|🚚 Which city has the most food trucks per capita? 🚚
Raleigh, North Carolina, is the best city for food truck crawls, averaging 17 food trucks per 100,000 people.
Once reserved for construction workers and special events, food trucks are now a common mainstay in many cities throughout the U.S. Food trucks soared in popularity over the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and are continuing to expand around the country. They often offer a convenient and more affordable alternative to brick-and-mortar restaurants.
Food trucks are now a $1.2 billion industry in the U.S. and have come a long way from their humble beginnings in the American West as chuckwagons on long cattle drives. As food trucks increased in popularity in recent years, though, some local governments created restrictions that made it difficult to start or operate food trucks. Some cities made permitting difficult, while others made it illegal to sell food near a brick-and-mortar restaurant.
But which cities have embraced them with open arms?
We've partnered with Roaming Hunger, the largest website in the country dedicated to food trucks and mobile food businesses, to find the best food truck cities in the country. We analyzed data from Roaming Hunger, Walk Score, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Yelp API, Google Trends, and Avalara to rank the 50 most populous metro areas in the U.S. from the best to worst cities for food trucks.
Our weighted rankings evaluated various criteria including:
- 4x: Food trucks per 100,000 residents per city
- 3x: Rank from 1-5 of each city's food truck regulatory and operational climate
- 3x: Walkability score
- 2x: Restaurant supply stores per 100,000 residents per city
- 2x: Google Trends for three food truck terms
- 1x: Sales tax rate
Read on to find out which cities are a food truck-lover's paradise!
🌮 Food Truck Statistics 🌮
The 50 Best Cities for Food Trucks in America, Ranked
|🥇 Time to Head West 🥇
Food trucks are most popular in the Western region of the U.S. Seven cities in our top 15 are located in the West. The South is right behind them, though, representing six of our top 15 food truck cities.
The 15 Best Food Truck Cities
Our top 15 cities for food trucks in America reign supreme by not only having a large number of food trucks in relation to their population but also having local governments that are open to helping food truck scenes thrive. And most importantly, they're home to foodies who seek out food trucks in particular:
- Pique interest: On average, the top 15 cities have Google Trends scores of 55 out of 100 across three food truck-related terms. Compared to the average city in our study, which has a Google Trends score of 43, that's a 28% difference.
- Food trucks all over town: The top 15 cities have an average of 8.7 food trucks per 100,000 residents. Compare this to the average city in our study, with 6.1 food trucks per 100,000 residents — a 43% difference.
- Easygoing: The average city in the top 15 has an ease of operation score of 4 out of 5, 33% higher than the average city in our study, which scores 3.
Wondering what else makes the top 15 stand out? We'll tell you how below!
1. Portland, Oregon
|🌟 Food Trucks Galore
You won't struggle to find a food truck in this city. Portland has 10.2 food trucks per 100,000 people — that's 67% more than the average city in our study, which has 6.1.
Portland is known around the country for its rich food scene, so it's no surprise it's also replete with food trucks. City legislators have been very receptive to food trucks in contrast to other cities around the country. This gives Portland an ease of operation score of 4, which is only hindered from being a solid 5 due to the high cost of getting licensed in the city.
Portland is also home to several food truck parks where diners can check out multiple trucks at once. Couple this with Portland's outstanding walkability score of 67 (24% higher than the average city in our study), and you've got the convenience most cities can't beat.
Foodies will want to check out the city's highest-rated food truck, Bing Mi, which features a variety of jianbing, or Chinese crepes. Another can't-miss truck is Potato Champion, which serves up poutine to-go. Take advantage of Portland's 0% sales tax rate, the lowest of any city on our list, and leave a generous tip when you visit!
2. Raleigh, North Carolina
|🌊 Smooth Sailing in Raleigh
No need to stress about opening a food truck in this city. Raleigh received our highest ease of operation score of 5, 67% higher than the average city in our study (3).
