New titles on deposit from the Chamber of Commerce of the United States serve up stories of entrepreneurship at a time when we hunger for inspiration! Many of us find ourselves improvising on the job as we work from home to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. I am pleased to share one particular spiral-bound booklet that dishes an informative scoop on the American food truck industry, a resource fully accessible as an electronic PDF as well.
Food Truck Nation is a report released in 2018, following a twelve-month study of twenty U.S. cities abounding with automotive eateries. Sponsored by the National Chamber Foundation, the authors compare regulatory costs of starting and running a business in each locale, and the results are compiled in tables.
For example, “to get a food truck rolling in Boston requires more than three times the number of procedures as Denver (the city with the fewest required procedures).” Furthermore, Boston calls for the installation of a specific GPS unit and subscription to a monthly data plan. Research on municipal codes is complemented by a sample of quotes gathered from 288 respondents to a survey on the regulatory environment of their own movable feasts. One of their recurrent complaints is a restriction on selling within 200 feet of a brick-and-mortar restaurant. But one food truck operator in Austin sums up the benefits available to them all, “Food trucks are a fabulous business model that allows unprecedented flexibility with minimal capital.”
Some sources date mobile food vending in America back to an ordinance for push carts in New Amsterdam, New York in 1691. Horse-drawn chuck wagons served settlers of the western states beginning in 1866. Motorized trucks first brought Good Humor ice cream to Youngstown, Ohio in the 1950’s. And the current craze for food truck fare can be credited to the sudden success of Los Angeles Chef Roy Choi’s gourmet food truck, Kogi Korean BBQ, in 2008.
During the economic environment of recession, taking a food truck to the streets has proven a worthy alternative to owning a brick-and-mortar establishment. We have yet to see the inventive service that food trucks may deliver as the restaurant industry adapts to the climate of social distancing.
Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi, “7 Fascinating Facts About the History of Ice Cream Trucks,” Country Living, MAY 23, 2016, https://www.countryliving.com/life/news/g3359/ice-cream-trucks/.
Michael Hendrix and Lawrence Bowdish, Food Truck Nation, (Washington, DC : U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, 2018), 61, https://www.foodtrucknation.us/wp-content/themes/food-truck-nation/Food-Truck-Nation-Full-Report.pdf.
Richard Myrick, “The Complete History of American Food Trucks,” Mobile-Cuisine.com, accessed April 14, 2020, https://mobile-cuisine.com/business/history-of-american-food-trucks/.
Alice Hanes is the Technical Services Librarian at Hagley Museum and Library.