Last year, author Jennifer Lewis surveyed 539 food truck owners across the country with a simple question: Are you happy that you’re doing this? Ninety-seven percent said they wouldn’t want to do anything else. But an almost equal number reported that the business is harder than they had expected.
Over the last decade, the mobile food business has exploded across the country. Many in the restaurant industry feel that the prolonged recession combined with a growing interest in gourmet foods has created a perfect petri dish for the meals-on-wheels fad.
“There were a lot of folks from culinary backgrounds that didn’t have the capital to get into restaurants. You also had a lot of folks unemployed, without much hope of getting back into their former careers,” explains Lewis, who wrote the 2011 book “Food On Wheels: The Complete Guide to Starting a Food Truck.” “On the consumer side, people still wanted access to unique food — but [they] no longer wanted to do $25 for a plate of whatever.”
But has the market become saturated? Perhaps in New York City, which now has more mobile food businesses than available permits. But restaurateur Alan Phillips — who recently authored “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Starting a Food Truck Business” — sees plenty of opportunity in almost any other U.S. city.
“For me, there’s no bad restaurant spaces, there’s just bad restaurateurs,” he says. “Same with food trucks: If you know what you’re doing, you’re passionate about what you’re doing and you can manage your costs, you should be successful.”