Not only is it easy to set up a food truck in Raleigh, there's also a lot of great company. Raleigh ranked No. 1 for most food trucks per 100,000 residents out of all our cities (17.2).
Raleigh is home to food trucks such as CockADoodleMoo, which specializes in wings and barbecue, and the interestingly named Gym Tacos, which, you guessed it, has really great tacos (not made in a sweaty gym).
Food trucks are extremely popular in Raleigh, where food truck-related terms have a Google Trends score of 74 out of 100 — 72% higher than the average score of 43. On your next visit to Raleigh, you can not only enjoy the city's many oak trees but also delicious food you can take with you on the go.
3. Salt Lake City, Utah
|🎛 SLC's Got Ya Covered
Salt Lake City has the most restaurant supply stores per 100,000 residents out of every city in our study. At 0.6 stores per 100,000 residents, that's 200% more than the average city, which only has 0.2.
Salt Lake City is known for many things, from having one of the largest salt lakes in the world to a unique punk scene like no other. People might be surprised to see it ranked so highly on the list of best food truck cities, but SLC is a great place to not only enjoy food trucks but also to open one up.
SLC also received a perfect ease of operation score of 5 alongside Raleigh. Its local government has one of the most supportive programs for food truck businesses. Couple that with the amount of restaurant supply stores (0.6 per 100,000 residents), and it may just be the best place to open up a mobile restaurant.
Although SLC also has a decent walkability score of 59 out of 200 (compared to the average of 54 in our study), you may just want to check out its popular food truck park, Soho Food Park,
where there are several great food trucks in the same location.
4. Austin, Texas
|🍔 Keep Austin … Fed?!
Austin ranks No. 2 for most food trucks at 13.2 food trucks per 100,000 residents. Some locals boast that there is a "food truck on every block" in the weirdest city.
Austin seemingly has a plethora of food trucks because the locals are so gung-ho for them. Austin has a perfect Google Trends score of 100 across three food truck-related terms. That's 133% higher than the average city in our study (43).
Austin is not only home to the Texas State Capitol but also the much-beloved Plow Burger, a vegan food truck chain with multiple locations around the city. Another hotspot for food truck lovers is La Tunita 512, which sells wheely-good birria tacos and quesadillas.
Austin is another example of supportive locals convincing city officials to embrace food trucks by making it easier to open them. The Austin area has an ease of operation score of 4 out of 5, which is 33% higher than the average city (3).
5. Orlando, Florida
|🌯 Most Magical Place on Earth … for Food Trucks
Orlandoans (and its tourists) are quite obsessed with food trucks! Orlando ranks No. 2 for Google Trends across all food truck-related terms with a score of 76.
Orlando is more than just Disney World. The sunny city actually has a reputation as a great place to visit if you're a fan of food trucks. Food trucks aren't just convenient for locals but also busy tourists who need a quick bite to eat.
O-Town has 10.1 food trucks per 100,000 residents, which is 66% more than the average city in our study (6.1 per 100,000 residents). Two of the most popular food trucks in Orlando are the Tamale Co. and Voodoo Kitchen.
The city also receives high marks for being food truck-friendly at the regulatory level with a perfect ease of operation score of 5, making it easy for food trucks to thrive.
6. Denver, Colorado
|⛰ A Mountain of Food Trucks
The Mile High City has 10 food trucks per 100,000 residents — that's 64% more than the average city in our study, which has 6.1.
Denver's great weather and walkability score of 61 (13% higher than average) make it ideal for food truck hopping. This will make your visit to Kiké's Red Tacos enjoyable and provide great photo ops.
Denver is also a great city if you're a food truck owner. It has an ease of operation score of 4 out of 5 as well as 0.3 restaurant supply stores per 100,000 residents compared to the average of 0.2. Locals are also quite interested in checking out new food trucks in the area, giving Denver a 35% higher Google Trends score on food truck-related terms than the average city.
7. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
|👌 More Than Just OK
Oklahoma City is another major metro that received perfect marks (5) on ease of operation. OKC officials recognize that food trucks are a major part of developing a city's culture, and it's fairly painless to open one in the city.
Because the legal hoops for opening a food truck are minimal in Oklahoma City, there are also a good number of food trucks from which to choose. OKC ranks No. 3 for number of food trucks, with 10.6 food trucks per 100,000 residents. It also ranks No.6 for restaurant supply stores at 0.4 per 100,000 residents, which is good news for both owners and patrons alike. No one enjoys heading out to their favorite food truck only to realize it's closed due to a hard-to-find piece of equipment being broken.
Although Oklahoma City's walkability score isn't great (34 out of 100), the sheer number of food trucks available around town more than makes up for it. We've found that locals consider the Southern-style food truck Chef Ray's Streets Eats one of the best of the bunch.
8. Providence, Rhode Island
|🏃 Walk It Off
Providence has a walkability score of 76, 41% higher than the average city — perfect for getting in that recommended walk to fend off the itis.
Although Providence may be more well-known as the most bookish city in America, it's actually a great place for enjoying food trucks! Locals love places such as The Shuckin' Truck and Championship Melt, where you can take advantage of delicious seafood and "melts," respectively.
Locals are also fairly fervent about food trucks, given that Providence's Google Trends score is 55 out of 100, or 28% higher than the average city.
If you're a food truck owner, the seaside city also offers a generous 0.5 restaurant supply stores per 100,000 residents, which is 150% more than average.
9. San Jose, California
|🏞 Food Truck Valley
San Jose has more than just startups. With 9.5 food trucks per 100,000 residents, it has 56% more food trucks than the average city.
As the capital of Silicon Valley, people typically associate San Jose with tech entrepreneurs and the corporate world. San Jose, however, has a great food truck scene that's perfect for lunch outings for all the companies headquartered in the city. Techies in the city love places such as Hula Truck.
The city of San Jose has an ease of operation score of 4 out of 5, which is 33% higher than the average city's score of 3. Although the city has clear-cut steps for getting fully licensed and approved to open, like many Californian cities, it has steep fees associated with getting up and running.
The good news is that San Jose has 100% more restaurant supply stores than the average American city at 0.4, so food truck owners can rest easy knowing they'll be able to find the equipment and supplies they need to serve their customers.
10. Tampa, Florida
|🌴 Fees Are a Breeze
Setting up shop in Tampa is a breeze! Tampa received a perfect ease of operation score of 5. Compared to other major metros, the associated fees for starting a food truck are lower, and the hoops owners need to go through to get started are few.
In Tampa, you can enjoy its great weather as well as a variety of food trucks. Catch some rays and start your morning with Marlene's Original Breakfast Sandwich and later grab some taquitos at Los Chapos Tacos for lunch.
There are other notable metrics that make Tampa a great place for food trucks. Its Google Trends score of 56 out of 100 is 30% higher than average and indicates that people in the area are supportive of food trucks, which is great for keeping businesses afloat.
And although Tampa doesn't have the lowest sales tax rate among the list, compared to places such as Chicago and Seattle with sales tax rates of 10.25%, Tampa foodies only have to pay a 7.5% tax rate on their bites.
11. San Antonio, Texas
|🌭 Remember the Food Trucks
Folks in San Antone love their food trucks so much, they're frequently searching for them. San Antonio has a Google Trends score of 61 out of 100 across all food truck-related terms, 42% higher than the average city.
San Antonio has a rich cultural food scene, and foodies from around the country flock to the central Texan town just to check out its many food trucks. With 6.6 food trucks per 100,000 residents, San Antonio has 8% more food trucks than most cities in the U.S.
Local legislators also know that food trucks are a huge draw in the city, so they've done their best to streamline the licensing process. San Antonio is another city with a perfect ease of operation score of 5 mostly due to its incredibly clear-cut application process.
