Roaming food trucks are this mad culinary trend that keeps accelerating as the fare expands (cupcakes, Szechuan, gyros) and as the concept leaks from urban foodie nests into the world at large. It’s very — what’s that word that means they’ll be super unpopular soon? — trendy.
There have always been food trucks, but the term conjures suspect operations with as much grease in the meals as under the hood. The difference now is that entrepreneurs are a) capitalizing on the proliferation of food niches as consumers take a closer look at what they eat and how/where it was grown, and b) using new technology to attract potential customers and retain existing ones.
Here’s an example of how: A sushi truck in Los Angeles drives to the fish auction each morning and buys its ingredients straight off the fishermen’s loading pallet. By lunchtime the truck is roaming the streets of a bustling LA commercial district peopled with cosmopolitan 20-somethings who want a healthy, fresh meal. The truck tweets its real-time location to thousands of tech-savvy followers and catches the eye of those close enough to pay it a visit when noon rolls ‘round.
Suddenly, for those nearby, sushi is an option.
The truck is there now, at this moment; it won’t be tomorrow. Fresh sushi is a rare opportunity on which they’d better pounce, and in considerable numbers, pounce they do. The next day, that sushi truck is miles away, servicing a new neighborhood with its fleeting menu of maki and hand rolls.
Voila: the new generation of food trucks, a perfect blend of three current trends: conscientious consumption (the food and its source), social/mobile media (the marketing), and ironic reimagining of a tired institution (meals on wheels).
More to the point, the surf market mirrors the food market in a number of ways that make the food truck model transferable to surfing:
- Surf sessions, like meals, are concentrated around certain times of the day and week: early in the morning (the pre-work dawn patrol), late in the afternoon (after-school and after-work crowds), and weekends before noon. The implication is that a “surf truck” (with board and wetsuit demos, wax samples, hyper-discounted gear, etc.) could target these boom periods to maximize engagement.
- Surfers these days are no more uniform a group than diners are; we’re a diverse hodgepodge made up of longboarders, children, fitness buffs, girls, outdoorsmen, punks, hipsters, P.E. classes, and so on. A thousand niches housed beneath a single thin umbrella. A surf truck that offered something specific could find within the masses a small but eager audience. What about a single-fin truck with a rotating quiver of boards to try?
- Like the well-heeled young professionals who support food trucks on their lunch hour, surfers are geographically predictable. They congregate around certain specific breaks or stretches of coastline, and their migrations can be largely predicted based on freely available surf and weather forecasts. This means a surf truck could chart its course using the same information that its customers themselves use to plan their sessions, and practically guarantee the presence of customers upon arrival.
This wouldn’t work so well as a direct sales operation (who goes surfing in the mood to buy something?), but it could be a fantastic way to build awareness and a following for certain products or a surf shop. The key would be figuring out what potential customers want from the truck, and then being in the right place at the right time to deliver it. —Stuart Cornuelle
Stuart Cornuelle is SURFING’s Managing Editor and a would like to see a …Lost RNF truck — for when one’s choice of board was too optimistic.