Adapt or Die: Food Truck Model

You may remember me talking about business Darwinism (adapt or die) on the blog a while back. Today’s restaurant industry is a prime example of Darwinian business choices in action. Chefs of all experience levels are moving to food trucks as way to create pop-up markets for their food at a price people can afford.

The food truck model allows the chef or restaurant owner to reduce costs and/or potentially down size a restaurant that isn’t doing well without giving up their dream. In some cases the food truck replaces a restaurant altogether. In other cases it compliments it. Still other chefs who might not have had the budget or experience to open a full restaurant are using the food truck model to jump start their dream of cooking for the public without the high risk of failure in the first three years that haunts many restaurants.

The ability to reach new markets with a food truck (in effect a portable dining experience) is unparalleled. While there is a fine line between not staying in one place long enough to garner a crowd and leaving too late for the next location, the mere fact that you can move your food truck if you are having a bad sales day is appealing and helps the business survive. If you have great food and optimize social media like Kogi BBQ started doing so long ago (the first food truck to use Twitter to report it’s location – fabulous marketing tactic and unique to them in the beginning), then you can create a loyal following that will follow you to each new location, growing your customer base exponentially.

The food truck business model has certainly come a long way from the days of the “roach coach” that would bring greasy food to the parking lots of offices, schools and construction sites. As the food served has gotten more upscale and increased in variety, the need for good marketing has increased as well. Some sites have started popping up to help people find food trucks near them, as the food truck foodie culture is growing right along side the proliferating trucks. Curious to see what trucks are near you? Here’s a few sites (some that also have mobile apps) that will help you find your local trucks:

Street Eats

Find LA Food Trucks

Austin Food Carts

Mobi Munch

Food Truck Fiesta

Miami Food Trucks

Some food trucks, such as Kogi, are using social media very well. Twitter is ideal for mobile business of all types like this, since you can announce your location each time it changes and build an online rapport with your strongest supporters, finding out in real time what they like about your food and what they’d love to see added or improved. You can even get real time traffic and weather feed back from your followers, allowing you to shift location choices accordingly.

Foursquare is an interesting service for a food truck, since they move around. However, you can place your location as a tip on the nearby businesses Foursquare walls as one way to use it to get the word out about your location. I’d advise NOT posting your tip to a restaurant’s location wall, but instead to a complimentary business, as posting to a restaurant wall would be considered rude.

Facebook, aside from giving you a handy place to have a presence where true fans can rave about you, may no longer be a great place for the time strapped food truck owner to be. Because of changes in the timeline, Facebook has become more story-heavy for businesses. People will see more of you is you post more stories, and more compelling stories, than the usual “we are here today” type of post. If you don’t think you’ll have time to generate video and photo content that tells a compelling story, Facebook may make a better outpost than focus point for your truck.

YouTube is a great place for food trucks to market. What better way to display how happy your fans are than to create a video interview series or to capture their stories (and yours) in short videos that you can share with people on your website (you still need a website that you own) and other social sites?

What other social media do you see food trucks using? What “future social” do you think will most benefit a mobile business such as the food truck industry? Do you see Google + and its Hangouts (video) and Messenger (text/chat) feature as being useful to mobile business?

How can you apply the food truck model to your business to make it more portable?

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