for lack of innovation, food quality issues and the influence of brand marketing.
However, in a recent article, Hudson Riehle, SVP, research and knowledge at the National Restaurant Association (NRA), points out that consumers’ desire for convenience has been one of the food industry’s major drivers over the last couple of decades. “In that time period, the majority of restaurant industry sales growth has come from what the industry calls ‘off-premises occasions’—that is, takeout, delivery, drive through, curbside and now mobile,” he says. “There’s really no more convenient solution from a consumer perspective than having the restaurant literally come to you.”
With that in mind, several brands are looking to expand their mobile concepts. And, we expect to see more brands test mobile concepts as a way to deliver convenience, expand usage occasions, and make a cultural connection with their customers.