Food truck

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Truck in Nouméa, New Caledonia, serving Chinese food, 2011

A food truck, is a truck that sells food. Some, including ice cream trucks, sell frozen or prepackaged food; others resemble restaurants on wheels. Some may provide specific meals or styles of food.

Food trucks also cater at events (carnivals, construction sites, sporting events etc.) and places of regular work or study – college campuses, office complexes, industrial parks, auto repair shops, movie sets, farmers markets, military bases, etc. – where regular meals or snacks are in high demand by potential customers. Food truck dining as a popular phenomenon has caught on in several U.S. and Canadian cities including Toronto, Montreal, Hamilton, Vancouver, Washington, D.C., New York, Austin, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, Calgary, Portland and Tampa.[1][2][3][4]

Regional variants[edit]

Taco truck in Houston, Texas, 2011
The Maximus/Minimus food truck in Seattle, Washington, 2010
A pizza truck in New York City, 2009
Food trucks at the "Food Trucks for Haiti" benefit in West Los Angeles

United States[edit]


The Texas chuckwagon is one precursor to the American food truck. After the American Civil War, the beef market in Texas expanded. Some cattlemen herded cattle in parts of the country that did not have railroads which would mean they would be on the road for months at a time.[5] The need to feed these cattlemen resulted in the creation of the chuckwagon. The origin of the chuckwagon or food truck, stems from the "father of the Texas Panhandle," Charles Goodnight.[6] In 1866, Goodnight, a cattle herder, realized how difficult it was to cook proper meals during cattle drives. With that, he took a sturdy old United States Army wagon and constructed interior shelving and drawers. He then stocked the wagon with tableware and utensils, spices and medical supplies, including castor oil and quinine. Heavy pots and pans were stashed on the lower shelves while food was kept in the bed of the wagon. Food consisted of dried beans, coffee, cornmeal, and other easy to preserve food stuffs. There was no fresh fruit, vegetables, or eggs available and meat was not fresh unless an animal was injured during the run and therefore had to be killed. The meat they ate was greasy cloth-wrapped bacon, salt pork, and beef, usually dried or salted or smoked. The wagon was also stocked with a water barrel and a sling to kindle wood to heat and cook food and so the chuckwagon was created.[7]

By the 1890s, night lunch wagons, which catered to night-time workers, were a common sight in big cities like New York City. "The Owl" was the leading "brand" of night lunch wagon, and although they were entirely portable, many did such good business that they rarely moved.

Later versions of the food truck were mobile canteens which were created in the late 1950s. These mobile canteens were authorized by the U.S. Army and operated on stateside army bases.[8]

Mobile food trucks or "roach coaches," have been around for years, serving construction sites and other blue collar professions.[9] In recent years the food truck resurgence was fuelled by a combination of post-recessionary factors. The construction business was drying up leading to a surplus of food trucks. Chefs from high-end restaurants were being laid off. So, for experienced cooks suddenly without work, the food truck seemed a clear choice.[10][11]

Once more commonplace in the big cities of the eastern and western United States, food trucks recently have evolved to be found in both urban and rural areas of the U.S. In big cities of the U.S. the food truck traditionally provided a means for the on-the-go person to grab a quick bite at a low cost. Food trucks are not only sought out for their affordability but as well for their nostalgia; and their popularity continues to rise. Chicago is currently the only city in the United States which does not allow food trucks to cook on board so trucks are forced to cook in a commercial kitchen, wrap and label food and load it into a food warmer. Chicago's food truck ordinance requires food trucks to park 200 feet away from any restaurant and cannot sell for more than 2 hours at one location.[citation needed]

The food truck trend has grown as they are now being hired for special events, such as weddings, school dances, birthday parties, retirement parties, and such public gatherings as art festivals and movie nights. Food trucks are now even Zagat rated. Another thing to develop is the food truck festival phenomenon. These festivals are gatherings in which people can find their favorite trucks all in one place and as well provide a means for a variety of diverse cultures to come together and find a common ground over a love for food.[12][unreliable source?][13][14]

