Food truck industry trends in the US show that business has been going strong—based on overall industry value, number of businesses, and forecast value—and will likely continue to grow. The more you know about the food truck industry’s size, sales patterns, forecasts, employee considerations, and projected profitability, the better equipped you will be to make an informed decision about whether to enter or invest in this line of business for yourself.
Market concentration for the industry is quite low due to the sheer number and variety of food truck offerings in the country. New food truck entrepreneurs can do well if they have a solid business plan, accurate knowledge of the industry and its customers, and creative marketing strategies. Continue reading for more top food truck trends you need to know.
Industry Size, Value & Trends
1. 36,324 food truck businesses operate in the US
As of 2023, there are over 36,000 food truck businesses operating in the US, which is an increase of nearly 10% from the 2022 number.
2. The food truck industry has grown an average of 9.9% annually between 2018 and 2023
IBISWorld reports average growth of the same 9.9% per year for the past five years, indicating that this industry is going strong and is not likely to stagnate anytime soon.
3. The food truck industry will likely grow 3%–5% in 2023
The food truck industry is projected to grow by at least 3% in 2023 as compared to the year before. This pattern of year-on-year growth will likely continue, as the industry as a whole was already worth over a billion dollars in 2022 and is expected to become more valuable.
4. Total revenue for food trucks in the US is expected to exceed $2 billion by 2030
Market research and consulting firm Grand View Research expects a compound annual growth rate of 6.4% from 2022 to 2030 for the food truck industry, culminating in some $2 billion.
5. More than 40% of food truck customers are under the age of 45
Forty-three percent of food truck customers are under 45 years old. This could be due to a number of reasons, such as each generation’s preferences, income levels, and desire for convenience. Knowing more about your largest customer demographic will help you design marketing and products that suit them best.
6. No food truck companies have more than 5% market share
The market is not very concentrated, despite other food truck industry trends that are all going upward. This means that while the industry as a whole shows good growth and profitability, it is unlikely for any single food truck business to capture a large portion of the market—something to keep in mind when weighing the pros and cons of whether to start a food truck business.
7. In 2021, Mexican cuisine accounted for the largest market share—34.6%
Food truck customers really enjoyed their tacos, quesadillas, and tamales (at least they did in 2021). On the other hand, Italian cuisine is the fastest-growing, with a compound annual growth rate of 8.4% over the period of 2022 to 2030. While customer tastes won’t always be easy to predict, what’s worth remembering is that the cuisine you choose to serve can affect your profits significantly.
Location, Cost & Employment Considerations
8. Portland (Oregon), Denver, Orlando, Philadelphia, and Indianapolis have the highest number of food truck businesses
This is due to cost-related factors, such as fees for setup and permits; Indianapolis is particularly affordable to set up in, with fees of around $590. The most difficult cities to set up a food truck business are Boston, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Minneapolis, and Seattle. A food truck in Boston can expect to pay a whopping $17,066 in fees, though this city is unusually expensive for food trucks. If you remove Boston from the calculation, then average permit and license costs come to about $1,864.
9. A brand-new truck with a new kitchen will cost $125,000–$200,000
Entrepreneurs looking to enter the food truck business need to be able to raise a few hundred thousand dollars of capital, especially if they plan on getting a brand-new truck with new equipment. As with other types of hardware and equipment besides food trucks, the upside of buying new is that you’ll be paying less in maintenance and repair costs in the future.
10. Used food truck trucks typically cost between $30,000–$70,000
Buying brand-new food trucks isn’t your only option, though. Toast predicts a relatively low cost of $70,000 or less if you choose to acquire a secondhand food truck. Note that this option will require extra funds and time for performing maintenance on the used truck before you open your business.
11. Ingredients will cost you from $1,000–$2,000
Since a food truck is essentially a restaurant on wheels, you’ll need to take ingredient costs into account. Expect to pay up to $2,000 for your starting ingredients, such as oil and spices, plus another few hundred for additional items, such as serve ware, cooking utensils, gas or propane tanks, and food containers.
12. Food truck parking costs $500–$1,000 per month
Another cost that entrepreneurs must consider is where to park their food trucks—not only during business hours but when the truck is closed. The parking location is often strictly regulated, so you’ll need to do due diligence on the acceptable locations, procedures, and associated costs.
13. Employee wages account for over a quarter of total food truck costs
Around 27% of total costs incurred by a food truck go toward paying employee wages. This high figure is due to the nature of a food truck, which is labor-intensive and often requires labor more than capital. Purchases account for 43.1% of total food truck costs, and rent/utilities 6.3%.
14. The average food truck in the US employs 1.2 people
IBISWorld further reports that the average food truck only employs between one and two people—far fewer than a traditional restaurant. This is likely due to the much smaller size and scope of operations of a food truck compared to a restaurant.
15. The number of people employed in food trucks increased by an average of 8.4% over the past 5 years
An average employee count of 1.2 is still an increase compared to the number of people employed in food trucks five years ago. This number has increased by more than 8% on average over the five years between 2018 and 2023, indicating that the industry is growing quickly and businesses need new hires. Revenue per employee has also increased correspondingly.
16. Total wages paid by the food truck industry will increase by 2.9% in 2023
As employee count and revenue per employee rise, so do employee wages. From 2018 to 2023, wages in the food truck industry increased 8.6% per year on average, which is set to continue. IBISWorld predicts that total wages in the industry will reach $408.1 million in 2023.
17. When renting a food truck, prepare to spend $2,000–3,000 per month
If you don’t want to buy either a brand-new food truck or a secondhand one, renting is a third option for getting a foot in the door of the food truck industry. Square advises that renters set aside $3,000 per month (at most) for this rental if renting for six months or longer (a term shorter than this will mean higher costs due to risk and turnover).
Profitability & Longevity
18. Average food truck revenue is between $250,000 and $500,000 yearly
Put another way, that’s $20,000–$42,000 monthly, according to Toast. Note that this is revenue and not profit, so this isn’t taking expenses into account just yet. You can calculate total monthly profit for your food truck by multiplying monthly sales with profit margin percentage.
19. 3 out of 5 food truck businesses fail before the 3-year mark
Keeping a new business afloat isn’t easy, and food trucks are no exception; more than half don’t survive the first three years. While this may be disheartening, it represents a typical success rate in the hospitality industry, and is a reality you need to consider when deciding whether to start such a business.
20. The salary of a food truck owner is usually less than half of the truck’s total profit
A truck owner usually takes home less than 50% of the entire business profit, with the rest going toward reinvesting in labor, food costs, marketing, utilities, and ongoing fees. Food truck owners in the US earn between $24,000 and $153,000 per year, depending on the size, location, and popularity of the business.
The food truck industry is performing well, and is projected to continue gaining value in 2023 and beyond. It’s definitely an industry worth looking into and possibly investing in, as long as you know what you’re getting into in terms of costs and trends. The food truck industry statistics we’ve provided will arm you with the knowledge you need to maximize your chances of success if and when you step into the ring.