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10 Best Cities to Run a Food Truck Business

Are you wondering what city is best to run a food truck business in USA? If YES, here are 10 best cities to run a food truck business.

Within the past decade, North America has witnessed an explosion of mobile eateries rolling out into the streets, offering unique and fine goods straight to the people, ladling out heaps of pulled pork onto paper trays, gourmet sandwiches and tacos made with everything from traditional beef and cheese to BBQ pork.

According to reports, the first known food truck was established in 1872 by a man named Walter Scott. Scott cut windows into his wagon and parked in front of a Providence, R.I. newspaper office where he sold sandwiches, slices of pie, and coffee to journalists who worked long and odd hours.

For this same reason, parking near a college campus to serve students or in business districts to serve workers is lucrative for modern food trucks.

Although Scott established America’s first food truck prototype, the New York City hot dog cart popularized America’s street vending tradition. The history of the hot dog cart began in the 1860s with German immigrants serving sausages with milk rolls and sauerkraut from a cart in New York City’s Bowery.

In 1893, the first official hot dog cart was opened by Charles Feltment in Coney Island with tremendous success, 3,600 dachshund sausages were sold in Feltman’s first year.

So far, the United States food truck industry’s revenue in 2020 is $1.1 billion, and its market size has a much enticing rate of increase than the rest of the consumer goods and services sector. New and seasoned restaurateurs alike are eager to start up a food truck and tap into the profitable mobile vending industry.

The food truck craze has taken over America, as cities from east to west embrace the trend and serve up delicious meals on four wheels. In the United States, you can easily locate food trucks in major metropolitan areas, small towns, local festivals, and neighborhood craft breweries.

But some cities have been renowned as food trucks Mecca that are pure bliss for foodies and curious travelers. Food trucks encourage adventurous eating, local support, and community spirit. They are also known to be a budget-friendly way to eat while on the go!

These cities are leaders in the food truck industry, and their food truck scenes are definitely worth a visit while you’re in town.

Best Cities to Run a Food Truck Business

  1. Portland, Oregon

Speaking of early pioneers, no food truck list would be complete without a thorough review of the Portland food truck scene.

Grilled Cheese Grill and Potato Champion have been tremendously popular trucks here. Phat Cart has also been a favorite for its authentic Southeast Asian dishes that are GMO-free. If you can’t find what you’re craving at the Portland food trucks, then you must be a seriously picky eater!

Have it in mind there are over food trucks than anywhere else, and estimates have put that number at around 600. This “weird” city has so many carts that they have multiple food truck parks, like Cartlandia, Mississippi Marketplace, and Cartopia.

The city of Portland embraces its food carts by making sure its food trucks are profitable so they can continue enriching the city’s vibrant culture.

Facts about Starting a Food Truck in Portland
  1. Nashville, Tennessee

Music City, Athens of the South, Nash-Vegas, and Nashville is known by many names, all of which buttresses its reputation as a cultural Mecca for musicians, intellectuals, and late-night revelers. Nashville is the ideal environment for innovation and unique food trucks to thrive.

Thankfully, the city of Nashville provides moderate regulations on food trucks, making it a good contender on the list of the most profitable cities for food trucks.

Facts about Starting a Food Truck in Nashville
  • High Registration Fees and an Additional Water Permit
  • Friendly City Acceptance
  • High Proximity Vending Limitations
  1. Denver, Colorado

Steadily ranked as America’s fittest city, Denver’s residents are drawn to food trucks that offer local, organic, and healthy food menus while they walk the streets for exercise. Denver is also one of America’s fastest-growing cities, attracting young professionals and families.

Combining the two essential elements for a food truck’s success: a strong clientele base and food truck friendly rules and regulations; Denver is the second-best city for food trucks in America.

Facts about Starting a Food Truck in Denver
  • Straight Forward Start-up Procedures
  • To operate a food truck in Denver, owners must install fire suppression systems, change gas lines, and adjust propane tank sizes. Making mandated updates and repairs to comply with the rules can be costly.
  • Operating your food truck across Denver’s metro area will incur additional regulatory costs and permitting fees.
  1. New York City, New York

It was first in 1871 that Charles Feltman, a German butcher, started his Coney Island hot dog stand, the first of its kind in America.

Now the Big Apple’s trucking out the chicken and Thai basil dumplings with a spicy peanut satay dip from Rickshaw Dumplings, vegan and gluten-free fresh fig pancakes with pine nut butter, and chamomile blood orange syrup from Cinnamon Snail, and spicy pork and bacon kimchi fried rice bowl from Korilla BBQ.

New York City is steeped in food truck history and is home to some of the best food trucks in the country. However, its comparatively stringent food truck rules and regulations keep it from topping the list of the best cities for food trucks in America.

