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June 18, 2015 Staff

Food Truck Industry Trends for 2015 and Beyond

Trends come and go with popularity, that’s the nature of the game, while only a few set things choose to stay around forever. The whole Food Truck movement itself is, ultimately, a trend that one day too shall pass; they’re still likely to be AROUND and in business for decades if not longer, but sooner or later there will be a year where the amount of new trucks appearing in the US will be lower than last year, and the following year even lower still, until it gets to the plateau where they’re just ‘that kind of business’ we interact with so frequently on a daily/weekly/monthly basis.

That said, we can still love and gorge ourselves on the happy results that today’s trends have brought up in the food truck world! Let’s take a look at what some of those are when we have the chance now, shall we? These are some of the trends going strong on the streets in 2015.

Still Growing

Food Trucks may not be a new idea anymore, but the fact remains they ARE still growing and emerging at a steady, if not even greater, rate than before. There are plenty of capital and big cities throughout the country that are only just getting on the bandwagon and instituting regulations that allow for these big mobile vendors to operate, spreading the word of street food to ever more people! Within their cities of origin, these guys ARE the trend. Gotta admit it’s much better than just Kale am I right?

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Restaurants

Going “Brick-and-Mortar,” as the annoyingly overused phrase puts it, has been a notably big next-step to the life of many food trucks in the past few years, with some of the more popular and successful business owners being able to get the capital to start up a restaurant, café, or other hole-in-the-wall based out of their mobile food vendor. I know the ones in my particular neck of the woods, up in far-north Minnesota, have been very well received. Because sometimes you want to go to a food truck but just don’t know where they are, or the weather sucks… but no fear, for the restaurant is here! It also offers the truck owners an opportunity to branch out and experiment with even more items for their menu, always a plus to try new things!

Food Mashups

ft6Burgers inside Tortillas, French Fries in Sandwiches, Donuts as Buns, Mac and Cheese in… well, EVERYTHING. Some of the most interesting and indulgent menu offerings in trucks have involved taking something that clearly only belongs in or next to ONE thing and merging it with something else; like making a wrap with BBQ pork, sauce, and (you guessed it) mac n cheese. Empanada trucks fill with more than just classic Central/South American delights, I’ve had one with a total cheeseburger vibe (even with ketchup and mustard). Whether we love it because it’s new, exciting, or we just want to fill ourselves with things that just seem WRONG (can you REALLY resist the combination of Bacon and Chocolate? I think not), the fact is that it’s spurred on an army of trucks that are trying to find their personality and specific niche in today’s market. Not to mention they tend to get a lot of attention.

Between Two Warm Buns

Hot Sandwiches like Burgers, Cubans, and cheese-melty Paninis are still the top fave for the kind of food being served most of the time; thank god salads haven’t come to occupy this spot (don’t worry, they’re almost dead last in the polls). There’s nothing like being able to have something warm and soul-satisfying for any meal, and getting it nice and portable from a food truck often means making it into a sandwich. Even in trucks specializing in some completely different offering, one can find the chance to get a burger or other hot sandwich from the grill, theme-fitting or not. Burgers are particularly popular no matter the truck; I myself don’t really like this particular habit, but the fact remains it’s obviously a quite successful and popular strategy, with many people bee-lining to this ‘classic americana’ item.

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Mexican Coke

Really, the new knowledge and understanding that coke from a glass bottle, made in Mexico, is simply BETTER than the one here has reached such an audience that almost every truck has it as a beverage option nowadays. Let’s just hope the rumors of them switching to high-fructose-corn-syrup aren’t true, or take as long as possible to come to fruition. This also counts towards other specialty sodas that different trucks seek out to compliment their menu style.

Specialty Coffee Trucks and Carts

Wfte can’t deny that coffee culture hasn’t become a big thing for who knows how long, only growing as even more local shops pop up featuring quality roasted, sustainably sourced beans. It’s even started to move to the streets, with various carts and trucks set up expressly to sling the espresso and jo, sometimes alongside sandwiches and other sides. Even trucks focused on completely separate cuisines will at times feature the locally popular quality coffee for purchase. It even makes this writer wish he was into coffee as much as others in order to truly appreciate and get into this continuing and growing movement.

