What’s the Big Deal about Food Trucks?
Food and Wheels, a brief history
America has seen a long love affair between food and wheels since the automobile came of age. Between 1920 and 1930, the number of automobiles in the U.S. rose from eight million to twenty-three million and along with the increase came thousands of barbeque shacks, ice cream stands, and diners catering to the newly-mobile public.
By the 1950s, fast food joints were taking hold and drive-ins had become nation-wide phenomena and pop culture magnets with teens and young adults leading the movement. These automobile-centric businesses catered perfectly to the teen lifestyle as they cruised from place to place to see and be seen. Technological advancements brought restaurants with drive-throughs or parking spaces having individual menus and speakers or telephones from which carhops in flashy outfits, sometimes on roller skates, took orders and delivered meals.
Drive-ins continued to thrive in the 60s and 70s and became the unforgettable icons of Americana they are today with the help of shows like Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, Grease, and the iconic American Graffiti, immortalizing the drive-in landscape, sound, and culture.
Birth of the modern Food Truck
It was only a matter of time before the idea of people in vehicles going to restaurants was turned on its head to have restaurants in vehicles going to the people.
Sure, one could say that the mobile taco vendors of the 80’s, Good Humor trucks and roach coaches of the 70’s, or even the chuck wagons of the late 17th century were all precursors of today’s food truck phenom, but it was really an out of work chef in 2008 Los Angeles that really got the ball rolling with his Korean-Mexican BBQ fusion gourmet truck: Kogi. The rest, as they say, is history.
So, why should you love and support your local Food Trucks?
- A rescue in “culinary wastelands” – Lots of people live, work, or play in an area where there are few to no good options for good, quick food. When food trucks roll into the area, they fill this need.
- Get un-chained from the chains – food truck food can (and should) be a big step up from chain restaurants, especially in terms of “localness”, creativeness, and freshness.
- Meet the chef – The best food trucks are chef-driven (in more ways than one!). The talented culinarians who design the menus and make the food are right there, handing you your lunch.
- Try something new – Food trucks often provide their customers with a way to venture away from foods they know, offering original, unique, international, and fusion dishes or new spins on old favorites all at relatively low prices. Go ahead, be adventurous!
- Food courts on wheels – Food truck rallies, lots, festivals, and events are awesome opportunities to see a lot of different trucks, themes, and cuisines all in one place.
- Today’s “mom & pop” businesses – Most food trucks are owned and operated by local entrepreneurs. Supporting them is preferable to spending their dollars at a chain by making a small investment in the local economy.
- Be part of something special – The food truck community is a strong one. Both food truck owners and those who frequent them have built vibrant online communities that are easy, fun, and rewarding to join.
- Be one of the cool kids - Food trucks are still a novelty in many communities. People who know and frequent them are ahead of the crowd and on-trend with their dining choices.