Two of the most popular and beloved food trucks in the area are El Cevichero, which serves some of the best ceviche around, and Carnitas Don Raúl which sells Michoacan-style carnitas tacos, tortas, and more.
12. Seattle, Washington
|🎸 Walk 'n' Roll
Seattle has a fantastic walkability score of 74 out of 100, which is 37% higher than the average city. This is perfect for sightseeing around the city with your favorite food in hand if your preferred mode of transportation isn't a car.
One of the best things about Seattle is its gorgeous seaside where you can catch awesome views of elephant seals and orca whales. While taking in the view, you can also enjoy several quality food trucks that call the city home.
With a Google Trends score of 51 out of 100, Seattle's interest in food trucks is 19% higher than the average city. A food truck that has passed locals' taste test is Kathmandu MoMocha,
a spot that specializes in Nepalese cuisine.
Seattle also rates fairly high for overall food truck-friendliness with an ease of operation score of 4 out of 5. That's 33% higher than the average city in our study.
13. San Francisco, California
|🥇 Best in Strolls
San Francisco has the highest walkability score in our study! At 89 out of 100, it's 65% more walkable than the average city.
Those focused on being both environmentally friendly and active consider a city's walkability a huge factor in how much they'll enjoy checking out its food trucks.
If that sounds like you, you'll want to check out one of Golden City's highest-rated vegan food trucks, Viva Vegan, which has vegan birria tacos. There's also Rasa Rasa, an Indonesian fusion food truck that has something to delight everyone.
With at least five food trucks per 100,000 residents, San Francisco is sure to have a food truck that tickles your fancy.
14. Phoenix, Arizona
|🏜 A Food Truck Oasis
Who knew the desert had so many food trucks? With 6.6 food trucks per 100,000 residents, Phoenix has 8% more food trucks than the average city.
Phoenix is mostly known for its professional basketball team, the Suns, and its beautiful desert gardens and resorts. But the city known as The Valley of the Sun could also be known as The Valley of the Food Trucks.
Phoenix is another city tied as the most food truck-friendly. It has a perfect ease of operation score of 5, bolstered by the city's relaxed zoning laws that makes finding hip, new spots for food trucks fairly easy.
Check out Chubasco Tacos, which is within walking distance of Footprint Center where the Suns play, or Froth Coffee Roasters, a food truck coffee shop, if you're the type of person who likes a cup of joe on the go.
15. Las Vegas, Nevada
|🎰 Dealing … Ovens?
With so many great restaurants nestled in its plethora of resorts and casinos, it's not a surprise that Las Vegas is tied with Salt Lake City for the most restaurant supply stores per 100,000 residents at 0.6. Restaurant supply stores aren't just important to brick-and-mortar restaurants but to food trucks as well.
As a city that never sleeps, food trucks are a great option for late-night partygoers looking for a quick bite to eat. Las Vegas is home to 7.2 food trucks per 100,000 residents, which is 18% more than the average city.
Locals love treating themselves to food trucks such as The Cookie Bar, which specializes in a variety of cookies and other handheld desserts. Just be sure to order ahead of time. Another option for those who want to venture outside The Strip is the similarly named Stripchezze food truck, which sells an epic combination of grilled cheese sandwiches and mac and cheese rolls.
Data Details: Top 5 Rankings by Category
|Best Food Truck Cities
|Worst Food Truck Cities
The 10 Worst Cities for Food Trucks
Not every city is on the food truck train, with some that are even slightly antagonistic toward food trucks. These are the 10 least food truck-friendly cities in America:
- Virginia Beach, Virginia
- Chicago, Illinois
- Detroit, Michigan
- Dallas, Texas
- Riverside, California
- Cincinnati, Ohio
- Birmingham, Alabama
- Boston, Massachusetts
- New York City, New York
- Nashville, Tennessee
A major factor that contributes to these cities' low ranking is how their local officials have reacted to food trucks' increasing popularity. In many of these cities, it's extremely difficult to get started as a food truck owner. Our last-place city, Virginia Beach, Virginia, is one of these cities.
