|Video by Michelle Peltier|
The circle outside of Pius XII Memorial Library has become one of Saint Louis University's most popular dining spots. On any given fair-weather afternoon, one of several large tricked-out trucks selling everything from sushi to cupcakes to gyros to Korean barbeque has students, faculty and staff lined up down the block. The scene is a testament to the history of fast food.
Old and longstanding, the original mobile food business offered tasty nibbles and drinks; hot dog carts, coffee wagons and ice cream trucks, have long been a part of the American dining tradition. But these new mobile kitchens take the old and mix it with the new for a truly 21st-century business plan.
Today, food truck proprietors advertise their routes and specials on Facebook and Twitter. Followers, who in turn become customers, don't need to carry cash when they meet the trucks, either. Diners can pay with credit or debit thanks to apps such as Square, which allow proprietors to accept cards wherever they travel.
"Food trucks are a good opportunity to take a technology that is inherently mobile and work that together with social media," said Jim Fisher, Ph.D., professor of marketing at the John Cook School of Business. "And collectively those two work in a integrated and creative way."
Mobile food trucks got their start in the bustle of Los Angeles and New York City, but the trend has traveled across the country and is booming in the Gateway City. St. Louis has the advantage of have clearly defined neighborhoods with unique identities. Businesses can tweet their location — Clayton, downtown or SLU — and followers have a precise location of where they'll be.
"St. Louis is a big city with a lot of accessibility," Fisher added. "The city itself has a small geographical footprint, which I think sets it up nice to a mobile approach."
Of course, a key element of the plan is keeping their social media presence fresh and intriguing. Businesses have to keep their content clever and interesting in order to draw in more followers. More followers on Twitter equals more potential customers, which of course, equals more revenue.
Feast Magazine, a publication produced by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, features an online truck tracker on its website, which displays the latest tweets from St. Louis food trucks.
The more frequent visitors to campus include: