According to IBIS World, there are about 35,512 food trucks in business in the U.S. in 2022, up from 32,287 in 2021. In fact, over the last five years, the food truck industry has grown an average of 13.7% per year from 2017-2022.
States with the most food trucks include California, Texas, and Florida. If you’re wondering why the continued growth, there are a few key food truck features that make them a viable business model. For one, they are much less expensive than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. In addition, some restaurants use them as an extension of their location to help with catering projects or get the word out at farmer’s markets and other local venues.
Others start up as entirely new ventures. At some point, these food trucks may consider transitioning into brick-and-mortar restaurants. Food trucks and pop-ups are, after all, a reliable way to prove your concept and test your brand while limiting your initial exposure.
Let’s explore the hottest food trucks in the U.S. and the ones that successfully transitioned from life on the road to one with walls and indoor seating.
The Most Popular Food Trucks in America
Of course, every state and city has established its food truck favorites. Here are just a few of the many that have made national headlines.
It’s difficult not to come across Roti Rolls, a food truck in Charleston, South Carolina, when exploring the hottest food trucks in the U.S. This farm-fresh concept serves up unique South Asian, Caribbean, and Indian-inspired roti parathas and other specialties.
The Happy Lobster in Chicago specializes in Maine lobster rolls and has garnered the title of Best Food Truck in Chicago, one of the best lobster rolls in America, and nominated for the Jean Banchet Award for Best Alternative Dining.
Baon Kainan has long been considered a favorite in Portland, OR. They offer new takes on Filipino cuisine like chicken adobo, Kare Kare fries, and Ube Bibingka.
Not surprisingly, one of the top food trucks in Austin, TX, is a barbeque concept. Micklethwait Craft Meats opens at 11 a.m. on Thursday-Sunday and stays open until they’re sold out. They’ve received numerous accolades from various media, including TexasMonthly, Food & Wine, and Southern Living.
Curious about which cities offer the best location for food truck startups? According to Clever and Roaming Hunger, the top eight are Portland, OR; Raleigh, NC; Salt Lake City, UT; Austin, TX; Orlando, FL; Denver, CO; Oklahoma City, OK; and Providence, RI.
Food Trucks Gone Brick-and-Mortar
Fava Pot’s motto is “Eat healthy for a good cause.” This Washington, D.C.-based food truck launched in 2013 and, just four short years later, turned its successful food truck into a brick-and-mortar location. They now serve locally-sourced, home-style Egyptian cuisine from their food truck and three dining locations.
The Fat Shallot, a Chicago favorite, now provides its unique offerings inside the Revival Food Hall and at their Lincoln Park restaurant, as well as the walk-up location at Gillson Beach, Wilmette. A few items on their restaurant menu include a gin and tonic slushy with kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass, as well as salads and sandwiches like their truffle BLT.
The Chicken and Rice Guys started in 2012 in Boston with their first food truck and have since launched a fleet of trucks, a catering business, and multiple restaurants.
Transforming From Food Truck to Dine-In Restaurant
So, how do you know when you’re ready to take the plunge? One of the biggest clues is the clear awareness that you’re growing out of your current space—too many people and too few windows. Many entrepreneurs keep their growing food truck empire and catering business and add on brick-and-mortar locations, creating synergistic opportunities to promote both businesses.
If you’ve established a successful brand, have a solid business plan, and used the latest technology to determine your optimum location, now could be the time to make your move. Do you have the stomach for it? It’s important that you’re comfortable with the risks and excited about the potential rewards. When ready, the next step will be seeking capital from investors, lenders, or new partners.
How much do food trucks make?
Like restaurants, sales and profits from food trucks range widely. According to Toast, food trucks make, on average, between $250,000-$500,000 annually before costs. Once profitable, monthly expenses typically total about 85-90% of a food truck’s monthly sales.
What are the Trends Shaping Food Trucks in 2022?
As you’ve probably noticed from our succinct list of just a few of the many successful food trucks, many offer food close to the heart. This is often the food they grew up with from the place they called home before making their way to the U.S. Other popular brands, such as The Happy Lobster, defined their niche and made the best possible version.
A few of the 2022 trends for food trucks include vegan options, sourcing from local farmers, environmentally friendly food, and larger chains using food trucks to test new concepts before implementing them on a large scale.