Due to an apparent combination of economic and technological factors combined with "street food" being "hip" or "chic," there has been an increase in the number of food trucks in the United States.[11][15] A modern-day food truck isn't just an ordinary taco truck one might find at a construction site.[16] These gourmet trucks' menus run the gamut of ethnic and fusion cuisine. Often focusing on limited but creative dishes at reasonable prices, they offer customers a chance to experience food they otherwise may not. Finding a niche seems to be a path to success for most trucks. While one truck may specialize in outlandish burgers, another may serve only lobster rolls". Food truck franchises began to form, catering to the public who were searching for these delicious gourmet treats. Gourmet Streets, one of the most respected food truck franchises in America became a huge sensation as a result of this gourmet revolution.[17] Food truck rallies are also growing in popularity across the United States. On August 31, 2013, Tampa hosted the world's largest food truck rally with 99 trucks attending.[18] Additionally, the popularity of food trucks is leading to the creation of associations that protect and support their business rights, such as the Philadelphia Mobile Food Association.[19]

Media use and coverage[edit]

Tracking food trucks has become much less difficult. With the help of social media groups like Facebook and Twitter, a person can find where their favorite gourmet truck will be at any moment and get up to the minute updates on specials, new menu items and location changes.[20] In fact, it could be argued that these social media outlets were the biggest contributing factor to the success of the gourmet food truck.[21] In addition to social media there are a number of food truck tracking programs for smart phones. Some cover specific geographical regions, and others work every where.

The food truck phenomenon has gained national attention and can now be seen regularly on television.[22] Both the Food Network's the Great Food Truck Race and its sister station the Cooking Channel's Eat St. feature food trucks and mobile food carts exclusively from all over the United States.[23][24]


In Asia, the cuisine offered by food trucks requires simple skills, basic facilities and a relatively small amount of capital. They are plentiful, with large potential for income and often a very large sector for employment. Individuals facing difficulty finding work in formal sectors, will often venture into this industry, as it allows entire families to involve themselves in the preparing and cooking of foods sold to the public. The appeal involved in sustaining a food truck lie not only in the low capital requirement, but also in the flexibility of hours, with minimal constraints to locale. Street foods predominantly reflect local culture and flavor. Food trucks appeal to consumers in that they are often an inexpensive means of attaining quick meals. Location and word of mouth promotion has been credited for their widening success.[25]


Food trucks are increasingly common in Australia. This is likely to increase as more councils open their streets to the mobile restaurants.


Potato chip ("french" fries) trucks have been a staple of the Belgian country-side for ages.[26]


The food truck is also found in North America. In Anglophone Canada, They are known as "Food Trucks". In Francophone Canada, they are commonly known as "cantines" (French for cafeteria). They have increasingly caught on in major cities in South Central Ontario, such as Toronto and Hamilton. They now serve a wide variety of cuisines, including anything from Grilled cheese sandwiches to Mexican cuisine.


Although food trucks are common at outdoor markets, American-style trucks selling restaurant-quality food first appeared in Paris in 2012. Their owners needed to obtain permission from four separate government agencies, including the Prefecture of Police, but the trucks' offerings—including tacos and hamburgers—have reportedly been very popular.[27]

United Kingdom[edit]

In the United Kingdom there has been little need for the food truck or wagon in civilian life, and its limited use was for the military[citation needed]. It was not until World War II and the advent of motorised transport that food trucks came into common use. Mobile canteens were used in almost all theatres of war to boost morale and provide food as a result of the successful tea lady experiment.[28]

In recent times and as a result of the lower cost of manufacturing, the food truck has been used in the commercial sector. These are known as "snack vans" and can be found on nearly all major trunk roads at the side of the road or in areas that have a large pedestrian population, such as at village fetes or town centers[citation needed]. These vans can specialise in a myriad of different food types, such as donuts, hamburgers, chili and chips, as well as ethnic food. Some people prefer to stop at one of these burger vans when travelling, due to the low price, rather than stop at a motorway service station where prices can be extremely high.


