What’s the Point of Food Trucks?

"It's hard not to notice the popularity—or more precisely, the frenzy—over food trucks," says ipsedixit. "My question is what, exactly, is the appeal of food trucks? Wouldn't one presume that food made out of a full-scale kitchen (i.e. a restaurant) would be better than one made from the back of a truck?"

Actually, there's no reason for restaurant food to automatically taste better than food from a truck, says Ruth Lafler. "Using the same logic, the food that comes out of a big hotel kitchen would be better than that at your neighborhood bistro," she says. "There are lots of really good restaurants that have tiny, limited, kitchens. What makes food good is not where it's prepared or the equipment that's used, it's the quality of the ingredients and the degree of attention that's given to conceiving and executing the dish."

Some people refer to a food truck as a "roach coach," but that's not particularly valid with modern taco trucks and other food trucks. "My recollection is that the traditional 'roach coach' wasn't preparing food to order," says Ruth Lafler. "It had premade sandwiches, breakfast pastries and snacks, and maybe some hot dogs in a water bath, but, again, the only similarity between a 'roach coach' and one of these modern mobile food vendors is that they're mobile." Modern food trucks can be mobile kitchens, preparing fresh food that might just be tastier than food from a big restaurant kitchen.

Part of the appeal is the personal connection between the food truck proprietor and patron. "Often the person who hands you the food is the person who made it, who is probably the chef/owner, and you can give him feedback on the spot," says Ruth Lafler. And food trucks offer a different package of services from restaurants: just food, not much else. "There's certainly an appeal to getting high-quality food without having to go into a restaurant, sit down, order, leave a tip, etc.," Ruth points out.

Discuss: What's the appeal of food trucks?

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