Two things happened recently that got me thinking about food trucks. First, I recently bought and thoroughly enjoyed the outstanding fish tacos from the food truck El Camion in Ballard.
Second, I caught the movie “Chef” about the head chef of an acclaimed restaurant whose creativity in the kitchen is being stifled by a boss who wants to play it safe. The chef walks out, buys a food truck and, after a few trials and tribulations, launches a successful business where he pursues his passion and cooks for people who appreciate his gifts.
Jon Favreau gets back to basics with his food and his family in the movie ‘Chef’
I’m sure one of the reasons “Chef” is such a popular movie is because food trucks are a hot culinary trend. It’s hard to resist the idea of a small, upscale roving kitchen. There are a lot of great things about the growth of the modern food truck phenomenon. Here are a few I was mulling over:
• They represent American innovation and leadership. The economy crashed, social media flourished, and out of this primordial stew, entrepreneurs created mini mobile kitchens where they became their own bosses and learned they could advertise for free.
• They’re convenient fast and (mostly) affordable. On their lunch break, sometimes people don’t have the time to enjoy the full restaurant experience. Food trucks can offer high-quality food for the price and convenience of a takeout meal.
• They’re a social experiment. Customers really seem to enjoy the face-to-face interactions they get with the truck owners. While people wait in line to order or pick up their food, the atmosphere around a food truck encourages people to mix and chat with complete strangers. And when people find menus they like, they’re willing to visit new neighborhoods to chase down a delicious, favorite meal.
• Chefs can become restaurant owners with less capital. While it may cost hundreds of thousands to open a brick and mortar restaurant, it costs far less to get a food truck business started. Food trucks can also enable chefs and cooks the opportunity to pursue and perfect their craft while building a strong customer base and reputation.
• They’re mobile. If the crowds aren’t there, owners can just drive to where they are.
• Finding the truck is half the fun. Tracking down that elusive, delicious Cuban sandwich reminds people of their childhood days – the excitement about chasing the ice cream truck to buy a cold, sweet treat.
With recent advances in technology, food truck owners operate much like regular restaurants: they can prepare food more efficiently, keep food safer, swipe credit cards and advertise with virtually no marketing budget.
• Food Prep: Advances in generator design have resulted in quieter, more efficient machines to keep the power up and running for longer than ever.
• Food and Truck Safety: New Machine-to-Machine technology, or M2M, uses a smartphone-sized sensor/software combo to monitor refrigerator temperature and light and alerts owners if something goes wrong, helping them avoid spoilage and control costs. A GPS component can also locate the truck if it’s stolen.
• Electronic Sales: With the advent of portable POS systems, staff can scan payment cards to conduct electronic transactions with a simple device that attaches to smart phones or tablets.
• Marketing: As the Chef’s son discovered in the movie, using social media to promote a food truck business and announce locations is a fantastic, affordable advertising option. While Twitter and Facebook seem to be the most popular platforms among food truck operators, it’s fun to watch people experiment with other sites like Pinterest, Roaming Hunger and Eat St.
And now I’m hungry. Think I’ll go chase down the Snout truck I heard they sell these delicious cuban BBQ…