Predicting the future of food trucks

Will mobile eats continue to gain traction in noncommercial?

Published in FSD Update

By 
Dana Moran, Managing Editor

boulder valley schools food truck
Boulder Valley School District

Long lines at the Boulder Valley School District's Munchie Machine. In addition to visiting high schools, the truck also is popular at catering events.

While the wheels of food truck progress seem to be turning more slowly in noncommercial segments like senior living and healthcare (just 4% of hospital operators reported using food trucks in FoodService Director’s 2016 Healthcare Census), these days it seems just about every high school and university on the block has a branded truck of its own. Nationwide, food trucks saw $1.2 billion in revenue in 2015—a 12.4% growth in the past 5 years, mobile-cuisine.com reports.

Are food trucks just a blip on the noncommercial dining radar, or will they have real staying power? FSD talked to three operators from entirely different regions of the country to see what needs the mobile eateries are filling—and whether they see a future in food trucks.

Geoff Holle, district manager

Pflugerville Independent School District, Texas

Why food trucks work for his district:

Projections during the summer of 2014 showed the Austin, Texas, suburb’s Hendrickson High School growing by 400 students in the fall, Holle says.  “The district needed a solution, because obviously time wouldn’t be friendly for construction, and we had already maxed out our service areas at the high school,” he says. “Food trailers just seemed like not only a viable solution, but also a logical one given the climate of food trucks in the Austin area.”

Whether food trucks have staying power:

“I can tell you that I field a call once a week from someone in the country wanting to know what we’re doing with the food trailers,” he says. “Based on the flexibility and solutions a truck provides, I think they will remain popular.”


Brandy Dreibelbis, executive chef/district manager

Boulder Valley School District, Colorado

Why a food truck works for her district:

Because Boulder Valley’s high schools allow students to travel off-campus during lunch, only about 15% to 20% were choosing to eat in the cafeteria, Dreibelbis says. The Munchie Machine, which serves an entirely separate menu and accepts meal plans, travels to a different campus daily, capturing anywhere from 60-110 students who otherwise would be dining elsewhere.

Whether food trucks have staying power:

“I think at Boulder Valley, we’re only just in the beginning,” she says. “I think it’s all about, can the food trucks change with the times, can they change with the trends, can they market to whatever the target market is? I think it’s all about keeping up with the trends.”


Dennis Pierce, executive director of Dining Services

University of Connecticut, Mansfield

Why food trucks work for his campus:

After a failed food truck attempt near a campus construction site in the mid ’90s, UConn launched an ice cream truck, an extension of its campus dairy bar that’s popular at catering events, about two years ago, Pierce says. A second vehicle, which serves full meals, is regularly parked at the center of campus, but also served as a supplemental dining location this spring when a dining hall was closed for expansion. “It’s a nice thing to have in your back pocket in an emergency,” Pierce says.

Whether food trucks have staying power:

Pierce cited the trucks’ mobility and flexible use as catering kitchens as reasons trucks will keep rolling on the UConn campus. “Keeping it fresh, keeping it new and changing the menu keeps people engaged,” he says. “I think when you get down to a QSR in the student union, you’re not going to be doing that.”

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