Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts Launches Its First Food Truck

With eight destinations, three states and more than 1,000 miles to cover, the first official Four Seasons Food Truck hit the road on September 16, 2013. Known as the FS Taste Truck, the vehicle and its tour provides a new, mobile stage for the brand’s culinary talent to connect with their local communities.

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Photo credit: http://behindthefoodcarts.com

“Food is a passion for us at Four Seasonsand we are always seeking to share that in inspiring and exciting ways, whether it’s through a Michelin-star dining experience or the perfect beer and burger pairing at one of our gastropubs,” says Guy Rigby, vice president of food & beverage in the Americas. “We want to keep our chefs engaged in something that is very relevant and the food truck movement fits the bill.  It’s fun, unexpected and will foster the notion that Four Seasons does things differently.”

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Photo credit: http://behindthefoodcarts.com

From Palo Alto, California to Santa Fe, New Mexico, the truck’s route will cover a total of seven cities with eight Four Seasons hotels and resorts playing host in each location. The participating properties will take over the truck in their respective destinations for one week, executing an exciting, mouth-watering series of events as well as mobile menus inspired by their cities.

From popup parking-lot parties to stops at prominent landmarks and chef competitions that celebrate regional cuisines, the food truck’s journey will provide an entertaining, moveable feast for all to enjoy.  Examples of events include:

  • Prost! – The FS Taste Truck will stop in Santa Barbara’s popular “Funk Zone” rolling up on October 4 to Telegraph Brewing Company for the ultimate Oktoberfest. Guests will taste fare including pork bratwurst, Polish sausage with sauerkraut, beef goulash, chicken schnitzel, steak frites and, for dessert, a German triple-chocolate cake. On tap at Telegraph to complement the menu will be the 1927 Ale, which is brewed exclusively for Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara. 
  • Tales of the Chile Pepper – An ingredient-driven “passing of the keys” will take place during the final leg of the journey between Executive Chef Mel Mecinas of Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North and Executive Chef Andrew Cooper of Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe.  The two chefs will serve multiple dishes featuring chile peppers, a staple of Southwestern cuisine, and fans will be invited to vote for their favourite by posting images to Instagram.  The winning dishes will be featured on the menu at Terra Bar at the Santa Fe property for the final week of the tour.

Photo credit: http://behindthefoodcarts.com

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Photo credit: http://behindthefoodcarts.com

In addition to providing an exceptional culinary experience, the FS Taste Truck tour benefits a good cause. Following its completion, a portion of the total proceeds of the tour will be donated to Chefs to End Hunger, a charity that works with hotels, restaurants, and food service operations across the country to redistribute excess prepared food to those in need.

The FS Taste Truck will be rolling into the following cities throughout the fall:

  • September 16-22 – Palo Alto, California
  • September 23-29  – San Francisco, California
  • September 30 – October 6 – Santa Barbara, California
  • October 7-13 – Beverly Hills, California
  • October 14-20 – Los Angeles, California
  • October 21-27 – Westlake Village, California
  • October 28 – November 3 – Scottsdale, Arizona
  • November 4-10 – Santa Fe, New Mexico

My friend Ted Nguyen recently visited the Four Seasons truck in Beverly Hills and wrote a fantastic recap along with interviews of members of the Four Seasons staff.

Follow the tour at Taste by Four Seasons or by searching #FSTasteTruck on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Plus, share Four SeasonsTaste Truck photos on Instagram to receive a special treat at the host Four Seasons hotel. Learn about how to Snap, Share & Savor here.

Coffee Bean Debuts Ice Blended Truck This Summer

From May 20 – September 2, 2013, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf® will keep their customers cool during their landmark 50th anniversary celebration with the introduction of a new Birthday Cake Ice Blended® beverage.

Available nationwide, the drink will be offered alongside the brand’s limited time summer Rocky Road and signature Mocha flavors. The Original Ice Blended® drink from The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf® pioneered the frozen coffee craze. The innovative handcrafted beverage was created in 1989 when a team member at the Westwood, CA store brought a blender from home, borrowed ice from the store next door, and blended together coffee, chocolate powder, milk, and ice.

