Dealing with Your Local Food Trucker
Food trucks are the culinary scene’s hot commodity right now. About a decade ago, they started popping up in major metro areas like Los Angeles and New York City. Today, there are few small and mid-sized cities in America without at least a handful of food trucks regularly out on the streets and set-up in parking lots on any given day.
Truth-be-told, the food truck concept isn’t a new one. These kitchens on wheels have been around for years, once predominantly serving construction sites, factories and other locations where blue-collar workers desiring quick, low-cost food could grab lunch and get back to work on their 30-minute lunch break. White collar locales, like New York’s financial district, had multiple food vendors serving lunchtime clientele.
However, when Roy Choi introduced his gourmet Korean tacos dispensed from his own food truck in Los Angeles in 2008, a whole new era of mobile cuisine had begun. Now, it’s not uncommon to find celebrity chefs slinging their signature food out the window of their own trucks. This latest culinary sensation has even prompted academics to spend time analyzing the evolution and transformation of food truck protocol.
That’s all fine and nice, but as an operator of a fast lube, what do food trucks have to do with me? For one thing, you might want to find out where your local food truck driver services his/her truck. Keeping their truck running and on the road ensures that they can make a living and keep their customers happy. It’s also one more hat to wear and potential headache that a food truck operator has to juggle. Cultivating a relationship with a food truck operator might bring you additional business if you removed the hassle of basic maintenance services for a couple of food truck operators. People talk, and you could become their local, go-to provider for food truck mechanical and maintenance services.
Recognize that successful food trucks usually partner with other businesses. Is there a match between their food and some other product or service that you offer?
In Portland, Maine, a city of about 60,000 people, craft brewing has exploded. With a wealth of breweries offering tours and opportunities to sample the city’s popular craft beers, brewers like Allagash Brewing Company found out that matching beer with food trucks has been a boon to their brewery and a welcome opportunity for food truck vendors to park and serve up their unique dishes and treats.
According to Charli McGrew, Allagash’s events coordinator, pairing food truck offerings with their beer flights has been a win-win.
“Food and beer go great together,” McGrew said. “We want to have food available to our customers. Being able to have a food truck or two is perfect for us.”
Social media — used heavily by food truck operators to promote their locations — allows a brewery like Allagash to cross-post, alerting their customers about which truck(s) will be set-up in their parking lot on a given day or about special events involving a host of food truck vendors.
“When we’re jam-packed in our tasting room, it’s great for customers to step outside and grab a sandwich or other treat from one of the food trucks,” McGrew said. “It makes it that much more festive and enhances the experience we’re able to provide.”
Erica Dionne launched The Muthah Truckah in October of 2014. You’ll usually find the green truck with the catchy logo in the Allagash lot or in Portland’s East Bayside neighborhood at Rising Tide Brewery on weekends, with Dionne set-up in the heart of the city’s Old Port business district during the week.
“Partnering with breweries like Allagash and Rising Tide has been great for me,” Dionne said. “They’re licensed to sell beer, and I’m not. I’m set-up and licensed to sell food, which they don’t have to worry about, so it works out well for both of us.”
Having a catchy name like The Muthah Truckah hasn’t hurt Dionne, either. She told me the story of how she ended up with her moniker.
“A few years ago, I was out with friends having some adult beverages,” said Dionne. “We started tossing around ideas when I told them I was thinking about starting a food truck. I was all pumped up about the idea and one of my long-time friends laughed and responded, ‘I always knew you were a Mother Trucker!’ When it came down to the name, The Muthah Truckah just fit. It’s a little crass, a little Maine, all the while, still being respectable and giving you a good laugh.”
Food truck owners like Dionne are entrepreneurial to a fault. They have to be in order to be competitive and find new opportunities and customers. For fast lube operators, your customers might appreciate being able to get their car serviced on their lunch break if they knew that they could also grab lunch. Having a food truck set-up in your parking lot might lure new customers who ordinarily frequent one of your competitors. Also, if you’re fast lube is near other businesses and your lot is big enough and safety isn’t a concern, having a food truck on-site during the lunch hour might be something worth considering.
Don’t underestimate the power of social media marketing, either. Food truck owners depend on social media savvy and platforms like Facebook and Twitter to announce their ever-changing locations. The opportunity to cross-broadcast, promoting one another’s product, might be an added bonus, too.
Get a little creative with coupons and special deals and before you know it, you might have developed an invaluable partnership that delivers rewards for both you and your local food truck operator.