In a stroke of innovation inspired by the Great Recession, mobile catering has evolved from its “roach coach” roots to become a chic and fashionable catering choice for all kinds of events, from weddings to corporate functions.
When the economy crashed, the dining/catering industry suffered huge losses resulting from diminishing consumer spending. A glut of derelict food trucks that had once serviced busy construction sites flooded the market, and enterprising chefs saw an opportunity to start businesses with low overhead, limited staffing and high mobility.
It also provided immigrant owners with a unique chance to bring family recipes from their home countries to the general public. Fusion cooking with global ingredients is increasing in demand in an America characterized by a more sophisticated, international dining palate.
America’s tastes are also trending heavily in the direction of sustainable menu options. The language of food includes a whole new vocabulary relating to fresh, healthy choices: antibiotic-free, biodynamic, clean, Fair Trade, farm/estate brands, hormone-free, humanely raised, hyper-local sourcing, non-GMO, organic, steroid-free, sustainable, unprocessed, vegan and vegetarian (yes, there is a difference).
Mobile caterers have become the avant-gardists of the food industry – rising to consumer demands and offering menus that are healthy, experimental and eclectic. And if you think this dining/catering option is just a fad, consider that in 2010, Zagat, one of the world’s most respected food critics, added Food Truck Reviews to its annual survey.
The popularity and variety of food trucks has grown fastest in urban centers, many of which are also major convention cities. According to a Zagat survey published in 2012, the highest concentration of mobile food vendors is located in New York, Boston, Washington DC, Miami, Houston, Austin, Cleveland, Chicago, Portland and Los Angeles.
The New York Times published a list of the top 52 Places to Go in 2014 and named downtown LA as No. 5 in the world. Why? “While the museums in this corner of the city are thriving (the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art is nearby), the growing dynamism of downtown is the food scene.”
Food trucks play a major role in that “growing dynamism.” Los Angeles travel expert Kayte Deioma has been reporting on the food truck craze since its inception and regularly publishes her list of “Gourmet Los Angeles Food Trucks.” She reports there are now well over 200 trucks in the LA market, with a limitless selection of culinary options including desserts, gourmet burgers, fusion cuisine, pizza and sandwiches.
So, if you’re planning an event in one of these cosmopolitan cities, your choice of mobile catering options should be both inspiring and abundant. You can locate mobile vendors in your area by checking out websites like RoamingHunger.com and FoodTruckMaps.com. Sites like these track food trucks, tell you the locations where they will be parked on a particular day and provide private catering information.
Food trucks have the advantage of being able to go where people congregate. They bring their kitchens with them, requiring minimal setup. Then they efficiently roll back out with their food and equipment when the event is over.
Street festivals and events are a natural fit for mobile food vendors, where they add another sensory layer to social experiences. Farmers markets, art fairs and music festivals are enhanced by the selection of unique foods, which have become one of the primary draws at these events.
In fact, food trucks have become the reason to have an event in the first place. LA hosted its first Los Angeles Street Food Fest in 2010. Organizers expected 4,000 people. Eighteen thousand showed up and thousands more were turned away. Attendees were undeterred by long entrance and food lines, enthusiastic about trying out the waiting selection of diverse food choices.
Food trucks have also become a boutique catering choice for private parties. Everything from mobile coffee and alcohol bars, to meal purveyors, to gourmet dessert vendors are finding their way into weddings, baby showers and business functions. If you’re looking to step outside the conventional and provide discriminating event-goers with sustainable, gourmet dining options, mobile kitchens offer some surprising choices.
Check out this list of “The 26 Healthiest Food Trucks in America” published at Greatist.com.