Food trucks have been all the rage in the San Francisco Bay Area for some time now, and it looks like Palo Alto’s catching on to the trendy new foodie fixation.
These trucks, which inspire passionate devotion and straight-up wars in the comments sections of websites likeChowhound and Yelp, keep fans on their toes by switching locations often and "tweeting" their whereabouts to followers on Twitter. The sensation is about as Silicon Valley as you can get: local food cooked by creative entrepreneurs who found a way around the shaky economy (food trucks have low overhead and far less risk than a new restaurant), by utilizing popular social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to connect with existing customers and lure in new ones.
Perhaps the best example of the fanaticism surrounding food trucks is Kogi Korean BBQ. It’s an LA-based Korean/Mexican fusion truck that’s the brainchild of thirty-year old Mark Manguera, who came up with the idea at 4 in the morning after a long night of drinking, while eating (you guessed it!) a taco. His business plan? Buy a truck, get a bunch of friends and family to post about it on Twitter, Facebook and Craigslist, and start cooking. Not long after Kogi’s 2009 opening, the truck began attracting crowds of 300-800 people every time it parked. It’s since launched a satellite truck in Manhattan, and is responsible for a foodie movement known on the web as “Kogi Kulture.”
Most of the Bay Area’s food trucks are located in the Mission District of San Francisco. There’s the “Crème Brulee guy,” who dishes out the French dessert in an ever-changing variety of flavors. Depending on the night the menu might offer Dulche de Leche, Mexican chocolate, vanilla bean, coffee, s’mores, or even Pina Colada. Fans talk of the crème brulee guy’s caramelized custard with a hushed reverence--some describe themselves as stalkers. Other popular San Francisco/Bay Area trucks include the El Tonayense taco truck, Spencer on the Go Truck (escargot on a stick is one of the premium bistro-menu offerings), Magic Curry Kart,Treatbot (the "Karaoke ice cream truck from the future"), NetAppetit, MoBowl, Lumpia Cart (Filipino egg rolls), Adobo Hobo, and MoGo BBQ.
Google any of these names and you’ll find the trucks’ Twitter profiles and numerous blog posts either ranting or raving about their menus. Most of them have thousands of followers--yet another example of the way the food industry has tapped into the skyrocketing business potential of social media, providing a perfect model for real estate agents (or really anyone in a service-type industry) who want to turn their online profiles into offline transactions.
MoGo BBQ is based in Palo Alto, and like the rest of the trucks can only be found via Facebook and Twitter. Like Kogi, MoGo focuses on Mexican/Korean BBQ. Most successful food trucks offer niche products--menus tend to be small, prices are cheap, and the food is easy to eat with your hands. The MoGo menu has five options (Taco, Quesadilla, Short Rib Silders, Bay Area Dog, and Burritos), and you can choose your protein/toppings. Nothing is more than $7. The truck is less than a year old, and relies exclusively on the hungry residents of Palo Alto and neighboring cities. As of today, MoGo has over 5,000 followers on Twitter (Kogi has 12,000) and 8,000 “likes” on Facebook. It looks like in Palo Alto, the food truck craze might be less a trend and more a permanent change in the way we go “out” to eat.
*photos courtesy of SFBlog Pavement Cuisine, the fantastic, James Beard Award winning This Week for Dinner, and SFGate