Top 5 Street Food Game Changers

The street food industry is on fire in many areas of the county.  The Twin Cities is one such hotbed of activity.  There are currently no less than 30 street food vendors actively selling their specialties around town.  A few years ago, there were none.  What caused the sudden increase in popularity?  Here are the top 5 street food game changers, at least in the Twin Cities.

5.  Nostalgia

People will always have a soft spot for childhood memories.  I’m not saying everyone ate from a food truck as a kid, but eating a hotdog from a pushcart offers the same sense that things are ok (despite current economic or political factors).  Whether it brings back memories of going to a ballgame with dad or summer picnics, warm-fuzzy feelings are a part of the deal.

4.  Eased Regulations

Saint Paul and Minneapolis saw the street food trends growing in places like Los Angeles and Portland and decided to ease regulations on street food vending.  This opened up a market that was, for all intents and purposes, closed.  The restrictions were so severe that it quite literally wasn’t possible to make a living with a food truck or cart before the restrictions were changed.  Saint Paul chose to really participate in the street food movement by organizing a “Food Truck Court” on Wednesday’s at lunchtime throughout the Summer.  Five or six food trucks line up at the corner of Kellogg Boulevard and Wabasha Street and attract crowds by the hundreds (maybe thousands).

3.  Smart Phones and 3G/4G Data Transfer

With smart phones and cheap, fast data transfer plans, it is now possible to look up current locations of street food vendors from anywhere with a cellular signal.

2.  Local Food Movement

The local food movement, which is a growing trend throughout the county, has opened up channels from local farms to local grocery stores and restaurants to offer fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy without the added  expense of transporting it from other parts of the country or world.  Many food trucks offer menu items made from locally sourced products.  People can eat fresh, healthy food at a reasonable price with extreme convenience.

1.  Twitter and other Social Media

Twitter and other social media channels, along with particular mobile applications, has opened a whole new world that allows street food vendors and their patrons (FANS) to connect away from their carts and trucks.  What has really changed is that now you can keep track of where your favorite vendors are at any particular time.  Before Twitter, food trucks were mostly at the mercy of people walking by.  Now they can attract people from miles away with a single tweet.  Apps like 4square or websites like MSPstreetfood.com show current locations on a map, making it even easier to know who is nearby.

Bonus:  SquareUp

SquareUp.com offers a simple interface to accept credit and debit cards without the need for a wired setup.  A small device gets plugged into the headphone jack of your smartphone and it allows you to swipe a card (or enter manually) for a small per-transaction fee.  There are no monthly charges, making this appealing to businesses with few credit/debit transactions.  It allows vendors to sell to people they otherwise wouldn’t be able to.  With the current trend of carrying less cash, this could add a significant revenue stream to vendors.

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About Raun Lauterbach

Optimistic realist, life enthusiast, outdoor cook, Midwest traveler, husband, father... Follow me: Twitter | Facebook | Get updates in your email
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