Today, food trucks are everywhere. Step outside your workplace and you’ll find one waiting to serve you.
Stroll through your local town and you’ll find several.
Attend any fair or other event and they will line up to take your order.
They are an excellent way to purchase affordable food, it’s served quickly, and you’ll find something from every corner of the world, right on your doorstep.
As the following food truck statistics will show you, this industry has grown from humble beginnings and is now one of the largest industries in the US.
Of course, food trucks aren’t new. It’s believed the first food truck was invented in 1872.
A man named Walter Scott converted a covered wagon into a mobile restaurant.
His first place of business was outside the newspaper office in Provide, Rhode Island.
He sold sandwiches, pies, and coffee and proved to be very popular.
- There are currently over 36,000 food trucks across the US
- The food truck industry is worth $1.48 billion
- Permits for a food truck cost an average of $28,276
- The industry has grown annually by 9.9%
- 43% of food truck customers are aged between 25-44
- 40,547 people are employed by the food truck industry
- Portland in Oregon is the best city to start a food truck
- There are 753 food trucks in california
- The most popular food is burgers!
- 40% of food trucks stay in business for more than three years
- Annual revenue ranges between $250,000 and $500,000
- 34% of food truck chefs regularly change the menu
- 80% of food truck users do so for the experience
- 90% of users have a positive experience
- 30% of food trucks in the US are owned by immigrants
Top Food Truck Statistics in 2023
1. There Are Currently Over 36,000 Food Trucks Across The US
To give you an insight into the popularity of food trucks there are currently more than 36,000 across the US and this number is climbing.
To give you an idea of how rapidly this number is climbing, consider this.
In 2011 there were just 8,677 food trucks in the US. That’s less than a quarter of the number in existence today.
By 2015 the number of food trucks had multiplied to 16,000, and by 2019 it passed 20,000.
It’s grown by around 4,000 a year since and, as of July 2023, there are just over 36,000 of them.
These trucks are comparatively spread out in cities across the country, providing the opportunity to make good returns on investments This could change in the future as more businesses appear.
2. The Food Truck Industry Is Worth $1.48 Billion
Food trucks allow you to grab food on the go. That’s convenient if you don’t have much time for lunch.
It can also be romantic if you grab food from the truck and sit somewhere nice.
This flexibility is part of the reason the industry has become so popular, a fact reflected in its increased value.
In 2020 the value of the industry was just $1.1 billion.
That was actually lower than 2019 which reached an overall valuation of $1.21 billion.
Despite the 2020 dip, ( a result of covid), the business recovered in 2021 and has continued to perform well.
Current figures, from the second quarter of 2023, suggest the food industry is now worth $1.48 billion.
This figure will likely increase further over the next few years.
3. Permits For A Food Truck Cost An Average Of $28,276
Starting any business can be expensive, which is why you need a financial business plan.
You’ll be able to predict the start-up costs and first year costs.
This will help you ensure you have, and /or borrow, enough funds to get the business off the ground.
A large amount of a food truck startup is the cost of the truck.
They can cost anything between $50,000 and $100,000, depending on how much work they need doing.
Another, surprisingly large, cost of getting the business going is the cost of permits.
It varies between states, some being substantially more expensive than others.
The average cost across the US for food truck permits is, according to Zippia, $28,276.
This has to be paid before you can start trading.
Overall costs to get a food truck started are in the region of $125,000.
However, if you get it right you should be able to recover these costs in the first year.
4. The Industry Has Grown Annually By 9.9%
The food truck industry had an average growth rate pre-pandemic of 4.9%.
The pandemic didn’t hurt this type of business. Food trucks become the easiest way to avoid cooking and still sort of enjoy a meal out.
This led to unprecedented growth. The industry has grown an average of 9.9% every year since 2019.
The pandemic may have triggered the growth in the industry but the quality of the food and the service has maintained it.
Current predictions suggest the market will continue to grow at 9.9% per annum, probably for the next 5 years.
5. 43% Of Food Truck Customers Are Aged Between 25-44
The largest customer group for food trucks is those aged between 18-44.
This is the group that generally likes to eat out the most and often has the funds to support it.
Older generations generally prefer to eat in restaurants or stay at home.
The 18-44 year old group can be split into two. In the first half, those that are 18-24 account for 20% of all food truck customers.
The second, and much bigger, proportion of people, is the 25-44 year olds.
These account for 43% of food truck sales.
That’s nearly half of all sales and illustrates the type of customer all food trucks should aim for.
