Food Trucks Going Digital in New York City
Digitally savvy equals success for trucks and foodies alike.
Hot dogs, pupusas, kebabs, bamboo rice sticky bowls, fried chicken, falafel, bulgogi, and tacos made from any and all of the above. That’s “Food Truck Food,” New York City style. Every type of ethnic, fusion and fabulous food, prepared fresh daily, in food trucks on every block and in every borough.
Officially there are 4,235 food vendors in New York City, but unofficial estimates (which include non-permitted vendors, as well as rented and black market licenses) are at least double that number.
Entrepreneurial, fun, and, with a rapidly growing market, food trucks are beyond popular. But, it’s also a competitive market so it takes more than wonderful waffles, like the Belgian awesomeness of Wafels & Dinges, to keep customers coming back and to turn a profit.
It takes technology—starting with the right dongle.
No, a dongle isn’t a type of donut fusion with some exotic glaze. It’s the small credit card reader that attaches to phones, tablets and laptops so people can pay using a card.
Square has been the popular choice for this task since at least 2011, according to an article in Mashable. It, and digital tools like it, “make running a mobile business much easier and more efficient, since you don’t have to waste time counting cash or getting change from the bank.”
Square also has services to track sales, set up price lists (including specials!) and manage inventory. Square charges, on average, about 2.75 to 3.5 percent of the sale which makes them affordable on a lean budget. Other, similar, merchant vendor devices and services are offered by PayPal.
Once a food truck has the ability to accept payment in all forms, the next step (a daily step!) is to let customers know they’re open and ready for business.
This requires social media, including Twitter and Facebook, as well as membership with a mapping and food truck-tracking website and app.
Why the need to have multiple, facile, platforms and apps?
The most obvious reason: food trucks are mobile. With traffic, construction, protests and parades trucks need to be able to adapt to ever-changing landscape of city—yet still let people know where to find the food.
Social media lets food-truck-fans follow digitally so that following the path of favorite trucks literally is easier. Also, in order to make ends meet many trucks offer catering and delivery—usually via-online-ordering.
That’s where joining up with a site like RoamingHunger really comes into play. The company has been around since 2009 and has maps of multiple cities where all the best food trucks are listed, mapped (with time as well as place!) and tracked.
Based on the site’s list of popular trucks, including Korilla BBQ which won the Rookie of the Year Vendy in 2011 and is still going strong, connecting to a website like RoamingHunger is mandatory for mobile eateries. It effectively gets the word out and brings customers in.
For those on the other side of the counter, the food-truck-foodies, technology makes finding new options and old favorites easy. In addition to RoamingHunger, FoodTrucksIn offer location and contact information for food trucks (if the truck has “checked in”) as well as a sort feature for hungry foodies to look for the exact type of food in which they’re interested.
Of course, for calorie-free enjoyment there’s always Pinterest and Instagram. Many food truck vendors use these sites to highlight their really “wow” menu items.
Though you may still be uncertain which food trucks to visit for lunch as the weather gets warmer, one thing is for sure: food trucks and technology may both be mobile, but as a pairing they aren’t going anywhere.