Facts about Starting a Food Truck in New York City
  • Licensing Cap: New York City has placed a cap on the number of available food truck licenses, making it nearly impossible to legally obtain one.
  • Impossible Restrictions: Food trucks are not allowed to vend from metered parking. Not only are open parking spots hard to come by, they must also be 20 feet from a building’s entrances and 10 feet from crosswalks.
  • Extra Licenses: Every employee working in your food truck, from the cashier to the chef, is expected to have a food handler’s license and attend a health department class.
  1. Orlando, Florida

It might surprise you that Orlando is a top food truck destination, but with the theme park tourist crowd, the food truck scene here has grown a lot. Favorite food trucks include Twisted Plates but the trucks tend to rotate out with the seasons. Other top trucks have been the Treehouse Truck for Philly cheese steaks and OverRice for Hawaiian cuisine.

While Orlando is known for its theme parks, this Florida city is home to a lively foodie scene, and its rules and regulations make it one of the best cities where food trucks are most profitable. Orlando is the US city with the most food trucks per capita due to its friendliness towards trucks, earning it a good spot on the top 10 food truck cities in America.

Facts about Starting a Food Truck in Orlando
  • Most Affordable Operational and Permitting Fees
  • Orlando food truck operators cannot sell food or merchandise on city streets or sidewalks. Additionally, vending across the metro area requires additional permits and inspections.
  1. Los Angeles, California

Indeed, all food trends in America started in either New York or Los Angeles – N.Y. may have always had mobile hot dog vendors, but L.A. must be given eternal props for pulling a serious Xzibit and turning the noble food cart into the full kitchen-outfitted food truck.

This was back in 1974 when the King Taco reigned the street scene. However, currently, Los Angelenos can get their fill of Korean BBQ tacos from Kogi BBQ, hardcore hair-metal burgers from Grill ‘Em All, and New England-style seafood delights from the Lobsta Truck – all al fresco.

Facts about Starting a Food Truck in Los Angeles
  • Very Few Proximity Restrictions
  • Permitting Expenses: The greatest challenge Los Angeles food truck operators face is that their permit doesn’t allow them to operate across the entire county. Obtaining multiple permits to operate across the metro area is extremely costly.
  1. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Home to various colleges and universities and imposed with few restrictions, Philadelphia food trucks are highly lucrative.

Facts about Starting a Food Truck in Philadelphia
  • Few Regulations
  • Frequent Health Inspections
  • Difficult to Vend in Prime Locations
  • Inconsistently Enforced Rules
  1. Austin, Texas

There are so many outdoor opportunities to get in some Mexican and barbecue, but increasingly, down the trendy and colorful South of Congress Avenue (but everybody just calls it SoCo), visitors can line up and grab a bite of everything. Note that this Texan Mecca of mobile restaurateurs sets the stage and the spotlight for serious outdoor eating.

For a taste of the classic Austin breakfast taco, there is Torchy’s Taco; Southern soul food enthusiasts can carbo-load on buttermilk biscuits heaped with gravy plus a ton of cheese and other good stuff at Biscuits & Groovy, and for the sweet tooth in everyone, Gourdough serves the mother of all truck-loaded gourmet donuts out of their vintage Airstream trailer.

Facts about Starting a Food Truck in Austin
  • One-Stop-Shop Permitting Process
  • Average Restrictions
  • Challenging Health Inspection Process
  1. Houston, Texas

Although food trucks may not be the most practical dining option in ‘The Bayou City’ (they receive 53 inches of rain per year.) Houston’s international residents and strong local traditions of Tex-Mex and BBQ are aligned to the food truck industry. Notably, from residents’ tastes to regulatory terms, Houston is a city where food trucks are profitable.

Facts about Starting a Food Truck in Houston
  • Houston’s food truck operators are prohibited from using street parking, cannot operate within 100 feet of a restaurant, and must remain 60 feet apart from fellow food trucks.
  • Extra Commissary Fees
  • Hidden Fines and Regulations
  1. Indianapolis, Indiana

A good number of people will tell you that the food truck scene is best on either the west or east coast. However, Indianapolis has proven that the Midwest offers equally delicious and unique food truck options. Owing to its comparatively limited restrictions, Indianapolis surpasses many coastal cities as a destination where food trucks are most successful.

Facts about Starting a Food Truck in Indianapolis
  • Easy to Get Started
  • Simple Ongoing Compliance
  • Information Scarcity

Knowing where food trucks are most profitable and educating yourself on how pioneers of the modern food truck craze achieved success primes your food truck business for a lucrative future. Determining the best cities for food trucks isn’t exclusively based on good weather and public interest.

State-and-city-imposed fees, permits, and regulations heavily affect a food truck’s success and must be factored into your food truck business plan.