Those in the 45-54 age bracket account for the least amount of sales.
They represent just 17% of the customer base. Interestingly, customers over 55 years old are 19% of food truck customers, illustrating life isn’t over just because you’re more mature.
6. 40,547 People Are Employed By The Food Truck Industry
The average food truck employs 1.2 people, including the owner.
That means there are a few more people employed by the industry than the number of food trucks.
As most people work in their own food truck, there aren’t many spaces for an assistant role.
In short, competition for any job is fierce.
According to the latest surveys 40,547 people are currently employed in the food truck industry.
As the number of food trucks is set to continue growing, it’s fair to assume the number of people employed in the industry will also increase.
7. Portland In Oregon Is The Best City To Start A Food Truck
If you’re looking at starting a food truck business and are happy to relocate, then you may want to consider Portland in Oregon.
This is generally considered the best place to start a food truck business.
The main reason why is the low-cost of starting up.
For example, the average cost to get all the permits needed to start your food truck or even keep the business running is $7,287.
That’s significantly cheaper than the national average and any other state.
If Portland doesn’t appeal, the following cities are also great places to start a food truck with a minimal setup cost.
- Los Angeles
- New York City
Of course, if you enjoy a challenge you can always try to get the permits in Boston.
It’s difficult and costly to get all the permits and get your business off the ground.
8. There Are 753 Food Trucks In California
According to the latest figures California is winning on food trucks.
It currently has 753 registered and approved food trucks operating within the state.
That means you can easily get the food of your choice at almost any time of the day or night.
Texas is the next most popular state with an impressive 549 food trucks.
Of course, Texas is approximately 1.7 times bigger than California.
It may not appear like there are that many food trucks in such a vast state.
Interestingly, another sunny area grabs the third place for food trucks by number. Florida has 502 food trucks.
However, Florida is a third of the size of California, meaning there are more food trucks per square meter.
9. The Most Popular Food Is Burgers!
Considering the array of cuisines available from food trucks it may seem surprising that burgers are consistently voted the number one food truck food.
However, burgers are comparatively low-cost, helping them to appeal to an array of customers.
They also arrive in a huge variety of flavors.
While the conventional burger is attractive, you can mix it up a little with a chicken burger or even a fish burger.
Add cheese, bacon, or some other combination and you’ve instantly altered the flavor.
However, where the burger really excels is when additional ingredients are included.
For example, onions and beer in the burger or a hot sauce on the bun.
There’s a virtually limitless combination of sauces which guarantee to make each burger unique, ensuring there is always something that will appeal.
After burgers, Indian street food is incredibly popular. This is followed by stone-baked pizza and loaded fries.
Grilled cheese, falafel, and classic macaroni cheese are also among the top seven favorite food truck foods.
10. 40% Of Food Trucks Stay In Business For More Than Three Years
Starting a business can be tough, especially when it’s as competitive as the food industry.
Being a great chef isn’t enough, you need to provide excellent customer service, regular changes to the menu, and be incredibly adaptable.
Failing to be unique enough or adapt as needed is why 60% of food trucks fail within the first three years.
The good news for the other 40% is that they are likely to survive the first three years and are then likely to trade profitably for as long as they want.
It’s worth noting the average success rate for new businesses in the US is 55%.
The fact that food trucks only have a 40% survival rate reflects how competitive this industry can be.
11. Annual Revenue Ranges Between $250,000 And $500,000
Running a successful food truck can be a lucrative business.
The latest Statista figures show that the average food truck makes between $250,000 and $500,000 per annum.
The figure varies dramatically according to what products you offer, where the food truck is generally located, and how much work you put into the business.
In the right location with a good reputation a food truck business can easily take $500,000 in a year.
However, assuming you’ve found the right location and menu, it’s still important to remember that revenue is not the same as profit.
12. 34% Of Food Truck Chefs Regularly Change The Menu
There’s a good reason why a food truck owner should be a chef or passionate about food, it’s difficult to create a good menu.
It’s even harder when you are constantly experimenting with the menu. You need a flair for cooking.
A study by Off the Grid found that 34% of food truck owners regularly change parts of their menu.
They love to experiment with the dishes.
Of course, this is partially driven by a need to find which items customers like the most.
However, it’s also done to keep the menu, and therefore the food truck, interesting.
On top of that, these food truck owners simply like experimenting to find new flavors.
