Chefs and foodies love food trucks. But detractors—often restaurants and their associations—say food trucks harm restaurants, prompting many cities to enact regulations designed to protect restaurants from food truck competition. This study puts that claim to the test. It uses 12 years of county-level census data to explore whether growth in the number of food trucks results in fewer restaurants. It finds that as food trucks took off, the restaurant industry continued to grow. Digging deeper, statistical analysis shows food truck growth is not followed by restaurant decline—precisely the opposite of the detractors’ predictions. These results strongly suggest that food trucks have been unfairly maligned. To right this injustice, cities should re­peal anticompetitive food truck restrictions and ensure any remaining food truck regulations are narrowly targeted to protecting the public’s health and safety. Increas­ing food truck freedom can allow entrepreneurs to pursue the American Dream while also promoting business growth and allowing communities to flourish.


Executive Summary


Budding culinary entrepreneurs love food trucks because they are a less expensive way for chefs with big dreams but little cash to open their own businesses. Consumers love them because they provide a wide variety of delicious foods conveniently. But opponents (usually restaurants and their associations) allege that the very things many people love about food trucks—their lower startup and operating costs and their mobile nature—give them an unfair advantage and risk putting brick-and-mortar restaurants out of business. Accordingly, opponents have lobbied municipalities, often successfully, for a variety of restrictions on food trucks.

This study puts food truck opponents’ concerns to the test. Specifically, it uses 12 years of county-level census data on food trucks and restaurants to explore whether growth in the number of food trucks results in fewer restaurants.

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Key Findings

By the numbers, food trucks do not appear to represent a major threat to the restaurant industry.

The number of food trucks in one year has no effect on the number of restaurants in the next year.

Food trucks may complement the restaurant industry.

Press Release

Check out this report's press release and contact our media team member for additional information.

Dan King
Communications Project Manager
[email protected]

Press Release

Public Interest Law Firm Calls on Town of Parksley to Repeal Unconstitutional Food Truck Ban 

  • Matthew Prensky
  • November 02, 2023

ARLINGTON, Va.—Today, the Institute for Justice (IJ) sent a letter to town officials in Parksley, Virginia, calling on them to repeal a near-total ban on […]

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