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Technology

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With every year of mobile food industry growth, there have been many new inventions that have come along that have been designed specifically to help food truck owners and the customers that follow them.

Freehand TrayToday isn’t any different. We recently found out about a new product that will help to alleviate a common frustration for anyone that has ever visited a food truck. The ability to hold your food without the need of a third hand.

The Freehand Tray allows food truck customers to buy more because they can hold more food truck food comfortably and efficiently. The fans of food trucks will love it because they have more control over their food. Tthe FreeHand Tray is left/right hand specific, food truck fans can confidently purchase more items, and it is 100% green.

So what does this free hand allow you to do? The website gives a few suggestions…

WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH MY FREEHAND?
  • Blow a kiss
  • Catch a foul ball
  • Shot put
  • Open a door
  • Finger paint with condiments
  • Wave hello
  • Update your Facebook status
  • Tweet us a photo #FreeHandTray

To us, the logical use would be to pay for more food from another food truck.

The FreeHand Tray is made from 100% post consumer content; it is 100% recyclable, 100% biodegradable, and 100% compostable.

This inventive product will give mobile food customers more reasons to buy from food trucks, food carts or street food vendors. It also give food truck owners or food truck event planners an avenue for brand marketing giving marketing, sponsorship & corporate partnership staff more real estate to sell.

The FreeHand Tray is fully customizable for size or branding purposes. Custom pricing, custom graphics, and a custom model are only a phone call away. The FreeHand Tray adds value for both the customer and the mobile food vendor.

At this point we’re not sure how quickly we’ll see this item handed out by individual food trucks but this product is sure to be a hit with food truck event organizers.

If you are interested in purchasing Freehand Trays, you can get more information from the Freehand Website.

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Who Unfollowed Me

Developer: C. Robinson
Cost: Free for lite use, $4.99 per year for upgraded Pro use

Website: http://who.unfollowed.me

Who Unfollowed Me Twitter Collin Robinson

The Who Unfollowed Me app is a must use for any Twitter user who is interested in finding out who recently unfollowed them. Are you a food truck owner who recently had a drop in your follower count? Who Unfollowed Me is the perfect site to check out to follow up with these individuals, or to even unfollow them back (payback can be a real *^%&$).

This nonaffiliated Twitter application is simple in the theory behind it, however it is brilliant in its execution. Web developer Collin Robinson, built the perfect tool for all of us Twitter-holics who love to know, who unfollowed us! The process for finding out could not be simpler.

  • Visit the site and click on the button at the top to authorize the site to track your Twitter account.

Note: Heed the warning under the input bar, that if your tweets are private, you must approve the system to follow you or else you cannot be tracked!

Once you have done this, the application does the rest. It will create a benchmark for your account based on your current statistics. No registration is required, and you can use the site every 15 minutes if you choose to. The upgraded “pro” package will cost you only $4.99 a year but will provide additional features such as automatically checking unfollowers, unfollow those not following back and a 45 day unfollower history.

It can’t get any more simple than that. Click and check who has recently unfollowed your Twitter account. In addition you can find out who you may be following, but not following you, or vice versa (who is following you but not getting a return follow by your account)

Rating for Who Unfollowed Me:

5 stars.

 

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If you’ve recently been in the market for a car, truck, or SUV recently, then we’re sure you’ve seen the vast number of vehicles sporting a shiny new auto navigation system already installed or part of a package upgrade. These systems are delightfully handy when you find yourself stuck in traffic that is moving slower than the snail that just passed by or that roads are closing due to nasty weather or traffic pile ups.

The truth of the matter is that they can come in equally handy when faced with every day driving if you allow them to be. Because of this recent addition to the personally owned car industry, we should also point out that these same benefits can be of great assistance to the owner/operators in the mobile food industry.

Very few investments in technology are worthy of your hard earned money if you aren’t going to at least get your money’s worth. Auto navigation systems are great when you find yourself lost, but they can also help you find alternate routes when traffic is busy on your traditional drive to the commissary, or even your next stop. They can help you avoid roads that have been closed for maintenance, or even find a quick way around work that is being performed along your route. These devices can also help you find shorter routes to events and regular stops that you may have been aware existed before. The fact that technology improves so much and so quickly is also why these systems aren’t commanding nearly the price they brought in a mere two years ago. In other words, this convenience is becoming much more affordable.

One thing you must keep in mind when considering a new auto navigation system for your food truck is how much you think you will actually use your system. Even if you save it for emergency use alone, it is quite possible that in an emergency these nifty devices will be worth ten times what you originally paid for it because it could save time, which we all know, plays a huge part in how profitable a food truck owner’s day is. It is hard to put a price tag on the comfort that owning a device such as this would bring but it is definitely worth the $500-$1,000 that is currently being charged. However; keep in mind that when these systems first hit the market $1,000 was on the absolute low end.

Technology is only good when it’s useful to someone. Sitting there unused it is assisting no one and is essentially a waste of money. On the other end of the spectrum however, there are those who use their auto navigation system like an extra pair of eyes. For them, that is exactly enough to be worth every penny that they spent.

