Skip to content

OPLIN 4cast #384: Lessons from food trucks

Posted in 4cast

food truckIf you spend much time in a city, you are familiar with food trucks, the colorful mobile restaurants that seem to be everywhere from mid-morning to midnight. The parking lot of our office building hosts a different food truck a couple of days a week, and we’ve noticed that people drive to our building just to find their favorite food truck for lunch. So if “foodmobiles” are so popular, why do bookmobiles seem to be a slowly dying breed? Sure, food is more popular than books (for most people, anyway), but we know books are not exactly unpopular. Maybe libraries can learn something from the food trucks.

  • The new cool kid on the block: How food trucks evolved from roach coaches to cultural phenomena (The Huffington Post/Jane Seo)  “With their relatively low marketing and operational costs, food trucks proved to be extremely prosperous; within a couple of years, the business solidified as a lucrative venture that chefs lauded as being more rewarding and financially feasible than maintaining brick-and-mortar restaurants. But economics only partly explain the transformation of the food truck business. Perhaps an even bigger factor is the change in its customer base, which can be noted by the type of food served in these food trucks as well as the role of social media in spreading their popularity.”
  • How smartphones and social media dialed up the food truck boom and increased access to food variety [pdf] (The George Washington University/Elliot Anenberg and Edward Kung)  “Figure 1 shows that food truck revenues started growing very rapidly in 2007, achieving almost a 50% growth in revenue over 5 years and reaching $1.5 billion in 2012. Figure 1 also shows that 2007 was the year that the iPhone, one of the first popular smartphones capable of accessing the internet from anywhere, was released. We will present evidence that this was no coincidence, as new mobile technology resolves an information friction complicating the entire food truck business model. In this way, we will show how mobile technology can facilitate a new mode of economic activity that was largely not profitable before.”
  • 20 social media tips for food trucks (Pam Moore, “The Marketing Nut”)  “Your greatest opportunity to engage with visiting customers to your food truck is immediately after they experienced your food. It is then they still remember the smells and tastes within their mouth. Be sure to check your social profiles daily for comments, new fans. Engage with them, talk to them like human beings. Let them know you appreciate them. Invest in doing some social listening to know what customers are saying about your brand.”
  • 7 marketing lessons from a food truck (215Marketing)  “You can have the best product or service, but if your consumer perceives it as low quality, you’ll quickly find yourself out of business. Food Trucks are a great example of this and I find myself completely disregarding the trucks with poor design, rusty bumpers, or lazy presentation for the more fancy trucks with graphic vinyl wrapping and creative food choices. Perception can be everything in most industries and is the main reason companies form strong brands.”

Alternative fact:
Research conducted by the National Restaurant Association last year indicated that 19% of “fast casual restaurants” planned to start operating a food truck as an alternative venue to their brick-and-mortar operations.