What Customers Want In A Food Truck (Tips & Consumer Trends)
As mobile restaurants on wheels, food trucks are rapidly changing the game in the food business.
These mobile restaurants are a breath of fresh air when it comes to offering new cuisines in easy-to-reach places. However, is a new menu and accessibility all customers want from food trucks?
A successful food truck business not only requires diversity, accessibility, or efficiency but excellent services catering to your customers’ needs. Don’t know where to begin? Here's a crash course on what customers want in a food truck and how to satisfy those needs.
History of Food Trucks
If you had asked a few years ago, the possibility of a kitchen on wheels becoming a massive movement- pun intended- would have been relatively low. Food trucks were one of those things you rarely came across, less frequently seen than actual brick-and-mortar restaurants.
However, the food truck business has experienced a boom, and it is now easier to come across food trucks with attractive menus on the streets than it was years ago.
Food trucks are large, motorised vehicles designed and equipped for cooking, serving, and selling food. These trucks are designed and used to sell a range of culinary dishes that can be frozen, freshly cooked, or pre-packed.
Food trucks haven’t always been known as food trucks. In fact, the precursor of what is known as the modern food truck was the 1800s chuckwagon that was located in Texas, the United States. The chuckwagon was a field kitchen tent-like wagon that provided food to cater to travelling cowboys and loggers.
Admittedly, chuckwagons may not have been the first-ever mobile kitchens to grace the earth. However, the invention of the chuckwagon was the first introduction of the first notable mobile kitchen. This remarkable invention that became a cornerstone in the food business was created by a man fondly called the ‘father of the Texas Panhandle.
In 1866, a man named Charles Goodnight outfitted an old U.S. Army wagon with shelves and drawers. He then went on to stock these shelves with kitchen utensils, food (like coffee, cornmeal, greasy cloth-wrapped bacon, and salt pork), water, wood to kindle fire, and medical supplies.
Fast forward to 1972, a food vendor named Walter Scott put windows in a small covered wagon where he began to sell sandwiches, pies, and coffee to journalists from across the street.
By the 1880s, food truck culture had become so widespread and popular that a former lunch-counter boy named Thomas H. Buckley had begun making lunch wagons in Worcester.
In the future, food trucks began to spring up in various locations. From serving students in University locations fast food to catering to construction and factory workers.
By 1936, food trucks had become extremely popular. One top-rated food truck was the Weinermobile, a mobile truck that travelled everywhere, selling hot dogs.
Food trucks became a commonplace business, providing snacks on street corners in small towns to selling ice cream cones on the streets in big cities. Food trucks were indeed not only an excellent financial investment but also a cornerstone in the food business revolution.
The Modern Food Truck Business
As of 2022, the estimated number of food truck businesses in the U.S. was an astounding 30,156. This was an 8.2 percent increase from the number of food truck businesses the year before.
The old-version food trucks were excellent and practical innovations. They were mobile kitchens with the necessary equipment to facilitate the cooking and sale of food. However, these food trucks did not do natural justice to what potential the food truck business has.
The year 2008 marked a significant turnaround for what is now considered the modern food truck business. Although food trucks were already known in those days, what shoved mobile restaurants into the limelight was a food truck in LA, owned by LA-based entrepreneurs Mark Manguera and Caroline Shin and a chef named Roy Choi.
These men owned a Kogi BBQ food truck, a mobile restaurant that served delicious meals made by combining Korean BBQ and Mexican tacos into a unique dish. Theirs was an unexpected twist in what was known as the usual food truck menu. This unique food truck business marked the beginning of blooming food truck businesses in LA and its environs.
The food truck industry has grown exponentially since it was first created. The global food truck market was estimated to be USD 3.93 billion in 2020. This is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.8% from 2021 to 2028.
Food trucks are well loved because of the unique services and dishes they offer customers. These trucks provide a welcome break from the usual dishes offered in traditional brick-and-mortar restaurants.
They offer more unique experiences, drive tourism, and are an exciting way to introduce new cuisines, like ethnic dishes, in places where these dishes are not regularly offered.
Although the food truck business has a fantastic market value and an increasingly growing market, it is surprising that many food trucks fail a few years after they are established.
In fact, the food truck business has a success rate of about 40%. Only 40% of food trucks stay operational after three years of being established.
Why Do Food Trucks Fail?
Although food trucks are a popular and profitable business that requires less capital to establish than traditional brick-and-mortar restaurants, they are also equally competitive.
With more than 30,000 food truck businesses in the U.K, the food truck business has grown to become a generic sector with diminished uniqueness.
For many people, opening a food truck is a way to satisfy their passion for cooking and a way to make a profit. However, these people forget that a food truck shouldn’t only be established to make money and ensure they offer customers an excellent culinary experience.
Running a food truck business requires not only culinary skills but also people skills and a dedication to offering customer satisfaction. When you run a food truck, you need to give people a reason to patronise you instead of going to the nearest fast-food restaurant or drive-through.
To do this, you need to understand what customers want in a food truck and how to meet up to their expectations.
Reasons Why Customers Love Food Trucks
To know what customers want in a food truck, it is essential to start by understanding why people like food trucks. Knowing why people gravitate towards food trucks instead of traditional brick-and-mortar restaurants will provide a starting point to improve your food trucks to their taste.
