The “Roach Coach” of the 1950s Charges High Prices for Authentic Fare

What’s the fastest way to attract a hungry mob of Millennials? Post a food truck location on social media. 

Foodservice IP recently completed a broad study on emerging segments, which included segment disruptors such as ghost kitchens, meal kit companies, food halls and food trucks. This post explores some of the opportunities and intricacies when looking to penetrate or expand in this fast-growing segment.

Consumers are Aware of Food Trucks

Of the emerging segments FSIP explored, we found that consumers are most aware of food trucks. This is not surprising as food trucks go as far back as the 1950s and were regular staples at construction sites. However, today’s “artisan” food trucks are a far cry from the “roach coach” era, as will be evident in some of the most notable food truck concepts we point out.

Image of a Jammin' Crepes food truck

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To date, there are roughly 8,200 food trucks in the United States. Food trucks are so common that seven in ten consumers have purchased from a food truck.  With already high and growing awareness, food trucks are poised for growth in a tough foodservice market through increased events that bring groups of food trucks to the consumers, like food truck rallies and community festivals. 


What’s Driving Growth?

Food trucks allow chefs and restaurateurs to test a concept or expand reach with limited capital investment. In fact, more traditional operators are using food trucks to reach consumers that haven’t visited their brick and mortar locations. They can operate with lower labor costs because only a few staff fit on the truck, and handle both front and back-of-house responsibilities. Another benefit of food trucks is their mobility to cater or serve food during private events.


Notable Food Trucks

Through our field work this summer, we identified a number of notable food trucks. As noted earlier, the food trucks of 2020s are not your grandparent’s construction site foil wrapped burger and hot dog menu.

  • Cousins Maine Lobster, 27 trucks across the US: In 2012, cousins from Maine opened their first food truck in LA with very little restaurant experience, but a lot of passion for their East Coast traditions and sustainable fishing practices. Before long, they appeared on Shark Tank and gained investment and support from Barbara Corcoran and quickly their empire grew to 27 trucks and 9 brick and mortar locations across the US.
Image of cousins maine lobster food truck

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  • The Fat Shallot, Chicago: The Fat Shallot, an extravagant sandwich operator, started as a food truck in Chicago. After several years of success, they opened a stall in Revival Food Hall, then were able to open their own brick and mortar location. Earlier this year, they developed a second concept, Smashed Radish, to open in another food hall, Politan Row. 
Image of the fat shallot chicago food truck

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  • Carnivale, Chicago: Carnivale is an example of a full service, upscale restaurant breaking into a new customer base with a food truck. They serve Latin fusion tacos and other on-the-go friendly options, introducing customers to their flavor profile at a lower price point and more casual environment.
Image of carnivale chicago food truck

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Foodservice IP’s Take

Convenience is a top priority driving consumer purchasing behavior. Food trucks have the ability to travel to the consumer. Events like street festivals and community gatherings are critical avenues for food trucks to continue expanding their reach to become a more prominent segment of the foodservice industry. There has rarely been a better time to get in on the ground floor of a rapidly growing segment sought after by tomorrow’s primary away-from-home consumer.


Hungry for more insights about foodtrucks or other foodservice industry innovations? Check out our Emerging Segment Report or contact a Foodsevice IP expert today.


Julie Heseman is a Principal with Foodservice IP. Julie has several years of experience in the foodservice industry managing projects, developing new business, handling P&Ls, market sizing, supply chain research and overseeing the growth of client portfolios. Her experience spans foodservice manufacturers, broadline distributors, and chain restaurant operators.