Friday, September 23, 2011

Food Trucks Putting on the Brakes?

Food trucks use social media to
alert customers of their schedules

In today’s ChicagoBusiness there is a piece on the Southern Mac & Cheese Truck opening a storefront location in the Loop. As of yesterday, the successful food truck vendor was serving up its famous macaroni-and-cheese at 60 E. Lake St. The co-owners of Southern Mac & Cheese wanted a downtown location, due in part to their success serving Loop lunchtime crowds from the truck.

5411 Empanadas near the Willis Tower

According to ChicagoBusiness, Nicolas Ibarzabal, co-owner of 5411 Empanadas, said his success with the truck helped him secure loans for the street front location he is planning to open in Lincoln Park.

While most people love buying lunch and snacks from Chicago food trucks, brick-and-mortar restaurants complain that they’re stealing their business. In some locations, food trucks can be ticketed, rather steeply, if they’re parked too close to a restaurant. To promote themselves and to get the word out, food trucks rely on social media. Most announce their schedules in advance on Facebook and Twitter and update customers live if they have problems parking or if they’ve run out of food or treats (the goal is to sell everything).

The owner of GiGi's Bake Shop is from the South Loop

Working on a food truck is far from glamorous. Food trucks have to navigate traffic in the city, find parking, and deal with mechanical issues. In March, I wrote “Cupcake Wars Chicago Style” about all the cupcake trucks in the city. They still exist and thrive, but you can also buy tacos, sausages, frozen yogurt, and meatball sandwiches from food trucks in Chicago. Legislation is in the works to allow trucks to cook onboard, something they’re not currently allowed to do. Once that legislation passes, it will be a whole new ballgame.

Have you eaten anything purchased from a food truck? Do you have a favorite truck that you follow on Facebook and/or Twitter? Tell us about it here.

Editors note: Look for a story coming soon about life on a food truck, an insider's perspective.

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