20+ Food Truck Industry Statistics: What’s Cooking in 2021?

food truck statistics

Food trucks are everywhere: You’re sure to find one on every corner serving busy people on their lunch break or a fleet catering to event attendees.

They are great places to get authentic grub from all over the world or try out the mobile chefs’ unique creations without splurging on a deluxe meal. The modern entrepreneurs putting their kitchens on wheels bring experimental cuisine to their customers wherever they may be. Sounds like a great business idea, right? Let’s look at some food truck industry statistics to see if it’s a foodie’s dream come true.

Key Findings: Food Truck Business Profits and More

  • Starting a food truck business costs around $55,000 on average.
  • Yearly food truck revenue ranges between $250,000 and $500,000.
  • Gathering the required permits and licenses takes more than 30 days.
  • There are over 24,000 active food trucks in the US.
  • Around 30,000 people work in the food truck industry.
  • The average annual industry growth before COVID-19 was 7.5%.
  • The food truck market size in 2020 surpassed 1.2 billion dollars.
  • Over 34% of mobile chefs experiment with their menu.
  • Food truck industry statistics for 2021 predict a yearly growth of 2.4%.

Food Truck Startup Cost

The cost of getting a food truck business rolling is a lot cheaper than starting a brick-and-mortar restaurant, which makes it an attractive prospect for aspiring chefs. Of course, some expenses are inevitable: Getting the necessary licenses and permits, the right equipment, and kitchen implements are all things to consider before deciding to buy a food truck. Check out the ballpark estimates for the kinds of food truck profits and costs you might expect: 

1. An investment of less than $100,000 can result in an average food truck revenue of $250,000 to $500,000.

(Food Truck Operator) 

2. The average cost of getting a food truck and all the necessary permits ranges between $50,000 and $60,000.

(Food Truck Nation) 

3. Obtaining the required permits, ongoing legal compliance, and licensing will run you just over $28,000.

(Food Truck Nation)

4. An average of 45 government-mandated procedures needs to be completed to open up a food truck.

(Food Truck Nation)  

5. Completing these procedures and obtaining all the documentation takes 37 days, on average.

(Food Truck Nation)

Food Truck Industry Trends

The food truck industry’s rising popularity has changed its reputation from that of places to get a cheap bite to exciting local – or exotic – food stops. Food trucks are now full-fledged restaurant venues, serving everything from burgers, ice cream, and cupcakes to foreign delicacies. The industry trends reflect this change, showing growth both in truck numbers and revenue.

Of course, COVID-19 reduced food truck development in 2020. However, this industry does have an advantage over traditional restaurants and suffered nowhere near as many losses and venue shutdowns. In fact, the food truck industry’s growth kept up its upward trend even with setbacks caused by the pandemic. 

6. Between 2015 and 2020, the industry grew by 7.5% on average.

(IBISWorld)

7. As of January of 2021, there are 24,602 food trucks active in the US.

(IBISWorld)

8. At the beginning of 2021, the food truck market employs 29,608 people.

(IBISWorld)

9. The US food truck market worth for 2019 was 1.4 billion dollars.

(IBISWorld) 

10. Due to COVID-19, the food truck business dropped to 1.24 billion dollars in market worth during 2020.

(IBISWorld)

11. In 20202, around 50% of food truck revenue for many businesses came from order-ahead sales.

(Business Insider) 

12. A food truck industry analysis predicts an increase in market size of 2.4% in 2021.

(IBISWorld) 

Food Truck Market Engagement and Demographics

Instead of traditional marketing tools, food truck entrepreneurs utilize social media campaigns and geolocation tools to quickly reach their customers. They create engagement through connecting with their local audience, organizing events, and spreading the word via social media.

Every truck can create a unique brand, special menus, and serve food that is more affordable to make and buy compared to restaurants. This is particularly appealing to the millennial and Gen Z population – another trend apparent in food truck statistics:

13. Millennials make up the majority of food truck connoisseurs – 47%, and many of them are returning customers.

(Big Think)

14. People between the ages of 18 and 34 are most likely to grab a meal from a food truck, followed by patrons between the ages of 35 and 44.

