Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Twitter means foodies flying in for great food...!

The following article by Shaya Tayefe Mohajer (abridged here) was originally entitled, "When Twitter and foodies collide: Fans flocking to Internet-savvy good trucks," and published in The Stockton Record on May 20, 2009.

For some foodies, tweets lead to great eats. Twitter recently became the communique of choice for the almost cultishly popular Kogi BBQ trucks, roving Korean-style taco vendors in Los Angeles that use the 140-character, cell-phone friendly missives to alert customers to their whereabouts and menu items.

And the trend is spreading to other wheel meals as more food trucks - a fast-growing food phenomenon in major cities, especially in the West - are using the social networking site to draw customers.

While it's not clear which truck tweeted first, the Kogi folks have shown themselves to be adept at turning these mini missives into a hugely successful marketing machine, says Jane Goldman, editor-in-chief of Chow Magazine.

"Kogi special at the trucks and the Alibi! Grilled asparagus with Yellow Nectarines and Sesame Seeds!" read one recent Kogi tweet.

The decision to Twitter was a practical one, says Kogi brand manager Mike Prasad. He says Kogi - which has become famous for its Korean-Mexican fusion - needed a way to inspire repeat business while solving "the problems of being a moveable venue." "Twitter... (is) separate from the venue itself (and) creates a virtual home," says Prasad. "It was perfect."

Kogi's food is cheap and unique, but there's another payoff to securing this moving meal, the thrill of the chase. Since Kogi's launch in November, hungry herds have been following the pair of white trucks that rove the city selling tacos, burritos and other gourmet tidbits steeped in traditional Korean flavors.

In short order, the Kogi name has become recognizable to foodies around the country. No small accomplishment for a pair of taco trucks, says Kate Krader, restaurant editor for Food & Wine magazine. "That's 90 percent thanks to Twitter."

And she thinks the success of food truck Tweets likely will inspire a broader use of Twitter across the food world. "Chefs will be tweeting from the farmers market about the mushrooms they just picked up and will be part of their mushroom pasta that evening," she says.

Elsewhere, it's the diners who are Twittering about truck food. In Portland, Ore. - home to food carts offering dishes from Bosnia, Iraq, Peru, Thailand and many points between - fans use the high tech tool to track the low-tech vendors. Portland Twitter users, such as PDX Foodcarts, track the arrival of new trucks, which have exploded from just a few in 2006 to more than 170 this year, representing 24 national cuisines.

"OK, Poompui, a new Thai food care on 8th and Couch is PHENOMENAL," read a recent tweet by PDXfoodcarts. "Like Thai food in Thailand. GO, JUST GO."

Photo: Matt Sayles, AP

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