It’s a trend that’s been booming in big cities nationwide is popping up here in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Food trucks – and not just hot dogs and pretzels. We’re talking about gourmet food on the go in our area.
Research has shown that over the past five years food trucks and street vendors has become one of the fastest growing industries in the country.
New York City and Philadelphia are crawling with food trucks, and those in the driver’s seat say northeastern Pennsylvania isn’t far behind.
Things like sliders stuffed with pepper jack cheese, pulled pork tacos, turkey sandwiches with cranberry bacon jam, butternut squash and pear bisque are just a few of the items you’ll find on the menu of What the Fork food truck in Dunmore.
“It’s just original and good,” said customer Dakota Miller from Dunmore.
Mario Bevilacqua, co-owner of What the Fork said, “The overwhelming response… It really is incredible just with eleven weeks.”
What the Fork food truck opened for business in July.
With co-owners Mario Bevilacqua and Katie Graziosi at the helm, the creative menu and eye-catching bright green motif have become the talk of the town.
Amy Yesnowski from Old Forge says she visits the food truck “Two to three times a week at least. Everything’s really different… they put a lot of hard work into it.”
With the advantage of being able to change locations at a moment’s notice, running a food truck also has its challenges.
“We have to hide our dirty dishes everywhere that we could possibly put them and try to do them in a sink smaller than a bathroom sink. We have to get along really well because we’re really close to each other all day long.”
Being a food truck, it’s not in the same place at the same time everyday. So how does one find the What the Fork food truck? By using social media.
“We’re a social media company,” said Bevilacqua. “We just happen to serve food. There’s no way we would do the business we do without Twitter and Facebook.”
Reality shows like the Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck Race” have fueled the fire for what’s been called one of the hottest up and coming industries for start-up businesses.
This billion dollar industry has the next generation of chefs ready to get behind the wheel.
Melodie Jordan is the Culinary Arts Curriculum Coordinator for Keystone College, and says a food truck is an appealing option for a young entrepreneur.
“The fact that the customer changes, it’s different faces everyday. And it doesn’t get boring,” said Jordan.
Another perk? A more manageable investment.
Jordan says the start-up costs for a brick and mortar restaurant can be upwards of $500,000.
The start-up costs for a food truck are around $60-70,000.
Jordan says she expects the food truck industry will continue to grow in our area and expand into untapped markets like the natural gas industry.
“Because they can go mobile into country sites where there might not be mobile food available for the people who are working at the gas wells, they can go right in there,” explained Jordan.
A unique challenge our region presents: winter weather.
The owner of Johnnie’s Cheesesteaks, a mobile vendor in Scranton, says because business slows down in the winter, he runs a weekends-only operation October through March.
This will be What the Fork’s first winter. Mario and Katie say they are making preparations to brave the elements as best they can.
Jason Prutzman at the Magic Bus Cafe food truck in Wilkes-Barre runs a year-round operation, and also offers unique and tasty lunch options.
He’s been in business for about a year and hopes more food trucks will help break down stereotypes.
“To get people to not be, ‘Oh, I’m not eating out of the food truck,’ to be like, ‘Oh, that truck’s got bangin’ food.’ It works in a lot of other progressive towns, so let’s see if we can get it going here.”
Many food trucks post their locations and times on Facebook and Twitter every day.
To find locations and hours: