Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

This summer marked a new round of competition for Los Angeles based food trucks Kogi BBQ and Bull Kogi. Their 2 dollar Korean taco menu is being assaulted by a truck offering the same cuisine for half the price. Pyongyang Express is a North Korean food truck that proudly flies the flag of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and an image of its dictator Kim Jong Il but the difference from this truck and its rivals in the Los Angeles area is that this truck was designed to provide viral marketing for a video game.

THQ’s Homefront is to be a first person shooter style game that revolves around a plot which has North Korea invading the United States in the year 2027, and is due for release in March of 2011. Although the Pyongyang Express was launched in June, the fact that the game’s release is less than 6 months away means the truck already has a use no later than stamp on it. If the rumors are true, these Los Angeles truck owners won’t have to deal with this invasion for the entire 6 months. We have heard through the grapevine that the Pyongyang Express may be headed to New York and San Francisco to market in those cities before the game’s release, leaving LA in its dust in the near future.

Behind the wheel and stove of the truck is 76 year old Bob Gottlieb, who just so happens to be a Korean War veteran, a US Korean War veteran at that. When asked about his thoughts about the fare he prepares he said, “North Korean people take much honor and care in every ingredient used in their recipes, unlike very fast, tasteless food. Pyongyang BBQ caters gourmet food and should not be considered street food.” Gottlieb also mentioned that at one of its early stops, the truck was shooed away from the front of the Korean Consulate by armed guards. Not quite what one might expect from fellow comrades.

Angeleanos have not been too concerned with this marketing ploy, as they have been more interested in the trucks motto; Subsidized Good Food for a Better America. The truck offers a simple, yet inexpensive menu which includes chicken or beef Korean tacos, chicken or beef rice bowls and kimchee quesadillas. All of these items are priced at 2 dollars and under.

Another topic that may ease the minds of the popular Korean taco trucks comes from Tyrone Miller, part of the Public Relations team at THQ, “Our goal is not to get into the food truck-management business; frankly, we’re not making any money on this.” Using a food truck as a marketing tool is nothing new as we mentioned in our article earlier this week, but even THQ wasn’t sure Americans would take kindly to their campaign. “We had a whole crisis management plan ready to go;” Miller said, “but thankfully we haven’t needed it.”

Will this Korean food truck be looked at as part of the Axle of Evil (excuse the pun), or will their customers take into account that the meals they order consist of more food than the average North Korean eats in a month, for under 5 dollars?

Have you had a chance to try out their food, if so, what are your thoughts?

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As a sports fan growing up in the Northern suburbs of Detroit, MI, I had the opportunity in the 70’s to latch onto a sport that had a relatively small niche following. The National Hockey League was available every Saturday evening via the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) before the advent of cable television.

I would watch my home team Red Wings every chance I had and grew to love the sport even though, I didn’t play it. In the 80’s the league expanded and began to take teams out of small markets in Canada and the US rustbelt, and moved them to warmer parts of the country in an attempt to wrestle away viewers of the NBA and NFL. The league had some success in doing this, and went prime time when the NHL signed huge television contracts with ESPN and FOX Sports. What happened next was alien to me, but in an attempt to make the sport more palatable for the whole country, the NHL agreed with FOX, to allow a blue dot to follow the puck during play on their national television broadcasts. This trend quickly died, as long time fans, turned the channel in disgust, as they watched as their small niche sport make the move to the big time.

The ratings started to plummet enough that both ESPN and FOX dropped their weekly programming of hockey, why? Because the original fans stopped watching, and the trendy new blue puck wasn’t enough to keep the new fans. A new trend in the food truck industry has reminded me of hockey history, and if something isn’t done to protect it, we may see the equivalent of a blue dot following the food trucks in our industry.

Although food trucks have been in the United States (primarily NYC and Los Angeles) since the 70’s, the industry has reached new levels of prominence in the country over the last 3-5 years. The big turning point for the industry was this year’s inaugural season of Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck Race” which brought mobile cuisine to the national stage.

Food trucks are popping up in every region of the country, and more and more cities are legislating new ways to allow the industry within their limits. Yes, this is great for the mobile entrepreneurs who prefer to open up mobile dining vehicles as opposed to traditional brick and mortar establishments, but at the same time, large corporations are starting to look at the industry as a means to market for their already established restaurants. It has been reported over the last few months that companies such as Sizzler, Tasty D-Lite and Cousins Submarines are planning entry into the food truck industry. It appears, their marketing strategy isn’t to help the food truck industry, but to attract customers to their in-line restaurants.

I found out from the Wall Street Journal, that Aaron Webster, owner of three Tasti D-Lite stores in Houston, says he bought a used van last year for $90,000 from the frozen-dessert brand’s parent company. It’s complete with a small refrigerator, freezer, sinks, countertop, soft-serve machine, toppings bar and power generator. A bubble-gum pink exterior features the brand’s logo and website address.

