Eating NY

Food Trucks and Social Media | November 16, 2010

Photo by Ricardo Diaz

Food trucks have become an essential part of New York’s culinary scene. These mobile oasis of fine interesting dining have taken over the corners of Gotham. Whether it’s a casual dessert vehicle, an ambulatory Korean food van, or to roving Tex Mex, New Yorkers can’t get enough. Food carts are becoming yet another New York gourmet phenomenon in our insatiable quest to find the unique, intriguing, and delicious.

So how do we find these wandering wonders? While most of the food carts near my office are fixed, the day the Top Chef Just Desserts truck was outside giving out free cookies and ice cream to the yuppies of midtown, local food blogs were ablaze with the news. I instantly tweeted a photo of the truck in an effort to spread the joy that free food inevitably brings. Without formal street addresses or the ability for patrons to make a reservation, social media has become an indispensible ally of of the food truck industry.

Take Zagat’s food truck application. This application allows the hungry of New York City to view a map of their location with trucks in service at any given time. You can choose by cuisine type, and click on individual trucks for reviews and ratings. You can also search by location. Trucks can self-promote by tweeting their location to @ZagatTrucks. Mashable reports that it is still a work in progress and that no mobile application is yet available.

They also report that Cartspotting is another similar application for the mobile food minded. Cartspotting is available throughout the country and also operates via tweet. It requests that food cart owners also tweet once they are closed for the day.

Social News Watch reports that, “Using Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare, food trucks are hits coast-to-coast. One truck claims that 15% of their sales come specifically from Twitter. Who would have known?”  Customers not only use Twitter to locate food trucks, but to receive feedback on food they have enjoyed or to pre-order. One truck owner even says in a YouTube video that the only way to find out what they are serving that day is through Twitter. Another vendor, Holton Farms, is a mobile farmers market that also uses Twitter.  Since they realize that many banks and other NYC businesses block social media including Twitter, they set up a 1-800 number for patrons to locate them.

While some truck owners say that GPS should be sufficient to locate them, others say that the usage of Twitter is a great advantage to create a dialog with customers in this article, highlighting that even truck vendors understand the importance of a collaborative dialog with their patrons. Somebody’s been reading Cluetrain!

Even Flickr is a resource, as patrons taking pictures can add reviews and receive comments on their favorite food trucks.

Other means of tracking food carts since most have fairly regular locations include Yelp, Facebook and FourSquare, all of which are available as mobile aps which makes them more practical for the food-seeking pedestrian.

Even with all the information out there, no amount of tweeting is going to help this tired and hungry writer find dinner at 11pm in the rain. But this research has certainly given me some ideas on how to find some great new food once the weather improves.


1 Comment »

  1. Back when I was living in Los Angeles, the food truck trend was just starting out. Twitter and other social media tools were not yet as prevalent, but you could sign up to receive text messages and email updates of where a particular truck was headed next so that you could be sure not to miss out on good eats. I have to agree that Twitter has allowed for the food truck movement to soar. Food trucks are capitalizing on those who are constantly connected to their Twitter clients on their smartphones.

    I regularly pass various food trucks and my concern was always with the cleanliness and quality of the food, but the Zagat application you mentioned helps with that issue by providing user reviews since I tend to trust my peers on those matters.

    I do wonder, though, how successful are food trucks going to be when the temperature drops and streets become less pedestrian friendly. Do you think they’ll start to offer delivery? They are mobile, after all.

    Comment by Ilana Bercovitz — November 24, 2010 @ 11:07 am

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