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Friday, December 16, 2011

America’s Love Affair With Food Trucks

In cities, food trucks seem to be on every other street corner. But these are not your grandfather’s food trucks selling burgers at the work sites– these trucks hawk gourmet grilled cheeses, lobster rolls, cupcakes! And the vehicles can range in size from a double decker bus to a smart car.

Such is our obsession with mobile dining that the California food truck company Armenco is doubling its annual output. There’s also a TV show devoted to food trucks called “The Great Food Truck Race,” and an online magazine, “Mobile Cuisine.”

Will Food Trucks Hurt Restaurants?

While some traditional restaurateurs have opened trucks of their own, others feel like food trucks represent unfair competition. But Richard Myrick, editor of Mobile-Cuisine Magazine, argues that food truck meals most likely replace fast food meals, not fine restaurant dining. And the trucks do not get away with less regulation.

“To be honest, the food trucks are probably regulated more than the restaurants are,” Myrick told Here and Now‘s Robin Young.

“The fact is, they have to have a commercial kitchen that they are licensed through. That’s where they’re going to do a lot of the prep work for the food before it comes onto the truck. The truck itself also has to meet regulations [and] health department inspections,” Myrick said.

Food trucks are a way for chefs and other culinary entrepreneurs to establish a food business. Often these are trained chefs who don’t yet have the capital to open a store front restaurant, or have lost jobs from restaurants that have closed. Other trucks are opened by people who want to start their own business; for those without a food background, companies like Mobi Munch sells mobile Qdoba franchises, training franchisees in business skills and culinary arts.

From Latin American To Scandinavian Food

Almost every kind of food can be found on food trucks. Myrick thought the last hold out might have been Scandinavian food, but the SwedeDish truck in Orlando has now filled this hole. A lot of Asian and Latin American cuisines are featured in trucks and Myrick tells us that many of those meals have fusion twists: “Take Kogi BBQ — you’ve got a Korean barbecue in a taco so someone can order it, walk away from the truck and can continue eating.”

Guest:

  • Richard Myrick, editor of Mobile-Cuisine Magazine

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • http://twitter.com/MobileCuisine Mobile Cuisine

    Thanks for having me on Robin. For anyone interested in finding Mobile Cuisine, you can find it at http://mobile-cuisine.com

  • Simon Baer

    The guest’s comments that people who eat at food trucks would otherwise be eating at fast food restaurants is absurd. Many, many food truck meals go for well over $20. People who eat at food trucks would otherwise be eating at similar restaurants, with a storefront.

    • Zin

      Well….  Generally “Most likely” means that over half the food trucks are supplementing what one would find at a fast food restaurant.  

      However that does not mean that “many, many food truck meals go for well over $20″ is an incorrect statement by yourself.   It doesn’t mean it’s true, but it seems valid.  After all the food truck likely tries very hard to be convenient at populated places that…  Frankly…  Pay for the convenience of good fast food.

      Your implication of absolute certainty that because they paid a certain price at a mobile food truck that they would pay the same price in a storefront setting for the same food would however be incorrect.  And that makes your statement absurd.

  • http://twitter.com/MobileCuisine Mobile Cuisine

    Simon, the people who frequent food trucks are typically not looking to go and sit down and eat. They are not expecting linen napkins and fine china. Food truck food is designed to eat on the go. While you are correct that some food truck meals can be expensive, the vast majority of them are very inexpensive but made with fresh, local food.

  • Pam

    Loved the show today! Richard, “El Guapo” catered my husband’s 50th birthday party – terrific food and service! I hope Detroit starts to get more trucks; we are huge fans!

  • Guest

    I won’t eat from one of these trucks.  The ones we have here are dirty and greasy.  They disrupt the parking and traffic.  Not a good thing, for sure.

  • http://profiles.google.com/cuvtixo Christopher Daniels

    I clicked on “Does it feel like food trucks are taking over our streets?”  No. Not at all. What are you talking about?  From Cambridge MA.  

  • http://twitter.com/FoodCartsBoise Food Carts Boise

    We love our food trucks in Boise! http://FoodCartsBoise.net

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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