The Food Truck Craze and Why Word of Mouth is the Engine

Join us as we take a deep dive into food trucks. How they got started, when they become mainstream, and who helped spread the word...

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We are going to try something new, instead of breaking down a particular product or service. We’re going to take a look at the food service market and how food trucks have changed the game forever.

What are food trucks and what do they do?

Food trucks are all about creativity, speed, and fantastic food. People tend to visit food trucks because of their convenient locations, and one of a kind meals. There’s something about the smell of a food truck that can cut through all the commotion of a busy street and lead your tastebuds to nirvana.

It’s simple; food trucks go where people go. It’s one of the many benefits to being on four wheels.

The beautiful thing about food trucks is that it allows many entrepreneurs to chase their dreams and do what they are truly passionate about, and you can honestly taste it.

Food trucks are an affordable option for would be restauranteurs to build a fan base and find their culinary footing before taking on the considerable investment and risk associated with opening a traditional brick and mortar location.

What people are saying about food trucks

Cheap and gourmet don’t typically go together. Yet, it’s very much a thing in the food truck industry in the sense that you can get a gourmet meal for a lower-than-normal price. That’s because food trucks are usually owned and operated by chefs who are passionate about cooking and only use the freshest ingredients.

If there’s one group of people to credit with the food truck renaissance, it would be the millennials. Being the generation hit the hardest by the recession, they have less money than their parents did at the same age, In fact, the average worth of someone between the ages of 29 to 37 has dropped 21% over the last 30 years.

This young generation is watching their wallet, and eating out less and less. Millennials want a new, unique, and authentic experience when dining out. Food trucks provide just that.

How food trucks got started

From the moment we’ve had streets, there have been street vendors. All you need is a few fresh ingredients, access to fire, a cart with sturdy wheels and you’ve got a business ready to roll.

Food trucks have always been around on a limited basis (since we’ve had vehicles), from the ice cream man we’ve all chased down as kids to the corn dog stand at the state fair. The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile being the most notable for decades, starting its national tour back in the late 1930s.

For a while, unless you worked construction or in a busy downtown area, you probably wouldn’t eat at a food truck. But the Great Recession of 2008 changed all of that. Due to an apparent combination of economic and technological factors combined with the fact that street food was kinda “hip” or “chic” at the time, food trucks started popping up left and right. The construction business was drying up, leading to a surplus of food trucks, and chefs from high-end restaurants were being laid off.

For experienced cooks suddenly without a job, a food truck seemed like a no brainer. But people from all walks of life started to join the movement after being laid off, and the outcome was absolutely delicious.

How food trucks grow through word of mouth with Value

(See all of our word-of-mouth drivers.)

Time is money, and people who frequent food trucks are usually on the go and value their quick customer service and unique culinary twists.

You usually won’t see any advertising besides what’s on the side of their truck. Food trucks rely heavily on word of mouth and referrals to generate their business and what better group than millennials to help spread the word. After all, they practically live on social media.

However, Millenials aren’t just looking for a quick bite to eat, you’ll often find they value:

  • Variety and customization: They demand options and the ability to personalize their order
  • Your story: Millennials want some substance behind where they eat. It’s key to feeding one’s heart in addition to one’s stomach.
  • Ingredients: Quality ingredients are an absolute must!
  • Social responsibility: Businesses should balance profit-making activities with activities that benefit society (think charities)

How often have you been to a restaurant and actually got to meet and talk with the chef while they’re cooking your meal?

There’s something special about that brief interaction between the small glass sliding window. It’s relaxing, and the same truck can change its whole vibe overnight by just changing locations. Forgot that you wanted no onions?

No problem just peek through the window and give the chef a quick heads up. No need for a waiter to sprint back to the kitchen and tell the chef. (hopefully, before they finished preparing your meal)

This is a great time for the customer to ask questions and for the owner to share their story while letting them know what makes their truck unique. You’ll often find a flyer with their website and social media accounts next to the glass. This and few clever marketing tactics is all it takes to get customers talking.

You’ll often find food trucks promoting through giveaways, contests (name this dish), and referral programs right from their window or on social media. By far the most effective use of WoM is simply attending special events. Food trucks plan their event calendars months in advance and will often take these opportunities to test new demographics and find new advocates.

Food trucks’ word-of-mouth rating: 4/ 5 (In conversation)

(More on our rating system.)

Overall they receive a 4/5 in our word of mouth scale, which equates to “You will tell friends about the product/business when it comes up in conversation.”

It’s easy to forget, but only a decade ago most of our public spaces laid empty, our street vendors pushed old boiled hot dogs, and a quick, affordable meal meant a drive through. But those days are gone.

There’s something magical about a good food truck, and if the last decade has taught us anything, it’s that food trucks are here to stay.

The industry shows no sign of slowing down, with estimated revenue for 2017 reaching over two billion in the US alone, representing a 300% growth rate from 2014. Food truck growth is even outpacing the overall commercial foodservice, such as restaurants, at a growth of 5.4% vs. 4.3%.

While many owners are contempt with the perks and lifestyle that owning a food truck offers, some used it as a stepping stone to open a brick and mortar and later went on to franchise around the world such as Halal Guys, with dozens of franchises around the US and Asia.

But unless someone asked you what you had for lunch, or where you got that delicious looking treat. You probably won’t mention your last meal – and because of that, they receive a 4/5.