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CHICAGO – Since their initial appearance on the restaurant scene, food trucks have begun to chip away at the quick-service restaurant (QSR) market, according to new foodservice market research conducted by The NPD Group.
A survey by NPD, which addressed the awareness and practice of obtaining foods and beverages from food trucks, asked consumers where they would have purchased their meal or snack if not at the food truck. Approximately half of the survey respondents said they would have ordered from a fast-food restaurant, while 20 percent said they would have skipped the meal entirely, indicating that the food truck visit was spontaneous or unplanned.
The top reasons cited for choosing food trucks were related to their "interesting" foods and convenience, which are the traditional strengths of QSRs. The top foods typically offered by food trucks are hot and cold sandwiches, soups and Mexican foods, which means that Mexican and sandwich QSRs may view food trucks as more direct competition than other restaurant types, according to the report.
Dayparts are another way food trucks compete with QSRs since the trucks are primarily used for lunch and snacking occasions, likely due to their specific locations and the items they offer.
While QSR operators have more reason to be concerned about the prevalence and location of food trucks than full-service operators do, some relief may be found in the fact that the survey results showed that while some consumers make purchases at food trucks regularly, many only visit them occasionally. More than 50 percent of respondents who are aware of food trucks in their area say they make purchases at one just once every two to three months or less.
Ordinances and permits for food trucks also vary depending on location, and many cities place considerable restrictions on where food trucks can operate and what food they can sell. Additionally, seasons and weather conditions limit food truck availability outside of the spring and summer months in many areas of the United States, the report noted.
"For now at least, food trucks need not be viewed as a threat to restaurant demand nationally," said Bonnie Riggs, NPD’s restaurant industry analyst. "However, in markets with a developed food truck presence, QSR operators may wish to take note of the benefits food trucks offer, such as different and fresh food, especially as a means to build their snack business and/or protect lunch traffic."