The birthplace of the food truck, Los Angeles enjoys some of the country’s best and most popular restaurants – directly on its city streets. The food phenom started in 2009, when independent mobile food traders increased the range of food on offer through their trucks. It suddenly became fashionable and fun to find favoured food trucks, bringing a new culture – not to mention a huge variety of cuisine – to the streets of Los Angeles. People started to ditch traditional restaurants, instead embarking on an exciting journey to locate their favourite truck or, indeed, to find new ones.
However, as the food truck culture grew, peoples’ patience in finding trucks faded. As tastes developed, customers became loyal, wanting to buy lunch from their favorite truck on a more regular basis. That was the problem with food trucks; they were often hard to locate. This problem opened up a whole new market that needed to be filled; food truck companies and technology companies alike saw a golden opportunity for the creation of a mobile app that could pinpoint the exact location in real time of a network of food trucks.
Step up Roadstoves. The colourful food truck company was, and still is, Los Angeles’ most well-known and popular networks of food trucks. With infamous trucks such as Baby’s Badass Burgers and B Sweet Mobile, Roadstoves’ fun and quirky fleet offered fans a huge variety of cuisine to choose from. In 2010, Roadstoves launched an industry first. Its app used GPS to locate almost every single one of its fleet of food trucks and was an instant hit among users. It gained a permanent place on the home screens of many-a-smartphone.
An influx of other food truck apps started to crop up after the success of Roadstoves GPS and the craze continued into the mainstream. Many of the city’s chain restaurants opened their own food truck locators. Burger King and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream each developed apps that located their string of mobile outlets.
By 2011, the Los Angeles food truck culture had spread nationally and other cities such as New York, Chicago and Seattle each developed their own mobile food scene.
However, despite this national craze and an influx of new copycat apps (and there is no doubt that the market is fairly saturated with them), Roadstoves remains the one app that has continued to deliver consistently. While its GPS function is on a temporary “sabbatical”, it’s Twitter aggregation and detailed menus still reign surpreme.
Roadstoves itself has grown exponentially in the last two years. Since 2010, its fleet has increased to include trucks serving curry, donuts, burgers, grilled cheese and Italian to name a few… every truck has its own distinct and fun brand. For the “foodie” culture, it’s nice to have their locations and menu selections at the touch of one finger.
Making it long term
Since Roadstoves started this culture craze with its first launch of the infamous Kogi truck, their app is just an extension of their goal in making this movement last. City authorities were quick to recognise the trend long ago when they imposed an ordinance that required LA’s 9,500 food trucks to adhere to strict health regulations. This, for a while, discouraged new vendors to start business; the cost of specialist health and truck insurance, coupled with vending permits, depots, staff costs and truck maintenance was enough to put some people off. However, the public hype that was created by companies like Roadstoves, and the sense of fun it created with its tracking app, seems to have paid off. While necessities like insurance (many insurance companies now offer competitive deals for food truckers) and health standards cannot be ignored, the industry has continued to grow. Setting up a food truck might be a challenge but, thanks to Roadstoves GPS, finding one isn’t.