Many people thought food trucks were a passing trend, but it looks like they are here to stay. These mobile restaurants have come a long way since ice cream and hot dogs, with trucks today running the gamut from gourmet cupcakes to sandwiches to ethnic fusion street food. If you can nail a solid concept and dream up a menu, chances are you can carve out a food truck niche. As these mobile restaurants continue to evolve, so will their menus. With low start-up costs and high mobility—they can show up in rural areas, weddings, or other private parties—food trucks can be a great way to share your culinary ideas with the world.
Barbecue is a great concept because it combines low-cost food with high appeal. Carnivore BBQ out of Washington, D.C., incorporates the best of Texas-style barbecue with locally sourced foods and environmentally friendly packaging. An added benefit? That sweet, smoky smell coming from your truck is its own form of guerrilla marketing.
This food trend has proved its staying power. Gourmet cupcakes can be served up plain and simple or wildly decadent. Sassi Cakes in Buffalo, New York, offers a wide selection of gourmet cupcakes, include alcoholic specialties like margarita and sangria. They also offer catering services, delivering cupcakes as far as a 50-mile radius, thus expanding their profit potential.
Blending one or more ethnic cuisines results in some tasty ideas. Current trends for ethnic fusion include Korean barbecue and Vietnamese cuisine. Guerrilla Street Food in St. Louis, Missouri, offers a fresh take on many traditional Filipino meals, even offering the Sisig Taco with braised and sautéed pig ear, tongue, and belly. Food trucks are often an invitation to try something adventurous.
Sandwiches gone gourmet, paninis require minimal equipment (a panini press or two) and offer a huge variety of dining options They're ideal for the lunch crowd and a great after-hours snack. Bikini Panini out of Richmond, Virginia, offers paninis and other fare with a Mediterranean flair.
Organic and Local Fare
Local foods and organic produce do not have to be boring. In fact, the flavors often blow commercially grown products out of the water. Vegetables and meat can be purchased locally almost anywhere and are a great way to promote a food truck as a sustainable business. Want to take it one step further? Swap your engine for a hybrid or bio-diesel unit.
The Old World makes its resurgence via food trucks. The Bratwurst King offers bratwurst (obviously), paprika chicken, Austrian goulash, and homemade cakes and strudel throughout the Washington, D.C., area. Take this theme as far as possible—you're selling the concept of culinary transportation.
American Regional Cuisine
The Red Hook Lobster Pound food truck brings Maine lobster to New York City. The truck offers an assortment of authentic New England specialties, from lobster rolls to clam chowder. There are gumbo trucks, taco trucks, poutine trucks, and more. Offer something that customers can't commonly find in your area.
Waffle trucks come in all types, from waffles and chicken to simple waffles with butter and maple syrup to gourmet waffles with blueberries and lemon cream cheese filling. This concept, like paninis or tacos, can be served almost all day and will be as big of a hit for breakfast as it would be at 3 a.m. Waffle Crush in Phoenix, Arizona, has a waffle for every mood and time of day.
Always popular and a perennial favorite, burgers can be served plain or with panache. Burgers always sell, but they also tend to be one of the most crowded niches. There are too many of these trucks to count. Consider adding a spin from one of the other types on this list to make your burger truck truly unique.
The original food truck theme and an American classic, an ice cream truck is an open canvas—be as creative as you want. You can serve creamy Italian gelato or classic American ice cream flavors like rocky road or peanut butter fudge. You can even go with handcrafted gelato popsicles like HipPOPS in Miami, Florida. Some more enterprising ice cream trucks only serve their product seasonally, converting the truck for the off-season or else renting it out altogether.
Food trucks come in all types and themes. New styles are popping up every day. What will yours look like?