Remember when street food meant old hotdogs in dingy, yellow water and stale buns? Well my friends, those days are over! Welcome to the age of the food truck.
Food trucks, originally called chuck wagons, have made monumental progress since they originated in the wild, wild west after the Civil War. Luckily, they no longer include items such as dried beans and castor oil (and we don’t have to be driving cattle in order to enjoy the culinary miracles of dry cornbread and greasy bacon). Now we enjoy gourmet mac & cheese, rosemary pear infused lemonade and coconut popsicles.
The recent surge in food trucks is due in great part to the recession (yes, something good has come about from the recession!). Many high-end chefs were being laid off from their restaurant jobs. Instead of putting their experience to waste, they went down the food truck path. Other food trucks have been started by regular “Joe Shmoes” who were laid-off from corporate jobs. This has made for a wide variety of food truck themes and food expertise. Mom’s meatloaf can be just as coveted as a Gruyere prosciutto grilled cheese. But the goal is to be unique.
Indy's West Coast Tacos. Photo by Mark Lee.
What’s remarkable about food trucks (and the point of my post) is their ability to use grassroots marketing to get the word out. The goal is to bring in new people to sample. Sample. Taste. Love. Buy. Devoted Fan. Once a truck has these devoted fans, it is crucial to use social media marketing to maintain that fan base. Truck owners know that without access to their customers through Facebook and Twitter, they wouldn’t be successful. And it’s FREE marketing for the truck!
Food trucks don’t even consider traditional advertising to increase their business. Word of mouth is gold to a food truck’s business. With social networking, word of mouth has become gospel and food trucks are capitalizing on that trend. Food trucks create Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. With one successful “retweet-for-a-discount campaign” or “create a signature flavor contest” hundreds (sometimes thousands) of people begin following a truck via their preferred form of social networking. The truck then has the ability to communicate with these hungry followers on a daily basis, letting their followers know where they will be as well as take location requests.
Duos Mac & Cheese. Photo by FullyLoadedTercel.
Food trucks are hip and trendy. But they have mastered grassroots marketing unlike any other industry (with the exception of Scion). By creating a unique menu and a geocaching-type challenge, it’s not just lunch – it’s a BLAST (pun intended)!