(Statista)

15. Over 80% of food truck diners choose to eat there because of the exciting, new, and unique experience.

(Mobile Cuisine) 

16. Customer satisfaction is the biggest reason for the food truck success rate: More than 90% of patrons rate the quality of their experience positively, with 43% calling it excellent and 48% good.

(Mobile Cuisine)

17. Practically everyone who ate at a food truck once intends to enjoy the mobile restaurant adventure again.

(Mobile Cuisine)

18. Food truck fans cite convenience, great food at low prices, and short waiting and serving times as the most enjoyable aspects of this type of dining.

(Mobile Cuisine)

The Entrepreneurs Responsible for the Growth in Food Truck Popularity

Food truck industry data show that innovation, variety, and convenience are the main factors responsible for the sustained growth of this business. Chefs have to jump through fewer hoops and invest less to enter the market, while the inherent business mobility makes for an agile work environment accessible to a broader population. 

19. Experimenting with new menus is a regular occurrence for 34% of mobile businesses.

(Off the Grid) 

20. Food truck entrepreneurs are an optimistic bunch – 26% of them have a “sky’s the limit” approach to risk-taking.

(Off the Grid)

21. Only 11% of mobile chefs stated that they don’t experiment at all.

(Off the Grid)

22. Food truck industry statistics show that immigrants own 30% of mobile restaurants, 30% are owned by women, 8% by the members of the LGBTQ population, and 2% by military veterans.

(Off the Grid)

23. 31% of entrepreneurs started a food truck business as a concept test for a traditional restaurant.

(Off the Grid)

24. Staying ahead of the ever-changing hospitality trends is why 24% of start-up chefs begin by owning a food truck.

(Off the Grid)

The Best Cities for Food Trucks 

Even though the food truck industry sales volume is rising overall, individual truck success is greatly dependent on location. City-specific legislature makes it easier for some and much harder for other prospective chefs to start their food truck business. Places that welcome food truck owners often see them become a part of the local culture.   

25. Food Truck Nation’s report found Portland to be the best spot in the US to own a food truck.

(Food Truck Nation) 

26. Portland is also the place where running a food truck will cost you the least annually – less than $5,500.

(Food Truck Nation)

27. The most affordable licenses and permits are found in Denver for just over $800.

(Food Truck Nation)

28. Food truck statistics will tell you that Boston is the most challenging city to start this mobile business. Permits and licenses alone cost more than $17,000, and the annual operating cost is an exorbitant $37,904.

(Food Truck Nation)

FAQ

Is the food truck industry growing?

The food truck industry performs with consistent excellence and outdoes the restaurant industry every year. Until 2020, the food truck industry averaged a yearly growth of 7.5%. 

However, COVID-19 stopped the growth in 2020 at 0.4%, and some food trucks had to close down. Still, their flexibility and lack of dependence on indoor dining helped mobile diners fare better during the pandemic.

In terms of growth, food truck trends are expected to make an upward comeback as the economy starts to recover. 

How much is the food truck industry worth?

Market worth estimates for 2021 put the food truck industry at $1.4 billion, with an expected increase of 2.4%.

As indoor regulations didn’t impose any restrictions on them, food trucks avoided many pandemic pitfalls. However, with most people working from home and avoiding large crowds, some of the best pre-pandemic spots for finding customers, like parking lots near business centers, are no longer profitable.

What is the most profitable food truck?

Food truck trends show that burgers remain a go-to option for their patrons, despite the growing variety of mobile cuisine offerings, and burger trucks still see the biggest profits. After all, burger popularity doesn’t fluctuate too much, and they also strike a good balance between cooking costs and selling price.

What percentage of food trucks fail?

Even though the food truck market is growing every year, that doesn’t mean that every mobile startup can stand the test of time. 

Similar to traditional restaurants, food truck industry statistics show that around 60% of food trucks go under within three years of opening. The most common causes of shutdowns are bad budget planning, not hiring additional workers, poor customer service, and insufficient advertising.

Sources:

Food Truck Nation

IBISWorld

Business Insider

Statista

Mobile Cuisine

Off the Grid