Local/Sustainable

Speaking of local-focused things, the farm-to-table movement has brought itself up as yet another popular restaurant trend throughout the past few years that’s found recent extension to the mobile world. Street chefs have taken their farm-raised, sustainable, and/or healthy and nutritious products and slapped them in easy-to-hold buns, tortillas, or piled in baskets for on-the-go edibility. Whether it’s stuffing their sandwiches with sausage from a farm, topping a grass-fed burger with eggs gotten down the road, or simply putting together salads and stews with veggies out of their farmer’s market, the care and attention to sourcing ingredients responsibly is seen just as much in food trucks as it is in our restaurants. Once again proving that it doesn’t matter where it is, what kind of kitchen you work on, or how expensive your menu is; at the end of the day, good food is good food and can come from anywhere.

To the Future!

As popular and forever-loving as they may seem now, sadly even THESE trends will end, and likely within a year or two, leaving room for another batch of movements and food preferences to emerge. Being able to predict these trends is more of an art than a science, and that art is constantly being criticized by a teacher who changes their preferences every damn week and then proceeds to throw splotches of paint on what you thought they wanted. So suffice it to say, not an easy thing to try and do, best just to go with things and see what happens. But we can still theorize and offer ideas on what might indeed grow into brief popularity in the Truck scene.

LARD

With Olive Oil in short supply from a horrendous crop season, plenty of restaurants are ditching the ‘healthy’ oil to go back to the deliciousness that is lard and other fat sources, integrating it into pies and frying things with it. Some trucks (well, at least one I know of) will offer specialty duck-fat-fried potatoes, so why not expect a surge of lard-based cooked dishes within the next year or two? We all love the trucks that provide those big guilty pleasure foods anyways, kicking it up a notch never really goes out of business.

Scandinavian/Norwegian and other Eastern European Cuisine

ft3Different Ethnic and International food tastes are always at the forefront of our interests; for now, we see a lot of Indian, Central/South American, and even African flavors and styles represented in popular trucks. The Japanese sushi and noodle/dumpling/other-food trends have run through restaurants and food trucks alike the past few years. As we likely start getting our fill of these, sooner or later we’re to move onto yet other styles, and we feel Eastern European food deserves the next turn of the lime light. Whether they’re Pierogis, cups of Borscht, Sausage-Kraut sandwiches, plates of Streudel, or just a display of some of the amazing fresh and typical ingredients and flavors often used in these countries, it’s not the biggest stretch to see them coming back around the hill from their popularity a couple decades ago. If anything, the focus on handmade cured meats, sausages, and whole-animal cooking/use has developed quite a few restaurants with tie-ins (or complete focus on) these flavors anyways, so the street is obviously the next adventure.

Movies!

ft1We’ve already seen “Chef,” the “5 Year Engagement” features the main character starting one at the end (oooooh spoilers, sorry!), and the use of food as a medium on the big screen has been rather noted through the past few years for restaurants, who’s to say it won’t grow to see MORE Trucks in film vs their brick-and-mortar neighbors? At the very least maybe we’ll see some fun flavored popcorns to order from these guys.

Japanese Snack Food Culture

The land of the East has become well known for some rather unique and insane ‘food trends’ and flavored products over the past decade or so. Things with mayonnaise, seafood and reptile-flavored ice cream, sodas and chips flavored with things out of our weirdest fantasies (or nightmares), and the many many almost underground themed restaurants that present edibles in some ways exciting, and some disgusting to even think about it. No matter what one tft5hinks of it, the fact is the impact has been noted for all that discover it, and it’s caused plenty of people to sample and try despite their better judgment in hopes of finding something surprisingly amazing.

In the years to come, who’s to say some of these products, either made by hand or bought in snack bags, won’t come to be used here to add an additional twist to asian truck food? The Ramen Burger craze already hit us good at one point, why not coat yakitori or other skewered meats (maybe even corn dogs) in crushed up Shrimp or Avocado-Cheese chips? There’s a craft mayonnaise movement out, and Japanese mayo seems to be a category in itself, so finding it squeezed on sandwiches and dogs more often might not be much of a stretch. And that’s thinking mildly.

What’s Bugging You?

Already, admittedly if this were to happen it’ll be a long ways off, but the recognition towards insects and other ‘goodies’ as an actual food source is slowly growing. Offal on its own (the not-so-often used parts of animals we DO eat a la organs, ears, feet, head-stuff, ‘rocky mountain oysters,’ etc) has seen a resurgence in up and coming restaurants on the finer and casual scale and will likely show itself more in food trucks rather soon. Who’s to say a few years after they more vendors won’t be selling fried ant-balls and scorpion pops?

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