Food trucks: most often, people go for fun

February 12, 2014

Majority of food-truck patrons get their fix once a month, shows our proprietary research.

Food trucks have been one of the most innovative food sectors lately.  Forced to be like vagabonds in cities that don’t want them to park near brick-and-mortar restaurants, or to herd like cattle where they can become cluster destinations for adventurous eaters, they are nevertheless bright spots in the urban food landscape. 

Their proprietors also comprise a pool of mostly talented chefs – who could partner with supermarkets looking for new ways to appeal to shoppers with prepared foods.  The Lempert Report has suggested this previously. Now our sister entity SupermarketGuru examines how consumers interact with food trucks as part of a national survey.

Findings of the 2014 National Grocers Association-SupermarketGuru Consumer Survey Report show that only one American in seven (16.8%) has gone to a food truck within the past month.  Mostly, these are consumers 24 and younger (29.7%) or 25 to 39 (28.2%), or from the $125,001-$165,000 annual income tier (26.6%) and the $165,001+ group (21.6%). 

For them, a food truck trip is usually a casual social event.  Two-thirds of consumers who’ve gone to a food truck within the past month (66.3%) went with at least one other person.

One outgrowth: there’s a free-spirited vibe around food trucks.  Among respondents who go to food trucks, the reason they cite most often is “fun” (48.7%).  An expectation of “tasty” food (42.2%) is the #2 trip driver.  This is followed by: “easy way to try something new” (39.2%), “impulse, I saw it on the street” (27.1%), and expectation of a “quick” meal or snack” (25.1%).  For this question, multiple responses were allowed, so figures add up to more than 100%.

Customers of food trucks aren’t tired of them yet.  One out of four (24.0%) expect to buy the same amount of food from trucks in 2014 as they did in 2013; another 15.3% say they’ll buy more often than they did last year; just 2.7% predict less.

Food trucks provide a monthly change of pace for most customers, research findings suggest.  The vast majority of food-truck patrons (29.8% of all survey respondents) expect they’ll go“ less than once a month” in 2014.  Only another 9.5% predict they’ll go more often – 4.9% “once every three to four weeks,” 2.9% “once every two weeks,” and just 1.6% “once a week or more.”