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Growing Commercial Appliances Niche: Food Trucks Gain Momentum
Sep 27, 2011
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Consumers are increasingly interested in mobile foodservice, making food trucks a hot trend in the restaurant industry, according to new research from the National Restaurant Association.

Data from consumer surveying shows:
• 59% of consumers would likely to visit a food truck if their favorite restaurant offered one, up from 47% in 2010
• 18% saw a food truck in their community this summer
• 28% of those who saw a food truck made a mobile foodservice purchase

Food truck's commercial appliance equipment list can vary greatly depending on the intended usage of the truck. Some trucks are equipped for complete, gourmet food preparation, with equipment including:
• refrigeration and freezers
• on-board electrical generators
• air-conditioning
• grills
• char-broilers
• fryers
• microwave ovens
• stovetops
• convection ovens
• cold beverage dispensers
• coffee and other hot beverage-making equipment
• cooking ventilation

Food trucks are viewed as a rising trend, not a passing fad, according to separate research performed by Technomic. It shows that 91% of consumers polled who are familiar with food trucks view the trend as having staying power and not a passing fad. Only 7% say they expect their frequency of visits to food trucks to decrease over the next year.

Technomic also pointed out that 70% of non-users are still hesitant to purchase food from mobile vehicles, which is probably the biggest current growth challenge. Once consumers gain exposure, the firm's research shows, they seem to have very positive impressions of the experience.

Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group for the National Restaurant Association, points out that convenience is one of the big drivers of restaurant growth. Food trucks offer that convenience by bringing the restaurant to the consumer.

“Our research shows that in just one year, the number of consumers who say they would be likely to visit a food truck has increased significantly," Riehle said. "We also found that food trucks have a more noticeable presence in communities in the West and Northeast than in other parts of the United States.”

He said food trucks are often equated with chefs and entrepreneurs, but also offer the opportunity for operators of established restaurants to expand operations and enhance their presence. "A majority of consumers say they would visit a food truck run by their favorite restaurant. Mobile foodservice can be a good way to extend an existing restaurant brand beyond the four walls of the establishment,” Riehle said.

Consumers living in the West (29%) and Northeast (24%) were much more likely than those in the South (15%) and Midwest (9%) to see a food truck parked in their community this summer, according to the restaurant association survey. When asked how they typically found the food truck they visited:
• 73% said they just saw it on the street
• 54% said they selected it from an area where food trucks typically gather
• 39% found out from a friend
• 13% found it through social media

Adults with children (70%) were more likely than those without children (52%) to say that they would patronize a food truck if it was offered by their favorite restaurant, the restaurant association survey showed. More than two-thirds of those age 18-44 said they would be likely to visit a food truck if offered by their favorite restaurant; only 38% of those 65 or older said they would.

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