The Food Truck craze is taking the nation by storm, and doesn’t show any signs of decelerating. With this month’s premiere of the second season of The Great Food Truck Race on the Food Network, the mobile food trend is gaining even more momentum and fanfare. And while these sophisticated restaurants on wheels are exciting foodies and invigorating the restaurant industry, they are also interesting centers of conversation; tiny, ever-changing communities.
A recent USA today article found that for food trucks, “success is not all about the location. Or even the food. It’s about creating micro-community centers, a farm-to-truck-to-tongue-to-share-with-your-neighbor experience.” So, how do the trucks create this unique social experience – both online and off?
For many, social media plays a key role in their business. By establishing a following on Facebook or Twitter, truck owners can keep customers informed of their schedule and location. Maintaining an online presence is also an effective way to build customer loyalty and gain feedback.
According to Patrick Lynch of Boston’s own Vietnamese-inspired Bon Me Truck, “during the lunch rush, orders are coming in every 30-45 seconds. Most of the time, we can’t exchange too many details with our customers or truly engage with them on the spot. Twitter has helped us hold conversations with our customers, gather their feedback, and make changes on the truck that they will see reflected in their next visit.”
Because the trucks have lower start-up costs than typical restaurants, owners and chefs have more room to create interesting concepts. Adjusting locations and gaining exposure to customers from various walks of life also enables trucks to continue experimenting over time.
The innovative dishes aren’t the only thing drawing in city dwellers. As Lynch explained, “people enjoy the location along with their food. Food trucks can be a great motivation to get people out and into new areas of the city, like Boston’s Greenway.” And after observing the lunch and dinner time rushes at a handful of Boston’s best trucks, it’s easy to see that people also love interacting with other food truck fans. Returning customers often share tips with newcomers while waiting in line, or bring along curious friends to grab a quick bite. While eating, people use smartphones to check in to the truck’s temporary location, or send pictures of their food to friends.
By listening to their customers, remaining flexible in their product offerings and encouraging a sense of community, food trucks are filling a void in the urban food landscape. At Communispace, we love to create centers of conversation, environments that cultivate organic interactions between company and customer. But, we’ll probably leave the cooking up to our favorite food trucks.