Kogi BBQ: The food trucks that get online marketing

Yesterday we talked with digital revenue consultant, Mel Taylor, about the 10 most common mistakes local businesses make online. Taylor was certainly candid. Yet in our interview, he also mentioned several local businesses that really “get” online marketing.

One business in particular stood out. This business is so small, that it doesn’t even have a brick-and-mortar storefront. But that hasn’t stopped Time Magazine from naming it a success or both Bon Appétit and Food & Wine from heaping on the awards.  Newsweek even dubbed the business “America’s first viral eatery.”

The business is Kogi BBQ and it is a fleet of gourmet food trucks that has taken Los Angeles by storm. Founded in 2008 by Mark Manguera, Kogi BBQ serves up Korean tacos daily from food trucks stationed throughout L.A.

Twitter is key to Kogi BBQ’s success. Every day @KogiBBQ tweets to its 78,000 followers where the trucks will be in L.A. and what Chef Roy Choi’s daily special is. The trucks hit the streets three times a day—at lunch, at dinner and late at night.

A schedule is also posted on Kogi BBQ’s website. To further whet their fans appetites, Kogi BBQ posts photos  that some might call “taco porn” onto Flickr, the web’s most popular photo-sharing network.

The numbers prove Kogi’s online marketing strategy is working. The wait for a Kogi taco can be more than an hour and crowds often exceed 600 people, according to Newsweek. Kogi made $2 million in revenue in its first year, on checks averaging $13, reported Time.

“Kogi BBQ is a perfect example of a small business not having to spend traditional marketing dollars—instead, they’re using free online tools to promote themselves,” Taylor says. “When those trucks pull up just before noon, there are already lines of people waiting for them. This is social media in action.”

It must be maddening for Kogi’s brick-and-mortar competitors. “Imagine you’ve spent half a million dollars to build your restaurant and here come these trucks that are just using Twitter to get the word out,” Taylor says. “This Kogi example shows just how vital social media is for small business. It also proves that a scrappy upstart with a smart online plan can beat the digitally-challenged, big guy on the block.”

-Tracy Samantha Schmidt