Beyond that, navigation systems don’t require tricky folds or pulling off onto the shoulder in order to read them as a map does. Many will talk to you (without losing its temper) and will guide you where to go. Map reading is not something everyone is gifted at, especially while driving. Why risk being late to a catering event or even your next food truck stop if traffic is backed up due to an accident?

Jump online or run over to your local Best Buy and see what deals are currently being offered, (all systems are not created equal). We believe that outside of your smartphone and POS system, an auto navigation system is the next most important technological advance a food truck business should invest in.

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Fueled by demand for inexpensive, quick and delicious meals, gourmet food trucks have swept cities across the world, offering up specialties, such as grilled cheese sandwiches, tacos, pickles, cupcakes and meatballs.

The past few years have seen an onslaught of social media-savvy food trucks, empowering on-the-go customers to follow their favorite truck’s whereabouts on Twitter or learn about nearby deals on Foursquare, among other advancements.

Food trucks are becoming increasingly smart with their social media marketing, running campaigns to support particular efforts, deals or events. Here are five examples of innovative social media campaigns created by food trucks of all types.

1. DoubleTree CAREavan: Celebrating a Milestone

DoubleTree by Hilton gives out approximately 60,000 chocolate chip cookies each day when guests check in, amounting to more than 21 million cookies annually. In celebration of the 25th anniversary of its signature chocolate chip cookie, DoubleTree by Hilton suited up a food truck for, in their own words, a “10-week, 10,000-mile, 50-city journey to deliver hundreds of thousands of smiles to weary workers, tired travelers and local charities across the country through the pleasant surprise of a sweet chocolate chip cookie treat.”

The campaign is driven by social media, including the following components:

  • Facebook: The DoubleTree Facebook page features an app with a real-time map of where the cookie CAREavan is, relevant tweets, a sweepstakes entry form for free stays at the hotel, YouTube videos and related promotions. The page has experienced an 89% increase in Facebook Likes since DoubleTree launched the campaign on May 26.
  • Foursquare: The CAREavan’s location is updated on Foursquare, where the truck is running a special to promote its free cookies, as well as its Topguest partnership.
  • Topguest: Topguest members receive 50 Hilton HHonors Bonus Points and 25 Virgin Elevate points with each Foursquare checkin.
  • Twitter: DoubleTree is running a contest on Twitter to give followers the chance to win a “sweet break,” in which the truck team chooses tweeters using the hashtag #SweetBreak and hand-delivers 250 chocolate chip cookies to each of the winners’ offices. Twitter followers can also stay informed about the CAREavan’s whereabouts and activities.
  • YouTube: DoubleTree is capturing “Cookie Confessionals” of fans talking about why they love chocolate chip cookies and posting them to its YouTube channel.

While DoubleTree isn’t a food-centric brand at its core, it is known for its warm chocolate chip cookies, and this campaign definitely plays on that nostalgia, bringing a bit of sweetness to each city it visits.

2. Mexicue: Crowdsourcing Recipes on Facebook

BBQ truck Mexicue is on a mission to crowdsource seasonal offerings on its menu. This summer it is running a Summer Market Special Contest, in which one lucky winner will be picked to have his or her seasonal recipe featured on the menu for one month.

Using a Facebook app, Mexicue announces an ingredient and accepts recipe submissions that include that ingredient. Then the Facebook community can vote for the recipe that will be featured aboard the Mexicue truck that month. Each month this summer, a new menu item is featured. The creators of the winning recipes win a $50 gift certificate to Mexicue and a Manhattan Messenger bag by Lexdray. The second and third place prizes are $25 and $10 Mexicue gift cards, respectively.

This contest is a fun way to engage a community and empower aspiring taco artisans to craft recipes for the chance to be featured on the menu.

3. Ninja Snowballs: Building Excitement During a Dead Time

There are only so many months in a summer when pedestrians want to stop for a snow cone. Baton Rouge snow cone truck Ninja Snowballs decided to combat slumping sales in September and October by running a flavor contest.

Bite and Booze blogger Jay Ducote partnered with Ninja Snowballs to run the contest, which asked foodies to invent a new flavor combination for the truck. Entries were accepted via Twitter and Facebook.

So, how did the campaign do? The truck was able to vend a few more weeks than it usually would have as a result of the buzz around the new flavors available for customers to try during the contest, says Ducote. Furthermore, the contest details page racked up 1,500 visits, and the top 16 submitted flavors drove a lot of buzz during the six rounds of judging, in which votes were counted by how many people ordered each snow cone.

The winning flavor, called “Lemon Fluff,” was submitted by marketing consultant Julie Perrault and featured a blend of fresh-squeezed lemonade and sweetened condensed milk.

Find the entire article <here>

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Spicy Korean tacos! Grilled bleu cheese sandwiches! Fried lobster sandwiches! Key lime pie gelato! You can find all those tasty dishes from Miami’s food trucks. But where do you find the food trucks?

