What’s The Big Deal About Food Trucks?

A friend recently asked for an earnest response to “Why do you like food trucks so much?”  Every so often I get that question.  At first I don’t know how to answer.  I mean, it’s hard to put into words.  Is it the people?  The novelty?  The food?  I’ve given it a lot of thought recently and here’s what I’ve come up with.

Food trucks are the quintessential small business.  You have someone with a passion –something they want to share with others– putting themselves out there, everyday, doing what it takes to make it.  For many there are no days off.  No work means no income, and no income means risk of no business at all.  It’s not all fun and games.  A trailer might only be open for lunch 3 hours a day, 5 days a week, but that doesn’t mean it’s a 15 hour work week.  On the contrary, setting up for the day, buying supplies, and cleaning up for tomorrow frequently leads to 60 hour (or more) work weeks.  A lot goes on behind the scenes just to get the food out the window day in and day out.  But it’s worth it to be able to do what they love.

Running a food trailer also means building relationships.  They’re face to face with customers, getting feedback, adjusting.  On top of making food and handling all of the other overhead, trailer owners are connecting with customers online and in person.  It’s a constant battle to get new people to visit and long-time fans to come back.  With so much competition in Austin a trailer needs to set itself apart, and the food can only do so much.  Having a personal relationship with customers is the X-factor.  The trailers that “get it” are the ones that thrive.

But at the end of the day, it’s the food that brings people to the window.  For me I love the opportunity to dive deep into a specialty cuisine.  You can go to a sports bar and grab a cheesesteak, sure.  But what about going to a trailer that has a menu offering nine different kinds of cheesesteaks?  Same goes forchili dogspierogi, and Belgian waffles.  You can’t get that kind of specialization from a restaurant into such niche cultural cuisine.  It’s the food that people grew up with and love that they want to share with others.

So get out there and support your local food trailers.  A lot goes into bringing you the food that they love to make.  It might just be lunch to you, but to them it’s their way of life.

Originally posted on April 16, 2012.