Virginia Beach received the lowest possible ease of operation score possible, a 1 out of 5. It not only has a reputation for being anti-food truck given its restrictive zoning laws, but it also has a local government that has moved incredibly slow to even introduce regulations for food trucks. If there aren't clear regulations, it's hard for food truck owners to open.
As a result, Virginia Beach only has 28 food trucks in total, compared to Los Angeles, which has the most food trucks out of any city in the study with 715.
Alongside Virginia Beach, the bottom 10 have an average ease of operation score of 2 out of 5. That's 50% lower than the top 15 cities (4) and 33% lower than the average city in our study (3).
Barriers in all the bottom cities range from restrictive zoning laws we mentioned and confusing requirements to expensive application and licensing fees. This in turn results in these cities not having very many food trucks to enjoy.
The bottom 10 cities have fewer food trucks per 100,000 residents overall. They have an average of 3.7 food trucks per 100,000 people — 57% less than the top 15 cities (8.7) and 39% less than the average city (6.1).
The bottom 10 cities are less interested in food trucks as well. They only have an average Google Trends score of 34 out of 100, which is 38% lower than the top 15 cities and 21% lower than the average city in our study. Perhaps as these cities' governments open up to food trucks, interest in them will increase and contribute to adding more diverse options to their local food scenes.
Clever compared the 50 most populous U.S. metro areas across a number of metrics, listed below. Each metric was normalized and then graded on a 100-point scale. The combined weighted average of the scores determined the "food truck city" score upon which the final ranking was based.
In cases where data sets included only cities or other statistical areas, the city data was combined into the overall metro in which the city belonged to the extent of the available data. In cases where data sets included only counties, county data was crosswalked with metropolitan data. In cases where data sets included only states, the state where the largest portion of the metro is located was used.
The metrics used are as follows:
- Food trucks per 100,000 residents per city
- 1-5 ranking of each city's food truck regulatory and operational climate (ease of operation or food truck friendliness)
- Restaurant supply stores per 100,000 residents per city
- Google Trends for three food truck terms
- Walkability score
- Sales tax rate
To determine how food truck-friendly a city may be, we rated each city from 1-5 (5 being the best) based on a combination of four metrics:
- The cost to permit/license a food truck
- The number of hoops food truck owners may need to jump through to get the necessary permits/licenses
- The overall ease of operation when it comes to actually vending from your truck (where you can operate, if it costs extra for parking, etc.).
- The legality of serving alcohol
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About Roaming Hunger
Roaming Hunger is a booking marketplace to find and book over 18,000 of the best food trucks, carts, and caterers to feed your community. Since 2009, from backyard birthdays to large-scale festivals, Roaming Hunger has helped thousands of hosts and vendors connect to provide food service and catering all over the United States. Along with catering, their experiential marketing agency, RMNG, also does food truck promotions and mobile marketing tours for brands of all sizes.
More Research from Clever
Frequently Asked Questions
Which U.S. city has the most food trucks?
The Los Angeles metro area has the most food trucks of any other in the U.S. 715 food trucks call the LA-area home.
How much do food trucks cost to open?
Brand new food trucks made to your specifications will typically cost at least $75,000. You can take out a loan for the purchase similar to buying a car. Used food trucks are typically a bit cheaper, ranging from $40,000 to $80,000. Depending on the complexity of the food truck itself, you may be able to score a simple, used food truck for less than $10,000. You can also consider renting a food truck for about $2,000 a month.
How much do food trucks make?
The average food truck operation has a profit margin of 7.7%. This means that a food truck earning $20,000 in sales each month will pull in just $1,540 in profit each month. Some extremely popular food trucks can earn over $400,000 a year, but on average, most popular food trucks make less than $50,000 in sales each month. That may be worth it if you're passionate about food and want to become your own boss!