Miami Cheap Eats & Street Food can help. This iPhone/iPad app, available from the iTunes store ($1.99), is a comprehensive guide to South Florida’s food trucks, listing menu items, photos and handy links to Twitter feeds for real-time updates on their ever-changing whereabouts. In addition to helping users keep tabs on Miami’s food truck craze, Miami Cheap Eats showcases places to find delicious treats at great prices, including:

* The best of Miami’s melting pot cuisine: fritas, pupusas, pan con lechon (to name some of the Latin American choices), plus Asian, bistro, diner and pub fare, burgers, pizza and much more

* Hidden gems for downtown lunch breaks

* Where to find the best seasonal specialties like tropical fruit shakes and local preserves

* Concise, detailed reviews, far more useful than free crowd-sourced “OMG amazing!” comments – plus prices, so there are no surprises

* Special promotions to let you know how to get the most bang for your buck

* Cheap splurge locations for date nights

* Lots of images, links to Google maps, up-to-date service info

* Frequent updates

As Miami’s culinary scene expands in scope and national recognition, Miami Cheap Eats & Street Food tells it like it is and makes sure foodies are in on the very latest.

Developed in partnership with edible South Florida, the quarterly publication exploring foods, stories and communities by season, Miami Cheap Eats joins Miami Essentials as South Florida entries on Sutro Media’s growing list of international travel apps. Miami Cheap Eats is available for both the iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store.

Follow @MiamiCheapEats on Twitter for food truck updates.

For more information, contact Gretchen Schmidt at gretchencs@aol.com.

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While you are out and about walking the streets of your city, don’t be surprised if you get a personalized tweet from a nearby food truck in the near future.  It might be offering you a free meal in celebration of your tenth check in for the month.

As location based software (LBS) applications like Foursquare, Gowalla, Loopt continue to evolve their respective advertising models, third-party providers are busy building platforms of their own that leverage the communities surrounding such applications and services for unique integrated marketing campaigns.

One such Atlanta based startup, PlacePunch, has launched a new platform that allows businesses of any size to run their own location based marketing campaigns that integrate with Foursquare, Facebook Places, Twitter, Gowalla and others; effectively providing a one stop platform to leverage mobile location from all the major players.  The platform allows for a variety of campaigns, including loyalty and rewards programs that take advantage of check-ins, proximity to certain venues and other location oriented attributes.

PlacePunch provides the entire infrastructure necessary, including branded sign-up pages, mobile coupon delivery and analytics, so for example, your food truck can create a loyalty program that counts customer check-ins towards certain rewards and coupons.  Marketers can also run personalized messaging programs through Twitter for customers that check into their venues, so if customers check-in to your food truck, you would be able to set up a recurring Tweet welcoming them.

This platform provides the added benefit of a comprehensive dashboard. This dashboard of reports and analytics is set up to help businesses learn more about their customers and venues, including demographics, time of check-ins, and more. While your mobile restaurant could initiate the same type of campaign with the various LBS applications independently, by using PlacePunch you are provided with a streamlined and centralized environment to leverage the location-craze.

If you are interested in learning how PlacePunch can help your mobile food business increase check-ins and customer loyalty, please contact them or investigate their website. Please note, the software is free to download while the application in its beta phase.

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Owners of smart phones, laptops and iPads need to mark their calendars.

A big thank you needs go out to BING!, who in August started providing Portland with the Bing! Food Cart Finder. The food cart finder is free to use and allows the people of Portland and their visitors to search the city limits for the various menus offered by their mobile food community and their locations.

Bing is following up the launch of this application with a huge food giveaway.  On October 13th at   7 am, 11 am and 4 pm, they will be adding golden sporks to this mapping tool. These markers will reveal the exact locations where breakfast, lunch and dinner will be provided, free of charge to the first 500 patrons who show up to claim their prize.

For those of you who will be in or around Portland on the 13th, be sure to bookmark the website, and be sure to bring your appetite.

 

Disclaimer: Offer good to the first 500 people to respond to each “meal” location while supplies last. Limit one offer per person, per meal location. This offer cannot be combined with any other offer and is not redeemable for cash. Recipient is solely responsible for purchasing any other beverage or food item not specified in this offer.

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Road Stoves GPS
Developer:
Mobile Restaurants, LLC
Cost: $0.99
Runs on: Android tablet pc, iPad, iPhone/iPod Touch
Website: www.roadstoves.com

The Road Stove GPS app is a must download for anyone who is looking to use food trucks as a meal source, especially in the Los Angeles area.

The application first requests your area, then provides all of the trucks in their database that are within 5, 20 or 50 miles from you. Once you select the truck to follow, the software uploads the specific information for that truck. You are now able to view their menu, their twitter feed will populate your screen and once you choose to find them, you will get driving direction from your current location.

The only downside to this software is that once a vehicle has turned off the system, the application no longer gives you their location and drops them off any searches you may make. The problem I can see will be when the trucks are doing something like refueling, or replenishing their food products. While their system is down, there is no way to know if they are down temporarily or for the rest of the day.

If any suggestion could be made, it would be to include a status message for each truck so that followers would know if they should move on to the next food truck for service. Mobile Cuisine Magazine recommends this product to those whom follow food trucks. Even if they do not have your area covered, in talking with the developers, they should have something for you very soon.

Rating: (once the developers have included more cities, this application will easily move into the 4.5 – 5 star range)

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