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The Food Truck Boom: A Big Market for Small Operations

Posted on June 12, 2023

Food trucks are a new staple of the American dining experience. From gourmet tacos and smoked brisket to brick-oven pizza and artisan bagels, someone is out there slinging those meals on wheels.

Whether you’re interested in starting a food truck or you’re currently running one, this piece is for you. MFG Tray, a global leader in food service trays and storage, discusses the history of food trucks, the new booming marketing they’ve created, and how to ensure success as an owner.

 

History of Food Trucks

In the 1800s, restaurants were primarily patronized by the wealthy. Everyone else tended to eat breakfast at home, pack their lunches for work, and then return home for dinner. But over time, entrepreneurs and restaurateurs saw an opportunity in the market, especially in major metros.

According to the American Business History Center, Walter Scott, a pressman for the Providence Evening Press, eventually created the lunch wagon in the second half of the nineteenth century. In 1872, he quit his job at the newspaper to run his mobile food business full-time, selling sandwiches and coffee from a horse-drawn wagon. Not only is his lunch wagon the great-grandfather of the food truck, but it’s also the father of the original diner car.

In the center of the U.S., shortly after the Civil War, a similar idea was revving up. During the post-war cattle boom, cowhands needed food on their long journeys across Texas. It was this managed migration of cattle that inspired the idea for the chuck wagon. Cattle herder, Chuck Goodnight, is often credited as the inventor, outfitting an old U.S. Army truck with kitchen supplies and ingredients. These chunk wagons often carried cured meats, coffee, beans, and bread.

Fast forward about a half-decade to Prohibition, and people were seeking new ways to satisfy their urges to drink. Many of them filled the void with sugary snacks.

To meet customers where they already were, Harry Burt, an Ohioan candy maker and confectioner, developed a portable ice cream treat known as the Good Humor bar. To take it one step further, Harry outfitted a fleet of trucks with refrigerators to sell his creations all across Youngstown, Ohio.

Aside from ice cream trucks and hot dog carts (and the Wienermobile in 1936), the trend of food trucks sputtered out until the 1970s. That was until, however, Raul O. Martinez started selling soft-shell tacos out of a renovated ice cream truck on the streets of East Los Angeles, ultimately creating “King Taco.

Despite Raul’s success, food trucks took another hiatus until the early 90s. The rekindling occurred with Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck. Giovanni’s started operating out of a converted 1950s bread truck, quickly taking off as a staple of Honolulu, Hawaii.

Steady Growth & One Bump in the Road

Pre-pandemic, the food truck market size was thriving in the U.S., growing at an average rate of 7.9% per year since 2017. Surprisingly, it seems neither covid nor economic uncertainty can halt steady growth. Many food trucks actually thrived during the pandemic, opening up second food trucks and leveraging online ordering.

In 2022, the food truck market rose to a staggering $1.4 billion. According to Grand View Research, economists expect it to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.4% from 2022 to 2030. While the CAGR had slowed by 1.5% after the pandemic, there is a surge in gastronomy and a rising demand among youth for novel dining experiences over traditional dining in brick-and-mortar restaurants.

Consumer Trends

There are few foods that aren’t available via food trucks. From cheeseburgers to cheesecake, you can find it. With the right equipment and entrepreneurial spirit, restaurateurs can tap into their local and regional customer base’s preferences and position themselves for healthy growth. Over the past few years, however, there have been a few cuisines that seem to be consistently popular no matter the location, including:

  • Baked goods
  • Coffee
  • Grilled cheese
  • Ice cream
  • Sandwiches
  • Smoothies and juice
  • Street food
  • Tacos

The Challenge of a Small Kitchen

While one might assume a smaller kitchen would be more efficient, that isn’t always the case, especially when that kitchen is on wheels. When efficiency is one of the core ingredients of a successful food truck, owners and operators need to ensure they have the right equipment to make high-volume cooking possible.

One of the most critical aspects of efficiency is convenient storage that works for raw ingredients and prepared foods. It’s one of the many ways the food service and hospitality industry uses MFG Tray’s New Mini Storage Kit.

MFG Tray’s boxes are setting the industry standard for efficient handling and storage in food trucks across the U.S. and globally. We designed our mini storage boxes for unrivaled product protection and for working in cramped workspaces.

The fiberglass composite material we use also ensures unmatched strength and durability, outlasting traditional thermoplastic alternatives. Furthermore, our composite material allows you to stack your storage kits without worrying about your containers getting bent or dented, or sagging.

Reach out to MFG Tray

MFG Tray’s new mini storage boxes have an array of performance differentials over other brands of kitchen containers, trays, and toes, including high strength-to-weight ratios, corrosion resistance, temperature stability, and dimensional stability with high load-bearing capacities. When you’re running a food truck, high-quality storage is a must. If you’re ready to hit the gas on your business’s growth, reach out to MFG Tray to learn more.

THE MATERIAL MATTERS

Leading manufacturer of high-strength, glass-reinforced composite containers, trays, boxes, flats and totes for material handling in the metal working, plastics and electronics assembly industries, as well as in food service, confectionery and pharmaceutical processing.

MFG Tray continually develops customized solutions for specific material-handling challenges and applications. Customers are encouraged to contact MFG Tray to discuss any unique handling and design requirements.

 

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