The Food Truck Craze Goes Mobile

Harriet Reis and Paget Pizitz joined America’s food truck movement in March as owners and operators of what has become one of downtown Birmingham, Alabama’s most popular mobile eateries: Melt. They serve a set list of creative grilled cheeses, from roast beef with Swiss and fresh basil to cheddar and bacon.

But it isn’t just the hot melted cheese that keeps the business going; it’s the mobile technology that powers everything from their cash register to their marketing plan.

Case in point, credit and debit cards account for 70 percent of Melt’s business, and the duo processes all card payments using their smartphones. “If we didn’t have our mobile card reader, I don’t think our business could survive,” Reis said.

They are not alone in their dependence on mobile transactions. According to BizTech Magazine, mobile transactions grew to $241 billion in 2011 and are predicted to reach $1 trillion by 2015. Pizitz said the technology is ideal for food trucks, and doesn’t know of an operator who does not use their smartphones for credit card payments.

Options for credit card readers include Square, Intuit and Magtek, with each reader offering a different fee structure, so food truck owners and other mobile businesses can pick the best device for their specific needs.

Social media marketing is another essential piece of any food truck business. Reis and Pizitz use location-based mobile technology to drive awareness of their daily truck location. Mobile businesses call it SoLo, or social location. Food truck operators can check-in on Foursquare and publicize their daily locations via Twitter and Facebook. Melt also names its location on Instagram so that as customers capture and share pictures of their food or the truck itself they can help Melt spread the word about its whereabouts.

Some trucks share specials or event discount codes via social networks, encouraging friends and fans to spread the word. There are even social food truck networks for particular cities

such as @DTLAFoodTrucks in Los Angeles or @NYCFoodTruck on Twitter as well as the St. Louis Food Truck Association or the Tallahassee Food Truck Association on Facebook.

The ability to market and manage their business through mobile technology has set creative chefs free from brick and mortar locations and helped birth a whole new culinary category.