Today, over 20,000 Ice Blended® drinks are served daily worldwide and over 7 million annually.

Marking the new Ice Blended® flavors’ debut on Monday, May 20, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf® hosts its 50th Birthday Celebration with Buy One Get One Free Birthday Cake, Mocha, and Rocky Road Ice Blended® beverage daily June 3 – 7 from 2pm-6pm at participating stores across California and Arizona.

In addition, the brand will designate Thursday, June 27, 2013 as ‘The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf® Day’ in Los Angeles, CA.

 “We were ahead of the curve when we first introduced the Ice Blended® beverage, sparking the future of iced coffee drinks” notes President Mel Elias. “In honor of our 50th anniversary and continuing to keep our customers cool and refreshed, we want to tap into our favorite childhood flavors to create new memories with our guests, those young as well as those young-at-heart.”

Treating loyal The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf® fans throughout summer 2013, the company’s new Ice Blended® mobile truck will tour Southern California cities including Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego sharing free Birthday Cake, Rocky Road and Mocha Ice Blended® samples.

Coffee Bean Ice Blended Truck Summer Tour

The truck will also participate in various outdoor events including KIIS FM Wango Tango, the Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards, the Vans U.S. Open of Surfing, and the X Games. Fans can track the truck by following @TheCoffeeBean on Twitter and using the hashtag #IceBlendedTruck.

Tying a food truck, and thereby adding mobility, to an already-established brand is an ambitious idea, one that seems fruitful considering the summer tour lineup. Utilizing a hashtag will allow fans to track its whereabouts and streamlined any shared images of the experience.

Will you visit the Ice Blended Truck this summer?

Stalking Food Trucks Just Got Easier

There’s a new app available for food-truck lovers! TruxMap aggregates information for food trucks that are open at specific times, and lays out their locations via “pins” on a Google map.

You can look up specific locations, or view all available pins to get an idea of what’s going on throughout the country. It’s a great way to keep tabs on your favorite trucks, plus learn about new ones.

truxmap live food truck map

A green pin indicates a truck is currently open, along with a list of which ones will be open the following day, if you like to plan ahead.

Everything is displayed in a straight-forward manner, with all relevant information you may need. It even pulls up Twitter streams for those trucks that have them.

You can access the food truck map from a computer, or from the iPhone and Android apps.

While most trucks are pretty good about keeping fans up on there where-abouts via social media, this is definitely a neat way for diners to access numerous trucks’ info in one place, in an easy way.

Have you ever discovered any new trucks via an app like this?

Chicago’s Smallest, Greenest Food Truck

patsy green mobile food truck Have you heard of pasties (“pass-tees”)? They’re large, savory pies that are the national dish of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. They originated in Cornwall, England before traveling to Michigan with the Cornish tin miners in the 1800’s, and  were considered a convenient, easily portable and nutritious food.

Around Labor Day 2010, Carrie Clark and her husband Jay Sebastian decided to bring pasties to Chicago. Once they began developing recipes, the next dilemma was figuring out how to get them to people. After their initial desire to sell their homemade pasties from a cargo bicycle was shut down by City Hall around Labor Day 2011, they decided to go with a mobile food truck…

While beloved by foodies, mobile food trucks are generally not the most environmentally-friendly business model — they require a lot of gas as well as a lot of power to prepare the food in the vessel.

With that in mind,  the new owners of Bridgeport Pasty wanted to do things differently. Carrie and Jay opted to go with Patsy the Pastymobile, a Global Electric Motorcar vehicle.

This tiny, all-electric truck has a top speed of 26 MPH and a range of 30 miles on a full charge. The truck runs on nine, 8-volt gel batteries that recharge via a 72-volt DC charger, which plugs into a wall outlet. Sebastian calculates that Patsy costs 1.5 cents per mile in electricity to operate, whereas an SUV or small truck that gets 14 MPG costs 29 cents per mile in gasoline. A large food truck probably gets even worse mileage. It also has the ability go reside safely indoors along with many tight spaces regular trucks may not regularly be able to maneuver.

pasty the pastymobileBridgeport Pasty uses Twitter and Facebook to communicate with fans and get the word out about their whereabouts, and they also keep folks up-to-date on the latest pasty news via their blog. Devoted foodies can also subscribe to the truck’s newsletter or opt-in to receive text message updates, providing a good variety of ways for people to interact with the brand.

