August 19, 2014
City Size, Rental Costs, Population Diversity Among Factors Impacting Spread Of Food Trucks
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
More than 4,000 food trucks service US cities with more than 100,000 residents, and according to the researchers behind a recent analysis of the vehicles, the quality of food they offer has increased significantly in recent years.
Todd Schifeling, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Michigan, and Daphne Demetry of Northwestern University took to Twitter to conduct a de facto census of up-scale food trucks in the US, and found that instead of serving up greasy hamburgers and hot dogs, they provide sushi, hybrid Korean tacos and other eclectic offerings.
“Virtually all these trucks are online and use Twitter to connect with customers, especially if they change locations. So we were able to avoid the sampling errors that often happen as a result of using social media as data,” Schifeling said in a statement. “We were surprised to find that weather isn't really a factor in the concentration of food trucks.”
While extreme temperatures were found to have no impact, precipitation was positively linked with the new food trucks – although the researchers note that the results become insignificant simply by removing the city of Portland, Oregon from the equation. The researchers also believe that social factors can overcome climate issues.
“Among these factors: cities with greater percentages of college graduates and creative workers, and with more diverse populations,” the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based university explained. “Cities with more craft breweries and farmer's markets and with fewer fast food and chain restaurants also tend to have more gourmet food trucks.”
In addition, they found that larger cities which were more spread out and had higher rental costs had more trucks, suggesting that chefs are using the vehicles instead of opening traditional brick-and-mortar restaurants in order to cut costs. Schifeling and Demetry call the growth of the food truck industry a prime example of “the new authenticity economy” – a phenomenon that they said favors unique, eclectic, local and artisanal products.
“We’re changing the way in which we eat and how we eat. Food trucks used to be called ‘roach coaches,’ and now they’re serving elite food,” Demetry told the Boston Globe. “The real question is: How long is this going to last? It’s becoming more than a way to simply get lunch. It’s a phenomenon.”
Schifeling, who along with his colleague presented the findings during the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting last weekend, said he decided to explore the topic after realizing how frequently he was eating at food trucks – in particular, one that serves “a combination of a grilled cheese sandwich that's filled with short ribs. It's just one example of the kind of creative recombining of different cuisines that goes on with a lot of these trucks.”
Earlier this year, Ranker.com released a list of the best food trucks in the Los Angeles area, and out of the more than 200 vehicles servicing the area, the Grilled Cheese Truck topped the list, followed by Kogii BBQ, Grill ‘Em All and Lardon. Rounding out the top 10 were Coolhaus, Buttermilk Truck, LudoTruck, Yalla, Vizzi Truck and Lobsta Truck.