Carpe Diem

DC street food scene explodes with almost 200 food trucks

foodtrucksThe food trucks (about 20) and people were lined up today at Farragut Square in DC during the lunch hour, enjoying the great food and the 57 degree weather with lots of sunshine (see photo above). I checked out the Pinup Panini food truck for the first time (excellent!), which is one of 171 food trucks in the DC area now listed at the Food Truck Fiesta website, with 11 more food trucks listed as “coming soon.” The DC food trucks are booming and increasing like shale oil in North Dakota and Texas, and will soon number more than 200!

4 thoughts on “DC street food scene explodes with almost 200 food trucks

    • morgaonovich do you know if Frisco restaurateurs have been publically complaining about these trucks siphoning off some of their business?

      I wouldn’t think the net profit margins are all that great in the restuant business in an expensive city like Frisco is…

      • juandos-

        there were a few complaints, especially from the restaurants in the financial district that wanted to keep a hammerlock on high lunch prices. the dinner focused restaurants do not seem to care.

        there were some regulations/laws passed about how many trucks there could be and when/where they were allowed to operate etc as part of permitting.

        my understanding is the that SF restaurant assn is pushing for more/tighter rules as we speak.

        but food trucks are VERY popular in sf and and consumers seem willing to vote to protect them.

        many SF restaurants do quite well. it’s a tough town from a competitiveness and a rent standpoint, but there are also a huge number of locals and tourists that are really into good food and willing to pay up for it so if you hit somehting people like, it can be pretty profitable. i have some friends there that own/run restaurants and do quite well out of it. the trick seems to be to buy your space in the first couple years once you know your concept works. otherwise, you are cooked when your lease expires and the landlord has you over a barrel.

        of everyhting i miss having left sf, food is top of the list, no question.

  1. To say the DC street food scene is “exploding” is a bit misleading. Of the 200 or so trucks that are permitted in the metropolitan area, only about 115 have DC permits. Of those, only 50-60% are actually out on the streets on a regular basis. Way fewer in Winter obviously. Also, over 30 trucks have gone out of business altogether. It’s a tough business and getting tougher.

    I mention all this because the idea that the DC food truck scene is growing and will continue to grow is far from certain. As a truck owner that operates in DC, MD and VA, I can tell you the numbers of DC trucks has actually leveled off a bit due to market forces and supply and demand. There’s not enough business out there to support a huge number of trucks. Plus the regulatory situation in DC is making the neighboring jurisdictions look a bit more welcoming. Many truck owners are moving out to Northern Virginia and Maryland where there’s less competition.

    The other problem is many truck owners seem to be creatures of habit, going back to the same locations over and over. While the five or so most popular spots in DC are saturated, there are over a hundred other locations that are under served. The problem there is it takes a while to develop a spot into a steady revenue location and only the strongest trucks can afford to spend the time and money it takes to grow new service areas. This could all be solved with a more rational regulatory scheme and I’m not optimistic that DC will get that right.

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