Over the past few years “foodie” culture have made its way into mainstream America. Local ingredients, exotic flavors, celebrity chefs, and new chic restaurants became all the rage. People were finally saying no to the prepackaged dinners that places like Olive Garden were selling. Even more recently the foodie culture has given rise to another phenomenon,food trucks. From University City in Philadelphia all the way to Beverly Hills, LA, food trucks have been serving hungry customers every form of food imaginable. Sushi, Hot Dogs, Dim Sum, Texas BBQ, chili, dumplings, cheesesteaks are just a few of the diverse plethora of foodie goodness offered by food trucks.
Opening a restaurant in the past has been a daunting task. The turnover rate along with the high costs of opening restaurants mean it’s a huge investment. For example, something as simple as a McDonalds franchise costs upwards of 1.9 million dollars! The recent recession increased the risks even more. With food trucks, these risks are more manageable. Food trucks have made it possible to sell great food without having to invest millions of dollars to open a brick and motor restaurant. Another advantage food trucks have compared to traditional restaurants is that they can change their locations. If one location is not selling well, they can move elsewhere. Since food trucks provide fast on the go meals, they can find a location on Market during the day and park themselves in front of a bar in Old City at night.
A Korean American started it all by the name of Roy Choi. Roy Choi, a self proclaimed “screw up”, started Kogi, a food truck business that sold Korean Taco’s. With Mexican and Korean flavors and pricing that competes with Chipotle, he had a game winning combination. Choi utilized the mobility of food trucks by parking his truck in the hearts of LA nightlife, Sunset Boulevard and Venice Beach His business exploded. Soon there were hundreds of people lining up to buy his tacos. Choi expanded his fleet of food trucks and used social media like Twitter to let people know where his trucks were parked. He soon went viral and was featured on TV shows like Top Chef and magazines like Food and Wine. Today, there are entire TV shows dedicated to just food trucks. Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race is an example of this. The show pits seven different food trucks competing against each other in various cities. The ultimate goal is for the trucks to win by having the highest sales. The competitors have various celebrity chefs as mentors and the truck who has the least sales is eliminated each week. The winner gets $50,000 and a brand new truck.
Food trucks combined with smartphones have been a match made in heaven. With social media and stand-alone apps, any person can find where their favorite truck is at any given time. Social Media also helped fuel the growth of food trucks. Food truck owners, who don’t have the luxury of huge marketing budgets, can take to twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for their advertising. As a result, they can build huge followings. For example Roy Choi’s Kogi has 131 thousand twitter followers! As Brett Lamb explained, “Advertisers realized that word of mouth and recommendations are a powerful way to sell products.” Food truck owners rely on “opinion makers” for their truck to spread in popularity. On social media they let their followers know where and when they can find their trucks. Slowly, their followers spread the popularity of their truck. This is “word of mouth” at light speed. They notify their followers of any menu changes or other new developments. Here in Philadelphia there’s a website devoted to the location of various food trucks. Having personally taste tested a few, I can attest to the convenience and huge selection of food offered by food trucks.
By engaging in social media food trucks have become part of American popular culture. TV shows, twitter followers, foodies, and mobile apps have all been used to spread their popularity. Being able to grab a great $5 meal on the go whether for lunch or after a party offers a convenience that is hard to find in a major city. Food trucks have made it possible for people to taste all different types of foods that would have not been sold before. In a country filled with Arby’s and Subways, food trucks offer new tastes for both the foodies and regular people alike. Food trucks have entered the lifestyle of the 21st century citizen.