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

                                Apr 14, 2024 - Employment Surpassed Pre-Pandemic Levels in 2023
                                • It took three years, but employment by caterers and mobile food services finally recovered to exceed pre-pandemic levels in 2023, according to US Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Last year, employment by the industry was 4.4% higher than in 2019 and nearly 69% above its low point in 2020, BLS data shows. Over the same period, average industry wages rose by about 40% to $22.87 per hour in 2023, up from $16.27 per hour in 2019. The growth in popularity and variety of food trucks coupled with rising consumer spending is fueling the growth of mobile food vendors, with sales for the US mobile food services industry forecast to grow at a 5.67% compounded annual rate from 2024 to 2028, faster than the growth of the overall economy, according to the Interindustry Economic Research Fund.
                                • Restaurant sales are forecast to top $1 trillion in 2024, driven by ongoing employment growth, technology advancements, and expanded use of restaurant apps, according to the National Restaurant Association’s 2024 State of the Restaurant Industry Report. The restaurant and food service industry is projected to add 200,000 jobs this year, bringing total industry employment to 15.7 million. Between 2024 and 2032, the industry is projected to add 150,000 jobs per year on average, with total staffing levels reaching 16.9 million by 2032, per NRA. While nearly eight in 10 restaurant operators predict their sales will increase (33%) or hold steady (45%) from 2023 levels, operators are less optimistic regarding profitability, with only 27% expecting to be more profitable this year. Average food costs have increased more than 20% and average wages more than 30% since 2019, taking a bite out of profits, per the NRA report.
                                • The combination of rapidly rising payroll costs and diners’ pushback against high menu prices is putting many independently-owned restaurants in financial peril, The Wall Street Journal reports. Demand for eating out, which surged as the pandemic subsided, has given way to growing consumer resistance to ever-higher checks, according to WSJ. Indeed, prices for food eaten away from home were up 30% in January compared with the same month in 2019, BLS data show. While restaurants’ food bills have stopped their pandemic-induced surge, their payroll costs continue to climb. Higher labor costs are particularly painful for eateries that prepare food from scratch. Moreover, mom-and-pop operations – including many mobile food trucks – lack the buying power to command volume discounts and realize other efficiencies to offset the rising cost of labor.
                                • The mobile food services industry is experiencing substantial growth driven by growing consumer awareness and evolving consumer preferences, according to FHA-Food & Beverage. The value of the global food truck market is projected to increase from $19.4 billion in 2022 to a forecasted $26.3 billion by 2027, reflecting a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.2%, according to research from bccPublishing. Technology is helping to drive growth with many food trucks integrating innovative ways to serve customers, including leveraging mobile apps and online ordering systems, reports FHA. Indeed, contactless payments are becoming the norm, enabling a faster and more secure transaction process for customers and vendors. Social media also plays an outsized role with social platforms such as Facebook and Instagram providing channels for interaction and promotion. Engaging content, including enticing food photos and behind-the-scenes glimpses, attracts consumers and helps foster community.
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