by Charlotte Beal
Here in Los Angeles, new-school food trucks are so ubiquitous that people are starting to declare them tired. But judging “in” or “out” status shouldn’t really be the point. Rather, business owners and marketers should be figuring out how to better understand what consumers are after.
Just last month, I witnessed the teeming hordes at a food-truck fest — 80 or so rigs parked on the infield of a horse racing track (it’s nicer than it sounds) — as I stood in line for an hour to try a banh mi sandwich (it was just OK). Thousands of other hungry souls were just as dedicated to the pursuit of gimmicky food as I was.
But standing in those food-truck lines and listening to other patrons also tells me this:
- There’s a core of consumers who will follow the Food Network (or any major publicity) to the ends of the earth — and tolerate hours-long lines for a burger because of it. Getting a taste of fame seems to soothe painful wait times. (A beer in hand definitely helps, too.)
- Today’s foodie merit badgers won’t want to get more than one taste unless the line is shorter or moves more quickly. If you’re planning on being a presence at festivals, that means multiple trucks. And do everything in your power to streamline prep. The kitchens are small (duh), yet you’d be amazed at the number of complex, à la minute creations that seem to be hatching out of bad business planners’ minds.
- Diners young and old are craving a sense of humor. My theory on why these trucks are rocking the streets? Mottos like “Get your lardon,” trucks named Grindhaus with dishes like Inglourious Bratwurst (I hope Tarantino has tried one) and a burger business that pays homage to a Metallica song.
- City peeps tend to get the most play from the trucks, but exurbanites and rural eaters crave