Mr. Webster, a former investment banker, uses the van to sell ice cream mostly at community events and for catering jobs. He says mobile sales account for less than 2% of total revenues for his businesses but that the van is helping to raise brand awareness. “It’s really a roving billboard,” he says.

A roving billboard? Is that really where we want to see the industry head? Of course the National Restaurant Association opened up a measly 1,500 square feet of its annual show to food trucks last year, how else would they be able to show all of the national restaurant chains how they can expand their current stores?

Please don’t take this article the wrong way, expansion of the industry is a good thing, and healthy competition on the streets will help to maintain creative menus and innovative fare being served from food trucks. However, our concern is what the next step in this evolution may entail.

As it stands today, many cities already have limits on the number of licenses they issue to mobile food vendors, if these mega corporations delve into food trucks with the backing of their huge coffers of capital, where will that leave the small business owner who loves to cook, and has a new twist on burgers or tacos they wish to share? Will they have to wait 10 years before getting the proper license because Taco Bell or McDonalds already has fleets of 10 plus trucks rolling around each major market in the country? Will cities draw back from their current support of the industry because there are too many corporate applications being submitted for review and approval? Or even worse, will there be a backlash by the current followers of trucks such as Kogi BBQ, The Big Gay Ice Cream, or The Nom Nom Truck? Will these loyal fans turn their backs on the established trucks because of the onslaught of profit driven establishments that litter every corner of the public right of way?

I certainly hope not, however, if nothing is done to help protect against this, I am afraid in the next few years we may have our own version of the blue dot following our industry.

 

Don't serve a rock.

 

Halloween is Sunday, so there will be ghosts and goblins wandering the streets in search of treats. We have compiled some ideas for your use to help spark sales and show your customers that are in the Halloween spirit with them.

Spookify your Twitter theme: Many people feel as if one profile theme is enough and never touch it after they initially activate their account. Change your theme to match the season show your followers that you and your business enjoy Halloween as much as they do.

Find a Truck Gathering: Throughout the country, more and more cities are allowing food trucks, and in those cities, the market is accepting them with open arms. A recent trend across California is festivals centered on food trucks. Find one of these gatherings that are following a Halloween theme. Show up following some of these tips, and you and your customers will do nothing but enjoy the evening.

 

Mummy Dogs?

 

Special Halloween Menu Items: This may be the easiest thing for food trucks to do to get into the Halloween spirit. Take a standard menu item, tweak it to give it a Halloween flavor, or even renaming menu items can let your customers know you are part of the scene, not just there for sales.

Costumes: As long as safety is viewed as the number one issue, ask your employees to dress up for the night. Make it fun for both your employees and customers. We don’t want to find out that any of you food truckers has gotten into an accident because you left your mask on while driving or has injured themselves while preparing their food because their costume was to baggy..

Decorations: Fake spider webs, jack-o-lanterns, spooky lighting, maybe even a little dry ice in a bucket outside of the truck. If you have a lot you plan to spend the evening in, decorate it for the occasion.

Halloween Music: This is part of the decorating theme, but something that can be over looked. Go out and buy a compilation CD of Halloween sounds or songs and play them for your customers throughout the night, just make sure to keep the volume at a level where orders can be given without the need to scream.

Candy for the Kids: Always part of Halloween, many parents will be out with their children trick or treating, if the kids are rushing Mom and Dad off because the truck next door is giving away Snickers bars, you are risking a loss in sales.

Contests: Hold a best costume contest at a specific time of the night. Not only will this type of thing be fun for your customers, it will give them more reason to hang around your truck (and buy more food). The winner could receive a free item off your menu.

We would love to hear from our readers about suggestions or tips that you think would work well for food trucks. If you are out on Sunday and spot a truck that is in the spirit of the night, take a picture and send it to us. Who knows, your shot, or your favorite truck may be part of the next feature in Mobile Cuisine Magazine.

With Twitter being the most popular way for food truck owners to market their location and their product, we have come up with a list of ways to increase your current list of followers.

