Food trucks are one of those trends that may be overblown, but are still pretty awesome. Food trucks are usually really unique, offering specialty food items we may not have seen before or may not get very often. They can give cooks and food manufacturers a cheaper way to sell their products and establish themselves in the increasingly competitive world of restaurants and dining. There are also food trucks doing amazing work, like Drive Change's "Snowday." (Drive Change employs formally incarcerated youth in New York, connecting with them through the universal medium of food, teaching them skills and helping them reenter into society.) Food trucks are great and we're fans... for the most part.
From around 2010 to 2012, however, restaurant franchises and fast food chains began co-opting the food truck scene. Chains from Chick-fil-A to Jack in the Box tried their luck on the road and launched their own food trucks. The craze seemed to die down a little, but now it seems big chains are at it again. The last few months have seen a revival of this corporate food truck movement with a new batch of larger food corporations trying to capitalize on the homegrown, artisanal roots of food trucks.
You can't fake artisanal, however. Just because you're driving your products around in a truck, doesn't mean they're small-batch, handmade or otherwise. It's one thing to use your food truck to get the word out and to reach new customers. It's something different entirely to use the truck to persuade people of your "hand-crafted" or "artisanal" quality.
Here are five food companies that have recently thrown themselves onto the sinking ship of food trucks. Will this newest wave of corporate food giants ruin food trucks forever?
On May 26 Starbucks unveiled a new, shiny Starbucks truck in a way that only Starbucks could. It's a Frappuccino truck -- because the world needs more Frappuccinos, and more Starbucks. For the rest of June, the lucky residents of Los Angeles and Long Beach get the Frappuccino truck making stops in their cities. The point? We're not sure.
TGI Fridays launched a food truck tour on May 21 to promote its new, "hand-crafted" menu. It's touting new items like Warm Pretzels with Craft Beer-Cheese Dipping Sauce, Crispy Green Bean Fries, Thai Pork Tacos and Ahi Tuna Crisps. In addition to the new menu, TGI Fridays is giving a makeover to the restaurants themselves, replacing license plates and electric guitars with framed prints and photographs. Will anyone think the new look is authentic? Will anyone fall for the food truck? We're not convinced.
Maille, the 265-year-old condiment company famous for its mustard, is launching a food truck. When a French brand as renowned as Maille jumps on the food truck bandwagon, you know something is seriously wrong. Maille Mustard Mobile (maybe someone should have helped them out with the name) is the mustard bar on wheels you've been waiting for. It's hitting the road on June 14 and visiting a selection of cities over the course of the summer, offering free tastings and a chance to win a trip to Paris. If there's a partner truck in Paris, we're not going.
White Castle unveiled two CraveMobiles in 2013. They're still driving around today, promoting the chain with contests and slinging sliders at people everywhere they go. If you run fast enough, you might be able to hide.
Taco Bell's food truck has been driving around and giving out free tacos for years now -- and it's still going strong. The free part makes the chain's use of a food truck a lot better, we think. What is more interesting is Taco Bell's new spinoff restaurant group that is taking inspiration from food trucks. The new franchise will be called U.S. Taco Co. and it "will tap regional American flavors, offering a playful menu of premium tacos in the fusion style of food trucks or the contemporary taquerias of Dallas or San Francisco’s Mission district." When Taco Bell's new restaurant group is emulating food trucks, you know food trucks have jumped the shark.