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From Roach Coach to Foodie Fantasy: The Transformation of Food Trucks

The last decade has seen food trucks and other mobile food vendors transform themselves in the public’s perception. What was originally part of the cheap, underground food scene is now a well-respected choice for your daily lunch.

A variety of factors have contributed to the explosion of popularity that has propelled food trucks into the mainstream meal choices of regular people. Some of the top contributors include:

  1. The Growth of Social Media

    Social media busted on the scene just over a decade ago when MySpace reached it’s height of popularity in 2004 and 2005. Facebook followed, booming over the next few years. Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Vine…now the list is seemingly endless.

    The meteoric rise of social media and its various platforms is similar to that of food trucks and other mobile vendors. The only difference is that social media came first and food trucks followed in its wake.

    Today, most food trucks interact with their customer base using social media, tweeting and posting updates about their daily locations, special promotions, and other relevant information. In this way, social media has made possible the growth of the food truck industry.

  1. The Advent of Reality Television

Reality television really hit it big in the United States with the 2000 premiere of Survivor. Over the next few years, much of the small screen was dominated by shows like American IdolThe Simple Life, and many others.

Though many of these shows began by profiling regular people in fantasy-type situations, eventually they spread into other genres, including the world of food. Shows like Iron Chef America (2005) and Chopped (2009) soon

  1. followed. One of the trademarks of these shows was the need for creativity and unique flavor combinations.

    The same demand for interesting flavors is now also the hallmark of today’s most successful food trucks.

  1. The Decline of Corporate America

    Over the last 10 years, the landscape of corporate America has changed drastically. Very rarely do people work for a company for more than 10 years like the once did. From legislation changes like Obamacare to the movement away from benefits like pensions, much of what once made working for a corporation desirable is no longer available for individuals.

    This decline has occurred simultaneously with an increased interested in entrepreneurship. Without the traditional benefits to sway them, many people are now searching for ways to start their own ventures.

    Food trucks, for many vendors, are a chance to marry their passion for food and freedom with their need to make a living.

While these three trends are certainly major contributors to the rise of food trucks, one of the most important trends I’ve not yet detailed is discussed below, in even greater detail.


Over the past 10 years or so, health has really taken precedence in the American consciousness. With the growing obesity epidemic, more people are paying attention to how they exercise, what type of exercise they’re doing, what they eat, where their food came from, how it’s prepared, and more.

Let’s just focus on those last few for a moment.

The Demand for Local Food

The local food movement is a huge part of what has made food trucks so successful. In many cities, some of the most successful mobile food vendors are those who advertise that their food is made with locally grown produce and meats raised nearby.

Much of this may have to do with the recent spike in food recalls for safety concerns. Just this week, frozen vegetables were recalled from 35 states (35!) due to worries about possible listeria contamination.

People have begun to feel like they can’t trust the mass-farming methods used by national suppliers, so instead they’ve begun turning towards locally grown food. When they

can meet their farmer—or buy food from someone who has—it creates a feeling of trust. And while small-scale farmers are by no means immune from food safety concerns, any outbreak will not be on such a large scale.

Regulation & Insurance Policies

In turn, consumers’ demand for local food has provided an opportunity that food truck vendors saw and were able to take advantage of, giving them greater prestige in the food consumption community. This kind of demand has garnered notice, not just from people looking for a tasty, fast, and cheap lunch, but also from city, county, and state governments and insurance companies.

In order to ensure that food is prepared safely, many local governments now regulate food truck operators, requiring permits, inspections, licenses, and more, depending on the city. Additionally, some insurance companies have started offering food vendor liability insurance policies that protect vendors from the risks inherent in their business.

While some people may feel constrained or frustrated by these developments, the truth is that they are a large part of what has transformed what used to be called “roach coaches” into today’s mobile foodie paradises.


What other trends have you seen over the last 10 years that have contributed to the growth of the food truck industry? Share them in the comments below! And if you need insurance for your food truck, FLIP has you covered.

NOTICE: Banner image “Food Truck Thursday 18377” by Ted Eytan is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 / Cropped from original


Austin Dykstra writes about marketing, business, and insurance for small business owners and entrepreneurs.

Austin Dykstra has written about everything from Instagram marketing to online reputation management. He is now firmly entrenched in the thrilling world of insurance. You can find Austin on LinkedInInstagram, or Twitter, where he’s meekly re-entering the fray after quitting during the 2016 election cycle.

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