Some reasons people love food trucks are:
The most obvious reason anyone loves food trucks is the mouth-watering food options they offer. From tacos to hot dogs and even fast traditional dishes, food trucks are a great way to enjoy various food options readily and on the spot.
Food trucks diversify and accommodate more gourmet and gourmet-like dishes on their menu. However, unlike traditional restaurants, these food truck dishes, no matter how gourmet-like they are, are more affordable.
Dining at a restaurant often comes with heavy price tags. In many restaurants, even regular dishes come at outrageous prices. With food trucks, people get fresh and equally delicious dishes at a lower cost. This not only makes it possible to eat good food but also save money while you do so.
Food trucks are easily accessible establishments that bring food on the go. Because they are mobile, they can pop up at several locations and get good food to people without requiring them to walk or drive long distances. Food trucks go anywhere and everywhere.
From street sorbets to busy streets, universities, and even festivals or sporting events, you can always be rest assured that you will most likely run into a food truck when you are hungry.
What Customers Want In A Food Truck
Although great and affordable food is one thing every customer looks forward to when patronising a food truck, this is not the only thing they want in a food truck.
The best way to grow your food truck business is to give your customers exactly what they want. Some of these things are:
1. New Cuisines
One primary reason food trucks have become extremely popular in recent years is the creativity of their menu. Admittedly, there are still can't food trucks that sell hotdogs, ice cream, and other foods people consider conventional.
However, modern food trucks use mobile kitchens to introduce new cuisines to different locations. People love food trucks but find food trucks that sell new cuisines to be especially exciting. These food trucks allow them to try out new dishes that they usually wouldn't get the opportunity to at such an affordable price.
Customers today want to explore unconventional dishes, so they look forward to patronising food trucks that do not sell regular dishes that can be found anywhere else. An example is a food truck that serves ethnic Mexican dishes in the U.S. Customers are often excited to try out dishes from these food trucks for the thrill of it.
Many people also want food trucks that bring gourmet dishes to the streets. They want to enjoy these sophisticated dishes without the heavy price tags that usually accompany them in restaurants.
Consumers expect food trucks that are creative with their dishes. They want gourmet-themed food trucks that deviate from many other food truck businesses that offer a regular menu.
Another reason people like food trucks is their first-hand relationship with the chef or anyone behind the counter. When visiting restaurants, the only point of contact that customers get with the chef is the waiter. Only on rare occasions in pricey restaurants do consumers get to interact with chefs.
Food trucks change the game as people can watch the chefs in action and even interact with them. This is solely because the chefs are not only in charge of making the food but also serving it.
Conversing with the chef offers a more personalised and fun experience that many restaurants do not provide. These interactions foster inclusivity and help customers enjoy a more connected experience.
Essentially, customers look forward to interacting with the chefs. As a food truck owner and chef, it would help if you made every purchase interactive. Ask your customers for their names, address them by their names, smile, and be conversant.
Consumers expect food trucks to offer convenience. They want food trucks that serve great food in easy-to-reach places.
What is the point of a food truck miles from where it is needed? Consumers do not want to have to go out of their way to get access to food trucks. They do not want to have to drive or walk miles before a food truck that is available to serve them.
Consumers want food trucks parked and waiting for them. It doesn't matter if it is down the street or just around the corner, consumers want food trucks that are easily accessible and ready to see hot, delicious meals.
4. Healthy Foods
Sustainability is the order of the day in modern societies. Unsurprisingly, consumers expect food services to offer healthier and more sustainable food options on the menu.
Many food trucks offer fast-food options. While this is not necessarily wrong, consumers today pay attention to nutrition, health, and wellness. As a result, there is an increased demand for ‘green’ or healthy food trucks.
Consumers want quality ingredients, vegetable-centric dishes, and even vegan menus. Some notable health-oriented food trucks in the United States include the Green Truck popular in California (known for its vegan menus), Good Food in Wisconsin (famous for their low-carb dishes), and The Vegan Bandwagon (famous for their vegan platters).
The world has evolved technology-wise, and consumers want more food trucks implementing technology in their business.
Digital technology in food trucks is a great first impression for many consumers. These digital add-ons instantly ramp up the aesthetics and improve the consumer experience.
One of many technological solutions that consumers want to see in digital shops is digital menus. A digital menu customized to fit the theme of your food truck is not only aesthetically pleasing but also gives customers a quick overview of the dishes available on your menu.
This makes it easier for people to place orders while reducing wait time and offering queue control.
Tips To Start A Successful Food Truck Business
As consumer trends change in the food truck business, it can seem more and more challenging to start a successful food truck that meets consumers’ needs. However, with the right strategy, creating a food truck business can be easy and fulfilling.
Some tips to help you along include:
- Research your area
- Research the theme of your proposed food truck business
- Write a business plan
- Perform extensive market research
- Invest in Loop TV
Going Digital With Loop TV
Loop TV is the perfect technological addition to any food truck business. With over 200 entertainment channels and comprehensive options of unique digital signage solutions, Loop TV offers food trucks the opportunity to scale their business.
With music videos, news, lifestyle, sport, and funny video channels on the Loop TV network, you can keep your customers entertained while waiting in line for their orders.
Loop TV’s digital signage solution also comes in handy for creating outdoor brand adverts, menu boards, and point-of-sale stations to improve the average customer experience.
Want to get started on Loop TV’s amazing offers? Sign up for a Loop TV media player on the Loop TV website.