Can food trucks save restaurants?

More restaurants are considering going mobile with trucks outfitted with kitchens.

By Kim Peterson Sep 9, 2010 2:00PM
Credit: (© Damian Dovarganes/AP)
Caption: Patrons line up at a gourmet food truck in Los AngelesThe restaurant sector has been hit hard by the economic downturn, facing dismal share prices and poor profits. Some restaurants are turning to a new concept in hopes of reviving business: Food trucks.

I'm not talking about the roach coaches that pull up to construction sites with rubbery burgers and heartburn-inducing tacos. The new generation of food trucks is offering food similar to -- or in some cases better than -- what you'd find in nearby restaurants.

One restaurant industry consultant thinks that 10% of the top 200 restaurant chains will have food trucks within two years, according to The Los Angeles Times. "They're all talking about it," he added.

There's a lot to like about a food truck if you're a restaurant. In a business where location is everything, a mobile restaurant has the entire city at its beck and call. Good real estate expensive and hard to find? No problem -- bring the food to the customers.

The Sizzler USA chain is getting its own truck after the chief executive saw people waiting for nearly an hour to get food from trucks in Venice, Calif., the Times reports. If the truck finds success selling fish and chips or tri-tip sandwiches, the company may order more. Post continues after video:
Subway has sandwich trucks, and chains such as Johnny Rockets and Shakey's Pizza are reportedly mulling the idea.

It's hard to pin down the origin of the new mobile-food movement, but the legendary Kogi Korean barbecue taco truck played a big part. The Los Angeles-based truck draws hundreds of people when it appears, the Times reports, and maintains a "Kogi kulture" cult following on Twitter and other sites.

The food truck business is blossoming just as lunchtime spending is set to increase. Spending on restaurant lunches in the U.S. is expected to grow by 2% next year to reach $114 billion, according to researcher Packaged Facts. This is after two straight years of declines.

GQ Magazine has even named the 10 best food trucks in America. The list includes San Francisco's Spencer on the Go, which sells sweetbreads and lobster salads, and the Van Leeuwen ice cream truck in New York, which offers delicacies like pistachio made with nuts from Sicily's Mount Etna.



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