When asked about feedback amongst the larger, gasoline-fueled trucks, Sebastian noted, “I think they envy us only in that we can park a lot easier than they can.”

To Your Health, Happiness and Deliciousness

Culture the Yogurt SocietyThe food truck culture has exploded over the past year, and most use social media to get the word out about upcoming events and locations. That said, only a few are really using social media to its full advantage.

One truck, however, that is doing a noticeably great job with customer relations, marketing and branding via social channels is Culture, a yogurt truck from Mikey Farah, the creator of Berry Chill, a former brick-and-mortar shop based in Chicago.

The truck, also based in Chicago, deems its tagline “the yogurt society,” a great, welcoming motto to attract hungry visitors.

Not only is Culture a tasty indulgence, it’s also good for you. They’ve eliminated the artificial chemicals and replaced them with live active cultures, which can increase your metabolism, help boost your immune response AND freshen your breath (smooch, anyone?)

Delicious fresh-cut, fruit toppings are also available, such as mangoes, strawberries and pineapples; and dry toppings including granola, mochi and popular cereals can be added as well. Their incredibly diverse menu caters to any taste, and the explicit “truck finder” portion of their website makes it easy for those craving sweets to locate their whereabouts.

Furthermore, they have a Tumblr page which also includes a variety of information, and is consistent in appearance with their branding, clearly displayed on their truck, website and other promotional materials. The blog includes news, challenges, photos and more. This is a great way to set a fun vibe around a product, and keep an engaged audience.

Culture frozen yogurt truckIf you visit Culture’s Twitter and Facebook pages, it’s easy to note that they’re not only promoting their locations as many trucks do, but actually responding to and engaging with fans. Their custom Twitter background also includes more information about the truck’s mission along with general health information about their yogurt.

Culture sets an awesome example of how food trucks can really take their social media to the next level.

The Butcher’s Son – National Food Truck?

The Butcher's SonDallas-based Two Trucks LLC will launch its food-truck brand, The Butcher’s Son, in October with two Dallas trucks, followed by five trucks in February, ten trucks in May, and, hopefully, a total of 200 trucks by 2014.

Two Trucks is led by CEO Jonathan Wagner, son of Johnsonville Sausage founder Ralph Stayer, and Dain Pool, son of Pool Restaurant Group’s CEO, Dan Pool.

“I was scared at first, because I know the food-truck culture is, I don’t want to say anti-corporate, but it’s along those lines,” Pool says, noting that major food corporations have launched promotional trucks that fizzled. “We don’t want the food-truck community to go, ‘Oh my gosh, a corporate truck,’ because we’re really not.”

Rather than rolling out a single truck, Pool helped Wagner construct a food-truck brand that was separate from their fathers’. The business partners hope The Butcher’s Son can be the first major national food-truck brand.

Pool compares the food-truck trend to the early years of the quick-service industry, noting its fast growth that shows no signs of slowing. With so much attention on the mobile food industry currently, he believes now is the right time to debut The Butcher’s Son.

The brand will primarily feature Johnsonville products, like sausages and brats, as well as an array of other options including breakfast and dessert items. The Pool/Johnsonville relationship provides the truck an advantage of serving high-quality foods at affordable prices.

Though The Butcher’s Son is debuting in Texas and will likely build out the markets there before crossing branching out to others, “the economic climate does play a major role in the markets that we’re going to choose,” Pool says. Two Trucks plans to eventually spread across the country, eventually introducing additional truck brands, like burrito, Asian or dessert trucks.

The menu, Pool says, will also play a major role in the social media marketing efforts of The Butcher’s Son.

“We’re announcing two menu items every Monday and Friday (on Facebook and Twitter) until we open, to keep people’s interests up, and it’s worked very well so far,” he says. Each Butcher’s Son truck that rolls out will also run a social media promotion that lets customers choose the final two menu items.

