It’s Friday so let’s have a little fun with food trucks.
I am usually way ahead of the curve or way behind. In the case of gourmet food trucks, I’m way behind. I had been hearing sweet and savory murmurings from my hipster friends for several months now but had not completed my research by enjoying a portable feast.
For foodies, gourmet food trucks are a movement that brings delicious food your way through a game of virtual tag following the trucks on Twitter.
For businesses, it’s a great way to provide a welcome “Thank You” perk to your employees regularly and while you’re doing that support your fellow neighborhood businesses.
Gourmet and specialty food trucks have become a craze over the past several years from coast to coast. They’re big in Los Angeles, Austin and New York and gaining speed in places like Seattle. Reportedly they weren’t really happening here in Chicago until last year, when the start-up Gaztro-wagon [with wondrous Indian naan sandwiches ] worked to change Chicago’s laws so trucks could operate more easily.
On Wednesday, though, when I started researching this post, near the top of Google, I discovered NPR was asking: Is The L.A. Food Truck Bubble Ready To Burst?
NPR says LA’s food tech bubble is endangered by fighting among the trucks over territory and wagon rights. Sounds dramatic. I was worried. Could food trucks be over before I had even sampled a Torpedo from The Meatyballs Mobile or the Chocolate Best Friend Forever from Flirty Cupcakes? I learned later that Chicago doesn’t have anything like LA’s crowding problem.
I’ve been blaming my ignorance on the fact that I work at home in my leafy residential Chicago neighborhood. Food trucks started to feel like a reason to work downtown again.
A hipper friend of a friend helped me sort out what I’d been missing.
“The hard thing is figuring out when they are going to be where they are supposed to be,” said Dave Short, an IT pro who at times works from home in his North Side neighborhood, which is near a soft industrial corridor. “I started to follow a couple on FB. ‘Here’s our schedule for today…’ They say they will be one place and then, you don’t know exactly when they are going to be there.”
“But, if you follow them on Twitter, they are constantly saying where they are,” he said. “They all use the same funny language- we’ve landed!” And then there’s a foodie flash mob.
Dave said that the day he added one food truck to his Twitter feed, it happened to be visiting a business literally around the corner from his place.
“There’s a line of 30 people and the whole company lined up there to buy whoopie pies,” Dave said. “They were really really good,” he says emphasizing the second “really.”
That’s how Dave acquired the Food Truck Twitter habit.
“I had not even used Twitter before,” Dave said. “The only reason I started doing it was to add the trucks.”
This blog and others have cited the social media skills of food trucks. It’s true they are ubiquitous on the Internet. You can follow the trucks by name. They all have Twitter feeds. Nearly all are on Facebook and most have websites. Or you can follow food truck bloggers and subscribe to their lists they’ve assembled out of passion as a service to the trucks they love and to the seekers like you and me. Just do like I did, Google, “Food Trucks” “your city” and see what comes up.
But here’s the fun Friday part and the part that could be interesting to a business audience. I hung up from my call with Dave and decided to check out this national map called the TruxMap. The map appears to be in a nascent stage and it listed only two trucks in Chicago. One called The Lunch Machine was scheduled to land just a few blocks from me in three minutes!
The Lunch Machine was parked in a spot outside a nearby electronics distribution business, Newark InOne, that employs several hundred people. When I arrived about a dozen people were already lined up.
It seems the employees of NewarkinOne knew about the food truck because they’d gotten an email notification from the company management that it was coming. The Lunch Machine headquarters are nearby, so in alerting its employees NewarkinOne was doing a service not only for its employees but also for a fellow neighborhood business.
Any additional lunch or snack offerings near NewarkinOne would be welcome since there’s really only one restaurant nearby. Many many neighborhoods in Chicago could get a real boost from the presence of food trucks.
And by being an evangelist for food truck visits, NewarkinOne had found a useful way to dip a toe into the world of Twitter while doing something good for its employees at coffee break and lunch.
I think that’s a neat way for a business to do good for its employees and community.
Let me know what you think.