Ethnic food, like Thai or Cuban, is becoming more popular, and increasingly, people are finding out about it thanks to food trucks, which are cruising more and more American streets.

The food truck movement is helping ethnic street cuisine make its way into more and more neighborhoods and into the mainstream, allowing these new flavors to enter brick-and-mortar establishments in increasing numbers. Two well-known examples of this are Chipotle’s test concept, Shop House, and the Spanish chain 100 Montaditos, which only has a small US presence now, but hopes to open at least 4,000 more American units in the next five years. These examples are offering a new style of “global street food,” all because of food trucks who have changed the way international casual food has become part of the regular dining experience.

Part of the appeal of food trucks to consumers, according to experts, is that they cook their own culture’s food, which makes the fare more authentic. Food trucks and their cuisine are also important to millennials, the demographic that loves to experiment with new tastes, as well. A Technomic 2011 Food Trucks Innovation report showed that 42 percent of consumers aged 18 to 30 indicated they visit food trucks at least once a week, and 38 percent of consumers aged 31 to 40 said the same thing.

Food trucks aren’t solely responsible for the rise in interest in ethnic street food, but they’ve helped create the rise in demand and popularity in ethnic food and food trucks that has swept the nation. Right now, “international food” is largely unnoticed by most of the fast-food chains except Jack in the Box, yet there are two areas of potential growth for food truck owners who want to grow their own franchises, and those are brick-and-mortar restaurants, and moving into supermarkets, according to experts.

One operator, who opened the fast-casual chain Spicy Pickle, started a food truck in Denver called Pinche Tacos, which sold “Mexican street food. Five months later the operator opened a permanent Pinche Tacos. It was an inexpensive way to test out the market to see what kind of feedback he got before he went into the more expensive brick-and-mortar establishment. Why open a more expensive restaurant in these hard economic times? To build up the brand toward a bigger endeavor, getting it into the prepared-foods section of local grocery stores. That’s the operator’s ultimate goal, and the restaurant is a stepping stone toward that goal.


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