Two years ago, I finally came across food trucks and that day changed my life. After that Doughman banquet, I started Googling food trucks and asking on Facebook where to find trucks. I got a wide array of choices. My first food truck radar was Carpe Durham’s website. A great recommendation from a friend, but it only gave me so much. Soon, I came across Truxie and then Trackin’ Trucks. When HungerFi released earlier this year, I thought it was time to look at the specific apps.
I’m going to state the obvious: getting consumers and trucks together is a pain point. Food trucks are a mobile business model, where a location usually changes within a meal shift. If consumers want to eat from their favorite truck, they have to find them. For food trucks to be more successful, they need to let their fan base know where they are at.
With several rodeos past and a couple left in the year, I hope you tried a food truck this year. However, if you wanted to make it more of a regular occasion than a festival event, tracking them is a great option. To assist connecting consumers and food trucks, here are some of the tools from a consumer and food truck perspective:
The one I call the grand daddy, the first that has been around, has created by Ed Hubbell. Available both on app platforms and a webpage map, this one focuses on how close are the nearest food trucks.
The best way to access this is download the app from your mobile’s App Store. Once downloaded, you open the app to find trucks in real time. It uses your phone’s GPS to display the participating trucks into different distance categories (Walking, Ride your Bike, Get in a Car, Bring a Friend, etc.) Once you found an interesting truck, you push the truck’s icon and find where they are on the map based on the GPS’ coordinates. If you are a planner, you can use the calendar function to find later times or dates.
I’ve spoken to Ed and a quick email to him will get you set up within minutes. From what I understand it relies on food trucks updating their Google Calendar and inputting a recognized address.
Pros: Instant availability, a wide selection of trucks, diverse suite of features
As I mention, once a consumer has the app on their phone they have a radar of who is out there. I mostly use this on weekdays, when I am sitting at my desk and thinking what do I want for lunch. I know frequent areas, but I do find ones I did not know. One example, Will & Pops were in North Raleigh on a Friday. If I had not opened Truxie, it may have been a fast food lunch. The diverse suite of features includes the calendar function (expands to future views) and the ability to see truck’s tweets. The only downside on this feature, you can’t click to see the tweet’s details (you have to open Twitter and find the truck’s tweet).
Cons: Google Calendar dependent
This might be one con, but it is the backbone to the app. If a truck does not update its calendar, you may show up to find the truck scheduled is not there. Also, if they aren’t configured correctly, it could show “Unknown” but really they are across the street.
Note: If you are truck and need to alert your fans via Truxie, there is a way to “drop a pin” to show where you are. I was alerted this when seeing a live demonstration.
Website: http://www.truxie.com/ (GPS required)
The next tool that is widely popular is Tracking Trucks. The model seems pretty simple, a truck tweets where they are and Trackin’ Trucks retweets it. I assume the app has been fairly successful, as shortly after, a Washington DC twitter handle was established.
Follow Tracking Trucks and Done.
I had trouble contacting the developers behind Trackin’ Trucks, but I believe once they follow your truck’s handle your location tweets are captured.
Pros: Ease of use (just hit follow on Twitter), expanded to DC
If you are already on Twitter, it’s as easy as clicking “Follow” to get start getting the ReTweets of the trucks Trackin’ Trucks set up. They’ve expanded to DC, which I plan on using my next DC trip. For someone visiting either the Triangle or DC area that did not want to download an app, I could see following these dedicated Twitter handles to find trucks in the cities and find out where they are at. For the truck owner, if you are active on Twitter, getting picked up by Tracking Trucks takes no additional work.
Cons: May pick up incorrect information, does not consider distance
I’ve seen this a few times and got a few chuckles at some food trucks responses (like #autobot). For instance, one time Truck A tweeted “enjoying food from Truck B and tweeted Truck’s B location and time.” The result, a Tracking Trucks tweet with Truck A’s name with Truck B’s location and time. This meant Truck A’s fans may be disappointed to see Truck B.
A live example of these erroneous tweets below:
— Not Just Icing, Inc. (@NotJustIcing) August 31, 2014
.@NotJustIcing will be at 501 Foster Street, Durham, NC until 01:00PM Sunday
— Trackin’ Trucks RDU (@TrackinTrucksRD) August 31, 2014
* In reality, this was Not Just Icing tweeting they were doing a special at Durham Central Park’s Rodeo. The event ended at 4pm.
The other factor not considered is distance. If Trackin’ Trucks ReTweets Chirba Chriba for the next hour is down in Carrboro, but you are in Wake Forest the tweet is probably has no value.
Trackin’ Trucks Info
Twitter (RDU): @TrackinTrucksRD
Twitter (DC): @TrackinTrucksDC
Twitter (General): @TrackinTrucks
The new tool to the game really focuses on the most important part of real estate: Location, Location, Location. Without the consumers knowledge, a truck might as well park down a dark alley. HungerFi allows a truck to pinpoint their customize message and post to their current social media accounts (Facebook and Twitter).
Once you see a tweet from your favorite truck, click on the HungerFi link and find where they are at.
— Belgian Waffology (@BeWaffology) August 29, 2014
A food truck needs to download the HungerFi app and setup a HungerFi account. Once setup, when you ready to post you log into the app, write your post, and send.
Pros: Ease of use, real-time accurate location, posts only to your followers
From what I understand, a truck needs to setup an account and download the app on HungerFi. Once setup and their social media accounts are linked, they pull the app, write their status update and location, and its posted once sent.
For a food truck, this is the only solution where all your followers are notified. The other solutions require your followers to download an app or follow another handle in hopes they are connected.
Cons: low adoption, a truck initiated solution, GPS hyperlink
Based on what I’ve seen, not many trucks used this model. I chalk it up to being a fairly new solution and large base of established trucks relying on their old ways. I also noted this is a truck initiated solution, so the truck has to go through HungerFi’s interface to post the status update and drop a pin where they are. For the consumer, the consumer has to see the tweet or status update and click on the link to determine if the location is relevant to their current location.
App:Apple Store (Trucks Only)
I am definitely using Tracking Trucks when I travel to DC, as I don’t follow all the trucks there and I do get random Tracking Trucks DC tweets of trucks I have not seen. HungerFi’s focus is on GPS accuracy. I’ve seen times when consumers tweet back at trucks confirming addresses. So I see HungerFi’s value, but it still causes me to check multiple tweets (if I see the tweets) to see if a truck is nearby. As with Truxie, my first choice, it does what I want. I pull up the app, use it as a food truck radar, and head in that direction. I won’t put 100% Satisfaction Guarantee on Truxie, because its not fool-proof. But if you were grading in scales, Truxie’s head of the curve. But in the end all three are passing on the Pass-Fail scale.
I’m curious how do you find your favorite trucks and why? What has and has not worked? Both truck owners, app developers, and consumers read this blog, so your comments will be heard.