Wagner and Pool will both be speaking on a panel at QSR’s Dine America conference, October 9-11 in Atlanta. The panel, “The Young Guns,” will discuss second-generation restaurant operators and how franchisors can appeal to the younger generation of franchisees.

Congrats to Jonathan and Dain on the launch of the brand and looking forward to its growth and evolution in the coming years!

Fall into the … Food Truck?

With the rise in food truck popularity, it’s becoming increasingly more common for established businesses to jump on the bandwagon. Typically, though, those brands are food related (take the Carl’s Jr., Wienerschnitzel or Baskin Robbins trucks, for example).

However, The Gap, one of the largest retail clothing brands, is shaking things up with the debut of its food truck, Pico de Gap.

The Gap truck is serving Mexican cuisine at various events and Gap store locations in the brand’s hometown of San Francisco as well as other truck-heavy cities like Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.

The truck serves to stimulate buzz about Gap’s new 1969 Fall denim collection. Tacos will be available for just $1.69 for two, and feature coupons tucked into the wrappers. They’re also providing free tacos to anyone who shows a Gap receipt demonstrating purchase of the Gap 1969 jeans!

Ryan Scott of Top Chef fame is handling the culinary responsibilities of the truck and has created a enticing selection of options.

This is the first time a major retailer has taken to the streets (literally) in this manner to spread the word, so it’ll be interesting to see how the campaign goes, and if other brands take on similar initiatives.

Would you dine at a truck like this for retail perks?

 

Got the Munchies?

Big Head Asian Munchathon

What better incentive to run a marathon than having lots of munchies along the way? Munchathon is a food-themed 5K featuring numerous food trucks and lots of obstacles. This unique idea puts on fun twist on both food truck festivals as well as running events. Held in a park area home to numerous mudruns, the event seeks to inspire creativity (encouraging runners to dress up in food-related garb, etc.) and allow attendees to sample various eats in an authentic settings.

Samples of obstacles runners might expect include “donut drills,” “fish ladder,” lobster crawl” and bounce houses. Food truck vendors participating on the actual course will be providing sample-sized portions while there will also be a festival at the end with nearly 50 gourmet trucks offering a huge variety of fare, plus beverage vendors, entertainment and more.

If you’re in the food truck business, it’s a great idea for trucks to get involved in events like this for numerous reasons:

  1. The event planners handle the promotion for you
  2. It demonstrates great community relations
  3. You’re given access to a huge audience in one place, on one dayMunchathon Food-Themed 5K

It’s also really easy to keep your attendees up-to-date on the details via social media portals like Twitter and Facebook.

We have two pairs of tickets to give away to Munchathon! It takes place this Saturday, July 16 at Oak Canyon Park. To enter, leave a comment with the oddest thing you’ve ever eaten. Members of the Munchathon team will review the answers on Friday at noon and choose their favorites to win!

 

Fairs, Food Trucks, Block Parties and Social Media

The OC Fair & Event Center is a multi-functional venue that “provides educational, entertainment and recreational opportunities for the general public and preserves the heritage of California agriculture.” It’s home to the Orange County Marketplace, Pacific Amphitheatre, Centennial Farm, the OC Fair and other ongoing events hosted throughout the year. This past year, they debuted their first self-initiated New Year’s Eve Block Party, which was very successful, along with Food Truck Fare Thursdays, which attracts a large crowd on a weekly basis.

The 2010 OC Fair was recently awarded several top placements in the Western Fairs Association (WFA) annual Achievement Awards, which recognizes excellence in the fair industry and provides a forum for fairs to share successful ideas and programs. They received first-place rankings in fair logo and best new idea (misting stations) as well as second-place rankings in several categories, including social media campaign.

Robin Wachner, the fair’s Director of Communications, has run their social media since its inception. She was using Facebook personally and saw how much information was being shared, and how people came together. A PR veteran, she noticed the subtle changes in the industry and that social media was becoming the new primary way to communicate with both the media and the public.

The social media fanbase was grown entirely organically. Robin began to notice how, the more interesting content she posted, the more people came, and the more they interacted. It was a natural transition for people to begin using social media personally to locate information on places they like, so it became natural for the fairgrounds to take advantage of that opportunity to be present. It’s also a very cost-effective way to promote.