(Off the Grid)
13. 80% Of Food Truck Users Do So For The Experience
The great thing about there being so many food trucks is that there is almost always something different to try.
Every truck has a unique menu and most trucks change elements of the menu often.
Alongside this, food trucks can be parked anywhere. That means the ambiance can be different every time.
Because it’s fast service and you’re waiting for your food with others, you never know who you may meet.
In short, the experience is always fresh and unique, even if you have been to the food truck before, you can never be sure what to expect.
A recent study by Mobile Cuisine found that this uniqueness is one of the most appealing factors for food truck users.
It’s the experience which matters.
14. 92% Of Users Have A Positive Experience
Food trucks are generally run by individuals, some have helpers, others do it all themselves.
It’s rare for a food truck business to have multiple trucks.
That means customer service is very important.
Every customer matters and, as a food truck owner, you’ll want them to have a good experience.
This will ensure they return another time and they recommend you to a friend.
The good news is that this customer-orientated approach works.
A recent survey by Mobile Cuisine found that 92% of food truck visitors found the experience positive and would return.
43% thought they had an excellent food truck experience, and 48% rated it good.
The experience wasn’t just about the service or even the price.
The taste of the food plays a big part in how satisfied a customer is.
15. 30% Of Food Trucks In The US Are Owned By Immigrants
The average Food truck owner is either an experienced professional chef or someone with a passion for cooking, and they are good at it.
In many cases, this is one of the easiest industries for almost anyone to get into.
Provided you have the money to start the business and can get the necessary permits, anyone can start.
This may be why 30% of food trucks are owned and operated by immigrants.
A further 30% are owned by women.
It’s a great opportunity to be self-employed and potentially earn a good income.
You should note, 8% of food truck owners are part of the LGBTQ community and 2% of owners are military veterans.
Interestingly, 31% of food truck owners see the experience as a good trial for a fixed-premises traditional restaurant.
Running a food truck is a cheaper way to get a feel for the industry, build a following, test out recipes, and even raise the capital to start a restaurant.
(Off the grid)
Starting Your Own Food Truck
An annual revenue of $250,000 against an investment of $100k seems like a safe bet.
It’s certainly enticing but you need to note that it’s hard work.
If you want to start a food truck and become part of the above statistics, you’ll need to:
Find A Truck
You can’t start a food truck business without a food truck! There are plenty of second-hand options available.
You’ll need to think about how much food needs to be stocked, whether you’ll be running it by yourself, and what facilities you’ll need.
This will allow you to look at trucks and decide how much, if any, work they need doing to them.
You can start preparing the truck as soon as you’ve purchased it.
Get The Necessary Permits
The next step is to get your permits. As mentioned, these can vary dramatically in cost, depending on where you live and want to register your truck.
It’s important to know the cost of these and apply as soon as possible.
You’ll want to have the permits ready when you’re ready to launch your business.
This is also the stage where you evaluate your finances and the cost of getting started.
You may need additional finance to get the business off the ground.
The most logical place to get finance is your bank. Make an appointment and see what they say.
Take your business plan and, if the bank doesn’t approve, remember there are other finance houses.
Decide On A Menu
You’re now going to need to look at your demography. They will likely fall in the 25-44 year old range.
Consider what dishes they may be inclined to try and add these to the menu.
Take your time and you’ll create a perfect menu. It’s a good idea to have a practice run cooking the array of dishes
Don’t forget, you can always tweak or change recipes, that’s what will keep your customers interested.
Consider The Cooking
Ideally, you’ll be cooking the food yourself and you have a passion for cooking.
However, if you don’t, you may want to hire a chef.
If that’s the case make sure your truck has enough room for two of you to work together without getting in each other’s way.
It’s a good idea to choose a cuisine that you know you can cook. The taste is a big part of the experience.
Choose Your Spot
Finally, with everything in place, you’ll need to find a spot.
Spend a little time considering where you feel your truck would do well. Then, check the site to see if there are any other food trucks there.
If there is, take a look at what they are offering.
Be wary if they offer the same foods as you, the competition could make it much harder to successfully establish your food truck.
One thing is clear from the food truck statistics. This is a rapidly expanding industry.
It’s been growing steadily for years and looks set to continue this growth for many more.
However, while it can offer a lucrative escape route from the rat race, it is worth remembering that it’s very competitive.
Only 40% of businesses make it past three years.
The success of any food truck relies on the quality of the food, the variety of the menu, and the location.
Being prepared will enable you to become part of these positive food truck statistics.