Mobile Food Services

Industry Profile Report

Dive Deep into the industry with a 25+ page industry report (pdf format) including the following chapters

Industry Overview Current Conditions, Industry Structure, How Firms Operate, Industry Trends, Credit Underwriting & Risks, and Industry Forecast.

Call Preparation Call Prep Questions, Industry Terms, and Weblinks.

Financial Insights Working Capital, Capital Financing, Business Valuation, and Financial Benchmarks.

Industry Profile Excerpts

Industry Overview

The 7,530 mobile food service operators in the US use food trucks and carts to sell prepared meals, snacks and beverages for immediate consumption to walk-up customers. Mobile food services also contract with individuals and businesses to cater food at events, such as parties, corporate gatherings and festivals.

Economic Sensitivity

Food trucks that catered to construction sites and industrial parks were hit hard during the Great Recession when construction and manufacturing declined and workers were laid off.

Permit Restrictions

Food trucks are typically permitted and inspected by the city in which they operate, with regulations varying significantly from city to city.

Industry size & Structure

A typical mobile food service firm operates out of a single location, employs 2-3 workers, and generates over $370,000 annually.

    • The mobile food service industry consists of about 7,530 companies which employ about 22,800 workers and generate about $2.8 billion annually.
    • The industry is highly fragmented with the 50 largest firms accounting for less than 15% of industry revenue.
    • Most companies are small, independent operators - about 83% employ less than 5 workers.
    • Cities with large numbers of food trucks include Los Angeles, Washington DC, San Francisco, Houston, and Miami.
    • Customer industries include individual consumers, event organizers, and businesses seeking mobile catering.
                                Industry Forecast
                                Mobile Food Services Industry Growth
                                Source: Vertical IQ and Inforum

                                Recent Developments

                                Oct 20, 2023 - Employment and Wages Rise
                                • Employment by mobile food services jumped in July compared to a year ago, while average industry wages rose over the same period but less sharply. Growth in popularity and the number of food trucks are driving sales for the US mobile food services industry, which is forecast to grow at a 6.94% compounded annual rate from 2022 to 2027, faster than the growth of the overall economy.
                                • Food truck operators hoping for a break from unprecedented rapid wage growth can look forward to some relief, Restaurant Dive reports citing new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) that show the restaurant labor market is cooling. The industry's unemployment rate has returned to pre-COVID-19 levels (5.8% in September) after peaking at over 35% in April 2020. And while total employment by restaurants still is marginally behind pre-pandemic levels, the number of restaurant workers has stabilized at around 12.2 million in Q2 2023, ending a run of dramatic growth that began in December 2020. Also, turnover among the restaurant workforce began to stabilize in the first half of 2023, before falling in June and July, BLS data show. Slowing turnover is a sign that conditions in the restaurant labor market are shifting back in the favor of employers.
                                • Coffee-focused food trucks are poised to benefit from continuing growth in coffee consumption this year driven by pent-up demand created by the pandemic, according to the recently released Coffee Report and Outlook from the International Coffee Organization (ICO). While continuing to grow, consumption will rise at a slower rate of 1.7%, to 178.5 million bags, compared to the prior year when it posted a 4.2% gain, to 175.6 million bags, marking the sharpest growth rate since the 4.6% gain in coffee year 2000/2001, per ICO. Consumption will also be affected by slowing economic growth and inflation, which will cause consumers to trade down to less expensive brews. Production, which was hampered in 2021/2022 by weather, is expected to recover in 2022/2023, increasing by 1.7% to 171 million bags compared to a 1.4% decrease in 2021/22.
                                • Food truck operators looking to give back to their communities may want to consider launching mobile food pantries like Pittsburgh’s Little Free Food Truck, which delivers fresh food and produce weekly to places where transportation and access to resources may be limited, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. The new mobile food truck is helping the House of Prayer Lutheran Church reach some of the city's most vulnerable people. In 2022, the church received an $80,000 grant and began creating a nonprofit to run the Little Free Food Truck, which made its debut in December. The church’s pastor estimates that the mobile food pantry has served more than 2,500 people including about 500 elementary school students. This summer the Little Free Food Truck expects to serve about 3,500 meals in 11 neighborhoods in the Pittsburgh area.
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