Why do people line up for food truck fare that's not cheaper or better than restaurant food?

Just came across this, an article on food truck in Hong Kong and China.

(In Hong Kong) Some said they had invested HK$1 million (US$128,000) on their truck. By comparison, Wong (in Beijing) has spent about 500,000 yuan (US$75,500) on each of his five environmentally-friendly trucks.

“No alteration of the signature dish proposed by the applicant in the application form will be allowed after the submission of Application and throughout the Scheme,” it declares. “If the operator wishes to change dishes other than the signature dish, he should obtain prior written approval from the Venues and the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department.”

1 Like

Agree, went to a wedding last fall and gave up when I saw 50 people in line ahead of me. My work keeps trying this on our monthly “Fun Friday” activity too…nothing like standing in line at a Taco truck for an hour to create team spirit. :expressionless:


It is to build character. It is about overcoming your weakness. Why would you want to walk across the street to sit down to eat at a restaurant meal when you can line up for an hour? Squad down and eat near a busy street with smoke and dust coming in every direction.

This is urban toughness.


Don’t forget about blaring horns, police sirens, crazy hobos. :slight_smile:


I will absolutely go to that van leeuwen ice cream truck when i see it in the summer- it’s expensive and has a line but i have to have nondairy ice cream and theirs is one of the best…!
And now that i just saw they have a vegan coconut mulk sticky toffee pudding ice cream i’m going to have to get to a shop ASAP!!

Taim actually has a truck too, it used to park in flatiron district regularly and i would make a point to go since their locations aren’t convenient for me and they’re one of my top favorites spots for falafel and hummus (tie with nish nush on both). Apparently the truck doesn’t work in the winter

Oh, and of course the dosa cart in Washington square park, potentially just nostalgia for my super broke college years when buying lunch was a luxury but he’s been around forever (for 18 years! )and the dosa and fillings are certainly delicious. This was an old write up from SE, about nothing has changed but the price went up a dollar.


Dude. You so totally get me. Man, the police sirens definitely is part of the food truck experience in a city (especially in NYC). If I ever order and eat a NYU food truck meal without the police sirens… I will ask for a refund. It just isn’t legit without the police sirens… Ok… I won’t be picky. Fire truck and ambulance sirens are acceptable too.

1 Like

Well here’s the thing… new yorkers are not patient people generally speaking. So if there’s a line for one food truck and not for it’s three neighboring food trucks you just get in line and evesdrop on what people in front of you are ordering.

In our area there are different food trucks almost every day. They are pricey, but the food is good and I think variety really drives the business. They park in a Church parking lot that’s empty midweek and on a sunny day several hundred office workers queue up and get lunch.

I like food trucks. they’re convenient, and often if you’re somewhere where there are a lot of them, such as Off-The-Grid regularly scheduled events, there are a lot of options. I’ve had friends meet up at one of these events, and everyone gets what they want, and we can share. Often i find the food quite good. Often there is music, you’re outdoors instead of sitting inside, and it’s festive. I find them not all that pricey for these benefits. My sister and i go almost weekly to a Lobster roll truck, and for $14 i get a beautifully plump roll that would cost me much more in other locales.

Not a novelty for me.

1 Like

This thread is drifting, and I’d like to haul it back. The question isn’t “Why do people go to food trucks?” It’s “Why do people line up for food truck fare that’s not cheaper or better than restaurant food?” If you choose to visit a food truck because the food you get there is cheaper and better, that’s not much of a mystery.

To be honest, not much of a reason…the only reason for me to buy foods from food trucks that are NOT cheaper and NOT better is

  1. support the (very) small business owners
  2. the truck is standing right there between my work and home
  3. When there are a group of food trucks, then a group of friends can get variety of food (get what they want) without going to one restaurant.

2 & 3 make sense. But why would you want to support a business that doesn’t offer a good product and/or a good value? Not every small business owner ought to be one.

I read the OP as saying that food trucks ARE just as or more expensive and DO serve food that is as good or worse than restaurants. i responded with my reasons as to why i don’t think they’re expensive and that i find the food good.

Ah. I read it as making a distinction between two kinds of food trucks, not as an indictment of all of them. (Warning: pedantry ahead) Because the title of the thread contains a restrictive clause (“that’s not cheaper…”) rather a nonrestrictive clause (“which isn’t cheaper…”). The former suggests that there are several categories of food trucks. The latter suggests that all of them fit into the “isn’t cheaper” category.

1 Like

Good point. I guess I understand that a lot of small businesses do not have the negotiation power (purchase volume…etc), so sometime they can be in some disadvantages. So I may give them just a little wiggle room. However, you are right… if the products are not very good, then it is difficult to support.

Not cheaper: one example is that there are some Indian trucks serving biryanis near where I live. Very small portion for like $12. Meanwhile, all the Indian restaurants serve the same thing for similar price, or maybe $15, at a much bigger portion and comes with raita, etc.

Not better: I have an acquaintance that runs a fusion taco truck. Its average to mediocre, and certainly not better than the cafeteria food nearby. I guess cafeteria doesn’t serve that kind of food, but people are willing to line up for 20 minutes to get the fusion tacos.

@boogiebaby, I presume you meant the Kogi truck? That one serves food that I can’t get anywhere else easily, so I give them credit for doing something unique. But the portion is small and the price is high, so that’s a minus. I think I posted in another thread that my wife and I paid for $20 of food some 9 years ago and was not even halfway full.


Yes, Kogi. I find their prices to be pretty reasonable – the tacos are $2.50 each, and the burritos are $7. I think the quesadilla is either $7 or $8. I usually get 3 tacos (1 tofu, 2 pork) and for $7.50, I’m full. My DH likes their burritos, and they are pretty filling. We don’t buy drinks normally, since we take the food home, but sometimes I splurge and get their Sriracha Bar (so freaking good).

I think its more of a fad than anything else. Millennials have jumped on the food truck mania and so they have become more desirable, in some instances, than a restaurant. I’m not against them at all, but as someone said, they have the allure of being cheaper when they usually aren’t.

Then again, with the jobs people are working now and sometimes not getting a lunch hour, not many people have the time to “go out to lunch”.


An entire block of food trucks set up for lunch in Arlington VA.

Yet… no human.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold