California has long been known as a foodie haven. Although a complete compiling list of the State’s Michelin-starred dining destinations is a moving target at last estimate, there were 89 Michelin-starred restaurants in the State.
But for those who really want to experience cutting-edge Californian cuisine, the vast array of food trucks in the State is as good a place as any to begin. The epicenter of food truck culture in California is widely recognized as Los Angeles. There are a variety of theories why food trucks in California are just so popular among consumers in this area.
The first two reasons are related to the drivers of any retail operation – cost and demand. Entry into the food truck business remains a comparatively cheap way to enter into the small and medium-size business arena. Secondly, food trucks are perfect for the Californian lifestyle. It’s a lifestyle characterized by a breakneck pace – Californians may be spoiled for choice when it comes to gourmet Michelin-starred options – but standing in lines is not how they would want to spend their time.
This is reflected in the fact that there are approximately 4,000 food trucks in the greater Los Angeles area.
Social Media and the Rise of the Modern Californian Food Truck
The rise of social media has had an enormous impact on the popularity of food trucks. It is now possible for consumers to share information on the location of their favorite food trucks on a day-to-day basis. The wide availability and use of review sites have also had an effect on the popularity of food truck offerings. Today consumers can find out if the style or regional cuisine offered by a specific food truck matches their needs – all courtesy of reviews posted by consumers just like themselves.
In fact, the rise in the popularity of Californian food trucks can actually be traced to the rise of social media. Prior to consumers leveraging the ability to communicate their food truck preferences quickly and clearly, it was very much a ‘hit-and-miss’ ordeal to find a food truck with quality offerings. However, in 2008 that all changed, with chef Roy Choi’s Kogi outlet taking the lead in promoting what can today be aptly called ‘the Cult of the Californian Food Truck’.
Although examples of trucks still stuck in the ‘good old days’ of greasy food, sub-par ingredients, and questionable hygiene practices can still be found in Cawill quietly, they become extinct. The competition from quality outlets is simply too great for low-quality food trucks to prosper.
It’s not Business as Usual.
Today Californians and visitors to the State are offered an enormous variety of food trucks to choose from. Those who want to enjoy the traditional food truck offerings will be offered plenty of choices – however, diners who want to push the envelope as far as international cuisines are concerned or explore the joys of fusion food will also not be disappointed.
It’s the new directions taken by food truck operators that have kept the excitement of this particular form of dining alive and well. It might be supposed that food truck operators would stick to the tried and proven in the face of increasing competition, but in fact, the opposite is true.
A growing number of Californian food truck operators now offer menu items that boast exceptional choices and a wide variety of internationally inspired-fusion cuisines. In fact, Kogi BBQ, the brand responsible for reinvigorating the food truck industry in California, offers an award-winning menu focused on an unlikely fusion of Mexican and Korean cuisines. Tacos and Kimchi may not sound like natural bedfellows – but they work together exceptionally well.
Freshly Made and Healthy
Although a hot dog or grilled cheese from a food truck is one of life’s increasingly guilty pleasures, no one could argue that those menu items are especially healthy.
But Californian food trucks now meet the needs of an increasingly health-conscious market – and do so by using fresh and organic ingredients. No more can Californian food trucks be accused of fostering unhealthy eating habits. The food is made fresh to go – and the customer is in close contact with the chef and literally overseeing the preparation of their meal, ensuring that quality standards remain high.
A Closer Look at Costs
For those entrepreneurs who are aching to become involved in food services – and be their own bosses, the food truck can be a tremendously astute investment. The financial risk associated with opening a restaurant is significant – and dealing with the red tape involved in opening a food outlet with a fixed address can be daunting. Estimates regarding the setup costs for a food truck business vary but are generally in the region of $50,000. Profits can be anything from $100k per annum to around $500k per year.
Obviously, this is dependent on a variety of factors, not least of which is location. Operating costs for a food truck are also considerably less than for bricks and mortar dining establishment. No waiters or kitchen staff are required – and rentals are not a factor on the balance sheet.
The current economic situation and spiking household costs due to inflation have placed more and more families under increased financial pressure. Californian food trucks allow consumers to explore their city and access reasonably priced, quality food. Food trucks have become a central part of the Californian lifestyle – a fact that is not about to change anytime soon.