  1. The number one step I always suggest is to fill out your Twitter bio. Your bio is where you can explain to people who do not know you, who you are. A blank bio does not encourage anyone to start following you.
  2. Start a contest. Offer free food or a discount to the 1st, the 10th, or the 40th customer who comes to your truck and shows you your tweet and then post the results. Not only do people love free food, but they like to receive notoriety as well.
  3. Place your Twitter ID on your vehicle. Most of your customers may already follow you, but on the off chance that they don’t, give them the chance to.
  4. Be an active participant on Twitter. Do not just post your current location, retweet useful information you receive from those you follow. If they return the favor and retweet one of your tweets, you may get noticed by their followers, and some may even follow you.
  5. Reply to and get involved in #hash tag discussions. Look for the #hash topics relating to your locale or your passions and jump in on the conversation.
  6. Request that your Twitter profile link is featured on any site that writes about you or just mentions you in an article.
  7. Take the time to explain to your followers what retweeting is and ask them to retweet your links.
  8. Use your Twitter ID in your email signature, so that people you correspond with in this fashion get to know that you are also using twitter.
  9. Ask your current followers to recommend you to their followers.
  10. Take pictures with your cell phone and tweet them. If you take shots of your customers they typically will retweet them to their followers.
  11. Write an ebook about how you started your business or a cookbook of some of your recipes and start distributing it free of charge. If you can get your ebook to go viral, you have the chance to gain many followers.
  12. Run a poll: This actually works if you have a high number of followers. Make the poll interesting, and request people to re-tweet about it.

Although you may not agree with some of these tips please note, none need to be followed. The primary reason for this article was to provide a list of items that will show food truck owners some different marketing strategies to increase your Twitter followers, and hopefully your sales.

If you enjoyed this content, please feel free to retweet it or add me at twitter.com/mobilecuisine.

How food trucks/carts can show their support.

According to CDC figures, over 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and about 40,000 will die from this disease this year. Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women, after non-melanoma skin cancer. Although progress has been made over the years and mortality is decreasing, the goal of Breast Cancer Awareness Month is to promote efforts toward more research and efforts to get women screened and treated earlier, particularly lower income women.

2010 marks the 25th anniversary of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We at Mobile Cuisine Magazine have created a list of things you as a mobile vendor can do to help support this noble cause. Do your part and hop on the fundraising bandwagon to help in the fight.

  • If you have a website or blog, join in on the Pink for October campaign. (It appears some overly sensitive antivirus software alerts a malware warning, however it is false)
  • Use your daily special to promote a pink food item or a specialty menu item created specifically for cancer awareness and donate all or a portion of the proceeds to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
  • If you sell pre-packaged goods, find food producers that are donating a portion of their sales to the cause. (Yoplait, Luna Bars, Odwalla’s Pink Poetry drink…)
  • Use pink ribbons, graphics, on your trucks.
  • Include something pink in your uniform policy.
  • Find local fundraising events, contact their organizers, and bring your truck. A portion or all of your sales could be donated to the event’s organization.

How are you planning to participate in Breast Cancer Awareness Month?

Entering Late in the Game

Posted: October 1, 2010 in Marketing, Social Media

We know that the magazine just opened last month, but as a means to promote ourselves and expand our readership; Mobile Cuisine Magazine has been nominated for the 2010 Blogger’s Choice Award for Best Food Blog on the Web.  We ask our readers to head over to http://bloggerschoiceawards.com/ and help us out by signing up and voting for us for this award. We hope that by increasing our vote count, more people will find us, and in turn we will have more of an opportunity to spread the word about the ever growing mobile cuisine industry.

Please note that there is a direct link on the side bar to the left.

In recent years the mobile food industry has been gaining momentum, especially in larger metro areas. New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington D.C. have seen the influx of food trucks expand exponentially. Besides their numbers, this new generation of vendors is giving the industry a new look. These entrepreneurs have left your father’s roach coach behind for 7 ton trucks with 16 foot, fully operational kitchens. Along with a new mindset in which they deliver their cuisine, they have also started using social media to market themselves and inform the public about their location and daily specials.

DANNY MOLOSHOK / Reuters

Twitter is by far the number one media tool today’s food trucks are using to market themselves. In Los Angeles alone there are over 100 trucks using Twitter’s service. Most of these vendors have between 500 and 5,000 individuals following them and with the use of simple math; you can see how follower’s tweets and retweets can spread like wild fire along this platform. This technology is getting each of the truck’s whereabouts known within minutes. Outside of just tweeting their locations, some of the truck operators are also spending time thanking their followers by offering discounts and giveaways. One vendor in Washington D.C selects five of its followers weekly and awards them each with a free milkshake.

Facebook is being used as well, but instead of the primary tool, it is being used to supplement the use of Twitter. As the trucks post their locations, their Twitter accounts automatically update their Facebook wall. By doing this, Facebook allows friends to post commentary, share pictures and even add links to stories or reviews about the vendors. Other social media platforms are being used but not nearly as much as Twitter and Facebook. Foursquare and Google Maps are used by some, but due to random locations based on parking availability and agreements made with local brick and mortar restaurants, it is difficult to keep customers updated.

Within the mobile food industry, the ultimate goal is to get the product to their customers. Being mobile and almost never in the same place from one day to another has always been an issue. This new wave of operators has found that by using social media, they are able to keep their adoring fans coming back for more, no matter what parking meter they are set up at.