Although street food is enjoying a resurgence, this remains a tried-and-tested business model that has been fed countless generations of diners. The history of mobile eating dates back to the rise of the city. As the population grew, so did the need for food. Mobile vendors selling hot dogs and hamburgers to sidewalk cafes sprung up in cities to establish permanent business establishments.
Today, there are more than 3 million food trucks running in the U.S, more than double the number of street cafes. These trucks vary widely in size from those that seat five or less people to those capable of seating up to fifty or more individuals. The sizes can also be determined by the price, starting at a few hundred dollars for simple two-person hot dog carts and working up into the thousands for full-scale hot dog bars capable of serving fifty or more individuals at one time. A great many mobile food businesses began as temporary stands as college students traveling from class to class changed their diets and discovered street food was a better alternative to pricey, pre-packaged food.
Since the 1990s, the food truck has experienced multiple transformations, both physically and figuratively. Traditionalists argue that mobile vendors have been hit by the same decline seen in the traditional brick-and-mortar industry. The industry has also witnessed the slow death of many once popular food trucks, including the popular Power Steak restaurant chain, owing to poor marketing and low demand. Another contributing factor is the proliferation of mobile snack vending machines, which gained in popularity as a solution to obesity. However, new business opportunities have arisen in response to these changing attitudes and demands, resulting in an explosion of mobile-oriented businesses across the country.
Although a few die-hard purists still argue that mobile food trucks and mobile food service in general are a threat to the restaurant and hospitality industry in the United States, this view is no longer widely held. In fact, in many cities and towns across the United States, sales of hot dog carts and other food trucks have actually increased during the past five years. This increase in sales is most likely attributed to a variety of factors. One example is the rise of urban development, which led people to prefer restaurants that prepare food on-site, rather than eating in drive-through windows or on carts.
Another reason cited for the boost in sales is the increasing number of Taco Food Trucks and mobile food service that are inspected on a regular basis by local, state, and federal government agencies. Indeed, food trucks that are inspected are now routinely targeted by local and state health departments for violating a variety of ordinances and regulations. One such regulation is the violation of sanitary conditions, which can result in fines and penalties. Any business found to be in violation of these regulations, faces the possibility of having its license revoked.
Some in the industry worry about what will happen to mobile food trucks once the government starts targeting them for sanitary violations. The proliferation of mobile food trucks across the country has resulted in increased food prep facilities that serve both customers who want quick food and those who want quality food.