The Big Picture: Are food trucks the wheel deal?

Food trucks have been slow to catch on in non-commercial foodservice, according to The Big Picture research. Only 11% of operators said they use at least one food truck as part of their programs. In 2012, 14% of respondents said they used food trucks.

College campuses remain the leading users of food trucks, with 26% of operators in this market having one or more trucks on campus. Size also matters when it comes to operators using trucks. Among operators with $5 million or more in annual food purchases, 31% said they use food trucks.

Trucks continue to have value for colleges and schools. Sixteen percent of university operators and 6% of schools said they planned to add a food truck to their operations in the next year.

Anecdotally, at least, schools are looking to trucks to enhance summer feeding programs and to add a “cool” factor to their programs. For example, in Orange County Public Schools in Orlando, Fla., a Truck of the Month tour has begun.

This fall, the truck toured middle and high schools, serving three new menu items selected by student vote. Lora Gilbert, senior director, food & nutrition services, says the truck was used as an education tool.

“The Truck of the Month tour gives us a way to educate students on the tasty, nutritious meals being served in our cafeterias,” says Gilbert. “We knew we had to get creative to attract our students’ attention, and a food truck was a natural fit to combine our services with an eye-catching pop-culture trend.”

The entrees served were Warm Asian Chicken Salad, Green Bean Chicken Casser-Bowl and Asian Beef Teriyaki. About 400 meals were sold each time the truck visited a school.

After purchasing lunch from the food truck, students could take an iPad survey to share feedback. Gilbert says the most popular item will be added to cafeteria menus for the 2015-2016 school year.

The truck appeared to benefit the district, she adds. On average, after the food truck visited a campus, 46% of students who previously did not eat, or ate infrequently, in the cafeteria increased their participation. 


How they are used

Most operators still say that menu items for their food trucks are prepared off-site in a kitchen and delivered to the vehicle. However, as operators become more comfortable with food trucks, that dynamic is changing. In 2012, only 7% of operators said all their food was prepared in the truck; this year that number was 40%. (Note: Percentages exceed 100% because some respondents operate more than one truck, and procedures may differ from one truck to the next.)

food truck use


How food is prepared

Most operators still say that menu items for their food trucks are prepared off-site in a kitchen and delivered to the vehicle. However, as operators become more comfortable with food trucks, that dynamic is changing. In 2012, only 7% of operators said all their food was prepared in the truck; this year that number was 40%. (Note: Percentages exceed 100% because some respondents operate more than one truck, and procedures may differ from one truck to the next.)

food truck food prep

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