Food Truck Fare Thursdays, for example, draws 300 people to the fairgrounds each Thursday. Featuring a rotating variety of food trucks, this weekly event helps garner buzz about the fairgrounds as well as local food trucks, offering consumers a chance to sample different trucks. It is and always has been relayed entirely through social media.

They’ve kept their Twitter and Facebook pages enticing by doing a lot of different contests including trivia questions and word scrambles. When they have tickets they want to give away, they’re able to build up a lot of buzz and excitement online. At times when the fair is quieter, they offered exclusive online coupons for guests to print out.

Robin discussed the differences in the Twitter and Facebook crowds:  Twitter is most effective for those interested in more immediate gratification (so, ticket giveaways for approaching shows are best received on Twitter), whereas more thought-out initiatives are more suitable for Facebook.

They’ve also used social media as a way to solicit feedback on many things. They asked their consumers directly what kinds of concerts they’d like to see in the future. Another fascinating find was that they brought in focus groups to get opinions on the NYE Block Party in addition to asking their Facebook fans the same questions. The results of both groups was virtually the same, posing a question about whether or not focus groups (which cost money) will eventually become obsolete when the same kinds of consumer response is available for free through Twitter and Facebook.

Last year was also the first year they used Yelp and found it an effective tool in addressing customers and their concerns. This year, they hope to beef up their Yelp and Foursquare promotions, including incentives for mayors as well as possibly, an OC Fair badge.

The theme for this summer’s 2011 OC Fair is “Let’s Eat” as a result of surveys indicated people are most crazy about food, followed by music. There’s going to be several new, authentic features at the fair this year including the presence of food trucks and possibly, a food-truck throwdown, pinning all the regular fried, fair-food favorites up against food truck cuisine.

Robin’s advice for any similar venues looking to get started with social media include initially building up your fanbase by following other fairs, amusement parks and any other similar venues and those that are talking about them, along with relevant pages pertaining to your city.

The Food Truck Phenomenon

In the past year, the mobile food industry has soared to amazing heights. Almost every type of food imaginable can now be found in truck form. The food truck culture has been especially potent in Southern California.

Orange County launched its first-ever Foodie Fest at the Honda Center back in August. It hosted over 50 trucks and drew a crowd of 8,500.  The OC Fairgrounds also featured 20+ trucks at their recent New Year’s Eve Blockparty, further solidifying the draw of such a niche. Food truck events are a great way for these large recreation venues to garner some additional PR as well.

OC Foodie Fest

One reason food trucks have become so successful is that they are moderately easy to manage in comparison to physical dining venues. They don’t require the same extent of staffing nor do their operators have to worry about paying rent. Their mobility allows them to reach customers of numerous destinations and subsequently word-of-mouth marketing is highly applicable.

The surge in food truck presence is no-doubt enhanced by the live accessibility to their whereabouts via Twitter and Facebook. The foodie crowd relies on these portals in knowing where their favorite trucks are going to be in the coming days and weeks. You’ll rarely see a truck without their Twitter and Facebook information plastered along the side.

Technology, in general, also plays a large part in food truck success. I recently paid via credit card at a foodtruck through an app on their iPhone. Mobile Food News also recently posted an article about a new smart-phone app called “Mobile Meteor,” an “application that works with a food truck’s existing Twitter account: By sending a tweet with ‘#open’ plus the truck’s address, a map automatically appears on the business’s mobile web site with a link to their location on Google maps.”

Food trucks use social media to keep consumers up-to-date on their whereabouts

Going to a foodtruck event, whether a regularly-held smaller scale one, or large one, has a much lighter feel than going to a sit-down restaurant. It’s easy to mingle with lots of people in open areas of “fun” destinations: shopping centers, bowling alleys, etc. Plus, you can try out lots of different kinds of food, and it’s usually pretty reasonably priced. Trucks can also be spotted in front of bars at night, which is brilliant mutual marketing as many bars only serve drinks, and now thirsty patrons (with tastebuds likely enhanced from consumption of aforementioned beverages) will have food to munch on, which will probably keep them around the area longer, likely to result in an increase in bar sales, too.

Where do you think the foodtruck phenomenon will go from here?