The New Definition of a Breakfast Roll
Remember the excitement of hearing “Turkey in the Straw” or “Pop Goes the Weasel” coming down the street? Begging mom for quarters, kids ran after ice cream trucks to come away with the prize of a Drumstick or Flag Pop. What a delight!
Today’s ice cream trucks are no longer kings of the road, having lots of new company rolling along with them. They’ve been joined by a growing fleet of food trucks that offer an almost unlimited array of specializations ranging from cupcakes to pulled pork, from sushi to mac ’n cheese, from stir-fry to dessert. And those kids, now grown, are still lining up to grab their newest tasty prizes.
This segment has seen steady growth over the past five years. According to research firm, IBISWorld, the number of food trucks grew 8.4 percent between 2007 and 2012, now comprising a $1 billion industry. Some small business experts predict trucks will soon generate 3 to 4 percent of total restaurant revenue.
One growing category of food trucks is devoted specifically to the breakfast daypart and entrants into this area are defining their businesses with diverse types of offerings:
- Upscale gourmet sandwiches like The Belly, made with pork belly, fried egg, arugula and caper aioli. (Bacon Bacon, San Francisco)
- Design-your-own breakfast burritos from scrambled eggs and a choice of cheeses, meats, veggies and sauces. (Breakfast Burritos Anonymous, Houston)
- Unique and edgy items like The Fairfax, made with chive and gray salt dusted scrambled eggs, caramelized onions and Tillamook Cheddar on a brioche bun spread with Sriracha mayo. (Egg Slut*, Los Angeles)
- Remixed classic flavors like Pork Belly & Cornmeal Waffle, a maple-braised pork belly and fried egg on a cornmeal waffle with braising jus. (Skillet Street Food, Seattle)
*The Egg Slut recently opened a brick and mortar location.
Competition between quick-service restaurants (QSR) and food trucks has been on the rise, leading some QSR chains (e.g., Jack in the Box, Taco Bell) to launch their own trucks. 2013 NPD research showed that in the absence of a food truck, nearly half of those surveyed would have ordered from a QSR. While convenience is an advantage for both venues, 41 percent of consumers also feel food trucks offer unique foods, and in that regard, food trucks trump QSR.
As more food trucks skew upscale with gourmet items, an emerging issue may be the impact local trucks also have on fast casual restaurants’ business. Food trucks’ flexibility of changing menu items on a whim creates an accelerated incubator for new items and trends, spawning more atypical combinations and applications. This positions truck operators as the ones to watch for innovation by restaurateurs from QSR to fine dining. In its 2013 Food Trucks, U.S. report, Mintel shows that Millennials, those born between 1977 and 1994, are the driving force behind food truck sales. Trucks have responded by:
- Communicating schedules and news via social media.
- Offering convenience paired with cultural, gourmet and indulgent fare.
Any of the dishes mentioned here would translate well to brick-and-mortar operations trying to attract Millennial business. It may be like The Scoundrel, a hearty sandwich from Chicago’s Eastman Egg truck, served on a pretzel roll spread with spiced honey mustard and filled with eggs, smoked turkey, wilted spinach and white Cheddar. Or it may take after a sharable poutine called The Hot Mess with home fries topped with chorizo, cheese sauce, fried egg, Sriracha and creamy green chili sauce menued by Culinary Nomad in Maryland. These are items that couldn’t fail to add excitement to any menu.