Food Trucks Hit The Road to Find New Customers During COVID-19

Without question, the restaurant industry has felt the financial sting of the coronavirus pandemic. Once-bustling dine-in food establishments have cut hours, furloughed employees and closed their doors altogether with the hope of returning to normal in the near future. 

In cities, the absence of office workers and a massive decline in nine-to-five street traffic has also had a noticeable impact on the corner food truck business. Without a steady stream of lunchtime patrons and weekend events, food truck owners are needing to quickly change gears, embracing a move-it or lose-it strategy to stay in business.

Making the move to suburban regions

According to Ben Goldberg, founder and president of the New York Food Truck Association, his industry is well suited for COVID-19 times. “By default, food trucks have to be opportunists and adaptable. It goes with their mantra and whole idea of going around being mobile and nimble and finding places if a spot doesn’t work,” says Goldberg.

Ambitious food truck owners have demonstrated their adaptability by branching out into suburbs to capitalize on a large portion of people who are now working from home. Some are shifting menus and marketing strategies by providing food service to socially-distanced neighborhood gatherings, drive-in movie theaters, or by venturing into private catering for birthday parties, weddings and reunions. A number of traditionally brick-and-mortar restaurants that have had to limit hours and capacity because of the virus, have gone mobile via food trucks to continue to feed loyal patrons where they live.

Adapting to new technology and COVID-19 protocols

According to Goldberg, while food truck owners are finding new opportunities, operating during the pandemic comes with challenges. Workers must wear masks and other protective gear and observe social distance and cleaning protocols which add time and expense. The declining use of cash has also led to greater use of electronic ordering and payment systems with the goal of reducing lines and wait times for patrons. And many food trucks are using social media and partnering with platforms like Uber Eats and Grubhub to offer deliveries.

An industry in the growth lane

According to IBISWorld, there are currently more than 30,000 employees in the food truck industry today – an increase of 6.1% in just the last 5 years. The industry, as a whole, is outgrowing the brick-and-mortar restaurant business 5.5% to 4.3%.  The demand for trucks is also on the rise and manufacturers are struggling to keep pace as more and more individual operators enter the food truck industry or expand their current fleets. Cities and towns are seeing an increase in requests for operating licenses and permits as well, particularly in response to the pandemic.   

How are municipalities like yours currently regulating food trucks?

Would it be helpful to know how neighboring communities are handling food truck legislation? General Code client communities can use the Multicode tool to locate and search across several codes at the same time to see what legislation other municipalities have adopted.

Updating Your Code

Once new or revised legislation has been adopted, we encourage our clients to submit code updates as soon as possible. This ensures that constituents and local government officials are always referencing and working with the most up-to-date resources. Clients can send legislation to [email protected].


Food trucks find new opportunities; National Retail Federation

Trends Shaping the Food Truck Industry Outlook in 2021;

New York Food Truck Association;

COVID-19 Assistance; National Food Truck Association

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