Turn back the clock five years and everyone was talking food trucks. What's happened to the food truck since then?
Brands and grocers were rolling them out as an alternative to the expensive brick-and-mortar locations coupled with a new, more proactive way to reach new consumers and begin a dialogue.
Parking lots that were filled to the brim with dozens of foods trucks and hundreds of customers waiting in line seem to be much rarer these days, as just three or four now show up.
What happened, and what’s next?
For one, many cities and towns drew up tighter regulations for both food safety and in some cases locations. Restaurants that were losing business complained that these trucks didn’t have to pay rent as they did and even questioned if they were paying their fair share of taxes to the communities they were serving.
Enter the food hall.
According to a report by commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield, there were about 70 food halls in the country by 2015. Within a year that number had grown to 86, and by the end of 2017 it had reached 118. At this rate, they predict, by 2020, the marketplace will have tripled in size in the span of just five years.
That rapid growth mirrors the rise of the so-called gourmet food truck trend, which kicked off just after the recession in 2008 with chef Roy Choi’s Kogi taco truck. “When consumers have wearied of giant chains but still demand food that is novel, inexpensive and fast, food trucks are the new incubators of culinary innovation,” wrote Jonathan Gold in the Smithsonian in 2012.
A decade after Kogi—with gas prices on the rise, mounting truck vendor regulations, competition, and fickle diners ready for the next thing—both consumers and operators seem to be shifting their attention to food halls because of the convenience, variety, speed and thrill of culinary browsing.
It’s a bit of a throwback to the food courts that so many indoor sprawling mega malls had for decades, but his time it's all about the food, with much more interesting higher-quality offerings than soft pretzels, burgers and pizza.