Business and Operations
marketing insights: A mobile feast
By Michelle Brisebois
As the world becomes more wireless and mobile, so does the search for customers. Pop-up retail is getting lots of buzz right now and is on the radar of savvy trend watchers. Pop-up retail entails erecting temporary stores in high-traffic locations for short periods of time.
As the world becomes more wireless and mobile, so does the search for
customers. Pop-up retail is getting lots of buzz right now and is on
the radar of savvy trend watchers. Pop-up retail entails erecting
temporary stores in high-traffic locations for short periods of time.
As www.trendwatching.com describes it, these stores “have a tendency to
pop up unannounced, quickly draw in the crowds, and then disappear or
morph into something else, adding to retail the fresh feel, exclusivity
and surprise that galleries, theatres and Cirque du Soleil-adepts have
been using for years.” It’s a concept being embraced by some
foodservice operators that are launching branded units designed to
bring food on site, as catering trucks have traditionally done. Is
mobile feasting a perfect vehicle or could we end up just spinning our
wheels? Chains such as Taco Bell are getting into the game and using
social media as a key medium in creating awareness. Taco Bell launched
a Twitter site this summer to promote the taco truck’s whereabouts as
it toured on a cross-country trek handing out free Taco Bell menu
items. The website www.findlafoodtrucks.com amalgamates all of the
Twitter feeds in a smartphone friendly format. The website is organized
by vendors and features posts that make proclamations such as: “Happy
Friday! Here on Pennsylvania in Santa Monica ’ til 2:00 pm. Dessert
truck in New York City serves upscale desserts such as warm molten dark
chocolate cake, bread pudding and milk chocolate mousse.”
The market research firm Mintel reported that “these food trucks are
the latest competition to quick service and fast casual restaurants
because they cook up high quality, freshly prepared food for a
reasonable price – and they come to you.”
Mobile units can be quite cost effective compared to building or taking
on a new location. If you’re on the fence about opening a second
restaurant, a travelling truck might be an alternative to consider.
It’s a way to reach a new audience without construction costs or
property taxes. However, it is imperative that you give your mobile
initiative the full support of your brand standards.
Pizzeria Prima Strada in Victoria, B.C., for example, uses its mobile
pizza oven to sell its product at various events on Vancouver Island.
“What’s served should represent what the customer is going to get if
they come to the restaurant,” says Cristen DeCarolis Dallas, the
You only get to make a first impression once and since the objective is
to get new customers, your quality must be up to your highest
standards. It’s also critical that you use the opportunity to reinforce
your brand. You’re potentially intercepting them at a busy event or
while they’re on the run, so if you want them to remember you and come
to your bricks and mortar location you’ll need to have branded
communications pieces to pave the way.
“When we serve at events we have a canopy with our logo and name on
it,” says DeCarolis Dallas. Napkins, paper plates and cups can all
provide a vehicle on which to highlight your restaurant name, location
and website. While they may end up in a garbage can after a few
minutes, you’ll still have had a chance to make an impression.
Think of your culinary road trip as a performance. The key to any successful opening night is lots of rehearsal time.
“We always make sure the pizza oven is warmed up and in good working
order prior to the event,” says DeCarolis Dallas. She also advises that
restaurants considering a foray into mobile food service should tighten
the focus of the menu and the target market.
“It’s a good idea to pare it down to a few key menu items when you go
on the road. It helps minimize the ingredients you need to bring with
you and allows you to do fewer things really well.”
It’s also helpful to identify the important places and/or events you
want to be at. Each location you select should fit with your customer
acquisition strategy and be rich with the type of consumer most likely
to come to your restaurant.
Taking your act on the road may not be the easiest or even the most
inexpensive marketing initiative you’ve ever embraced, but it could be
the one that takes your business to the next level. Mobile foodservice
units have been dubbed a threat to traditional food service, but that’s
only assuming traditional food service doesn’t jump on the opportunity
first. This may just be the perfect time to hit the road.
Michelle Brisebois is a marketing professional with experience in the
food, pharmaceutical, financial services and wine industries. She
specializes in retail brand strategies.