Although street food in Mexico is illegal and unregulated, food trucks are becoming increasingly popular as of 2013 and owners have created an association to pursue the professionalization and expansion of this commercial sector. In addition to the food trucks catering on the streets, there are regular bazaars organized to introduce their products to the consumers.[29]

List of food trucks[edit]

Main article: List of food trucks

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Laura Reiley [Tampa food truck rally features cheap meals on wheels] September 1, 2011 Tampa Bay Times
  2. ^ Jodie Tillman Food trucks roll more variety into downtown Tampa lunch scene November 3, 2011 Tampa Bay Times
  3. ^ Shelley Rossetter (2011-10-22). "Second Tampa food truck rally draws thousands". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 2013-09-16. 
  4. ^ "Food Informants: A Week In The Life Of Off The Grid Founder And Owner Matt Cohen". 08/09/2012. Retrieved 2013-09-16. 
  5. ^ Thompson, Bill. "American Chuck Wagon Association". Retrieved 9/4/2011. 
  6. ^ In the Driftway. (1928). [Article]. Nation, 126(3281), 589-590.
  7. ^ Sharpe, P. (1996). Camping it up. [Article]. Texas Monthly, 24(9), 92.
  8. ^ "1957". Retrieved 2010-01-25. [dead link]
  9. ^ Urstadt, B. (2009). Intentionally Temporary. [Article]. New York, 42(30), 58.
  10. ^ Belluz, J. (2010). Construction guys never ate like this. Maclean's, 123(38), 89.
  11. ^ a b By Stephanie Buck (2011-08-04). "The Rise of the Social Food Truck [INFOGRAPHIC]". Retrieved 2013-09-16. 
  12. ^ Samuelsson, Marcus, [1], Mobile Food, June 28, 2011. Retrieved: September 6, 2011.
  13. ^ Lempert, Phil, [2], Supermarket, October 25, 2010. Retrieved: September 6, 2011.
  14. ^ "Food Informants: A Week In The Life Of Off The Grid Founder And Owner Matt Cohen". Huffington Post. August 9, 2012. Retrieved 2013-09-16. 
  15. ^ Ryssdal, Kai, Food Truck Nation, American Public Media, Friday, July 30, 2010. Retrieved: September 3, 2011.
  16. ^ Olivia BarkerUSA, T. (n.d). A foodie-fueled trend takes its act on the road. USA Today.
  17. ^ Fasman, J. (2010). Trucking delicious. [Article]. Economist, 41-41.
  18. ^ "World's largest food truck rally descends on Tampa". Bay News 9. 2013-08-31. Retrieved 2013-09-16. 
  19. ^ "Street food cards and trucks have grown in stature". Metro. 2012-03-18. Retrieved 2013-10-24. 
  20. ^ Caldwell, A. (2011). Will tweet for food. The impact of twitter and New York City food trucks, online, offline, and inline. Appetite, 56(2), 522-522.
  21. ^ Bly, Laura. Travel by twitter. USA Today.
  22. ^ Coulton, A., Hamm, L., Zuckerman, S., Alexander, R., Garcia, J., McNeil, L., . . . Vallancourt, J. (2010). FOOD TRUCK NATION. [Article]. People, 74(5), 79-79.
  23. ^ "The Great Food Truck Race, hosted by Tyler Florence". 2013-06-27. Retrieved 2013-09-16. 
  24. ^ "Eat Street : Cooking Channel". 2011-02-24. Retrieved 2013-09-16. 
  25. ^ Winarno,F.G. & Allain, A. Street foods in developing countries: lessons from Asia. FAO. Retrieved September 7, 2011.
  26. ^ fr:Friterie
  27. ^ Moskin, Julia (2012-06-04). "Food Trucks in Paris? U.S. Cuisine Finds Open Minds, and Mouths". The New York Times. pp. A1. Retrieved June 4, 2012. 
  28. ^ "Your Mobile Canteen in Action". Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 2010-07-25. 
  29. ^ "Asociación Mexicana de Food Trucks". Time Out México. 2013-09-03. 

External links[edit]