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Rob Heidrick

Mobile Food Services: Spotlight on an Emerging Growth Industry

by Rob Heidrick | Dun & Bradstreet Editor

October 18, 2016 | No Comments »

Hot dog carts and ice cream trucks have long been mainstays of roadside cuisine in the US, but a flashier fleet of food trucks has rolled into cities across America in recent years, redefining mobile foodservice with a more eclectic variety of menu selections. In one of several new profiles on high-growth emerging industries, the D&B industry team explores challenges and opportunities facing the Mobile Food Services sector.

The profile provides insights into the food truck craze that has pushed the US industry’s annual revenue over the $1 billion mark. Mobile eateries also have a massive international appeal: About 2.5 billion people around the world purchase food from mobile food outlets and street kiosks each day, according to the UN. Street food has long been a culinary staple in countries such as Brazil, Thailand, and Indonesia.

Industry opportunities include:

Mobile Technologies — Many food truck operators use tablets and mobile point-of-sale devices to process payments and manage other aspects of their operations. Easy-to-use credit-card readers such as Square are now standard equipment for mobile vendors, and some establishments allow customers to pay via smartphone using digital-wallet platforms like Apple Pay. Business owners may use tablet-based productivity applications to manage inventories, purchasing, financial records, employee scheduling, and menu planning. Some vendors use automated GPS tracking apps to share their locations with customers in real time.

While mobile food vendors have significant opportunities for growth, they also face a number of challenges. To ensure steady business, operators generally need to locate in high-visibility areas with heavy foot traffic, and competition for these spaces can be fierce. Pedestrian traffic is difficult to predict even in optimal locations, and bad weather conditions often hurt sales.

Other key business challenges facing the industry include:

Regulatory Hurdles — Mobile food vendors in most urban US markets are heavily regulated by local and state authorities. Food trucks with built-in kitchens tend to receive the most scrutiny: They are typically licensed and regularly inspected by city health departments, which enforce standards covering food-handling procedures and kitchen equipment. In New York City and Washington, DC, food truck employees are required to pass food safety exams before they can begin working. Vendors also must comply with numerous local ordinances that dictate when and where they may do business. In some markets, including Chicago and Las Vegas, they are forbidden from operating within a specified distance of brick-and-mortar restaurants. Some cities even require trucks to install GPS trackers to make it easier for officials to locate and monitor them.

D&B’s Editorial team regularly adds new industry content while constantly updating existing profiles on more than 500 industries. Recently added new profiles of other fast-growing industries include Casino Hotels and Marijuana Stores.

D&B industry profiles provide insights to guide sales and marketing professionals in their business decisions. The profiles contain comprehensive financial benchmark information as well as industry growth forecasts in an easy-to-digest format. Call-prep sheets, an abbreviated version of the profiles, provide a quick way get up to speed on an industry. D&B industry content is available in Hoover’s, First Research, D&B Direct, and other D&B products that serve enterprise and small-business professionals.

Rob Heidrick is an industry editor on the First Research team. He covers food and beverage manufacturing, hospitality, and recreation, as well as the government and education sectors. Rob is also on the First Research social media team and an editor for Bizmology.

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Photo by Ariel Dovas, used here under a Creative Commons license.

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