Restaurant Competition in San Francisco: The Rise of the Food Truck Industry

imgresFood is great. It keeps you alive, it keeps you healthy… and it usually tastes pretty awesome. As far as food goes , America is known for its unique and diverse collection of food. As far as food in America, nothing says unique to me like San Francisco. However, with the multitudes of restaurants in San Francisco popping up at such a rapid rate, some foodies have resorted to a rather unconventional approach to serving food…

imagesFor the sake of clarity and relevance, the actual history of San Francisco will not be mentioned in this post. What will be mentioned however, is the history of food in San Francisco.

Before the 1850s, San Francisco was a fairly boring food spot. The dungeness crab industry was very large in the early portion of the 1800s, however rampant commercial fishing left San Francisco Bay rather empty. Without the crab industry, it wasn’t until 1848 during the gold rush that things really started to take off for the food scene in San Francisco.

With the sudden increase in prospective miners from Asia, Europe, South America, and Australia, culture from these continents were also introduced. As years went on, the restaurant industry got bigger and bigger. This rapid growth caused competition, some restaurants went out of business, new ones opened up, etc. For example, there’s a block of extremely cheap (dollar burgers / drinks / etc) restaurants that many of my friends and family call the “block of death”. It’s known by this title because of the absurd number of restaurants that have come and gone in the one available lot on that block. In the ~3 years this block of cutthroats has been operating no less than 12 different restaurants have opened their doors only to close them months (or in one case weeks, R.I.P Cereal Killers) later.

This trend of competition continued throughout the years (as it does in any restaurant-heavy area), until a bright eyed restauranteur had a brilliant thought: Instead of having the customer come to the food… why not bring the food to the customer?


Food trucks did exist as early at the mid-late 1800s, but the modern food truck we know and love today didn’t come onto the scene until the 1900s, and then it wasn’t until mid 2000 that food trucks appeared en-masse in San Francisco.

And now… the modern food truck in San Francisco. Now considered by many as quintessential fare, the food truck scene exploded onto the scene with remarkable speed and success. I remember a couple years ago, you could only find certain food trucks roving downtown. Now, food trucks are everywhere in massive number all serving different cuisines from all around the world. And it isn’t just “traditional” food either. Influenced by the new age hipsters in San Francisco as well as the competition to be “better and different” than their competitors, food trucks began developing… particular foods. Soon fried chicken waffle sandwiches with Korean hot sauce, and Filipino burritos with french fries and jalapeños became “normal” foods to find.

Fairly soon food truck conventions began popping up all around the Bay Area, specifically “Off The Grid”, a massive 32 food truck gathering with live music and festivities.


The food truck boom across America has been a huge step forward in modern food, and San Francisco is no exception. With more and more culture diverse food trucks appearing everyday, it looks like food trucks are here to stay.



2 thoughts on “Restaurant Competition in San Francisco: The Rise of the Food Truck Industry

  1. zukindr says:

    I have not eaten at many food trucks, but I believe most food trucks generally serve some form of cheap food that can be made quickly. Since there are so many fast food restaurants in San Francisco do you believe the “success factor’ of the food truck business is the fact that they are restaurants on wheels, or that they server better food than the grounded restaurants?


  2. I find the whole idea of food trucks extremely brilliant, even though I’ve never personally eaten from one. It combines accessibility with cheap prices and a unique (sometimes healthy) taste. As a consumer, you feel better about yourself spending your money at a local food truck rather than a fast food alternative like McDonalds. I see food trucks going very far, particularly in the corporate world where people want to be able to get a high quality meal fast. Plus as a producer, I imagine a food truck kitchen is much cheaper and easier to maintain than one in a restaurant. A win-win for both consumer and producer!


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