Monday, June 15, 2009

Twitter-Powered Retail Business Models

A lot of people are on Twitter these days. Most are trying to figure it out, wondering whether and how to use it. For many, it’s a way to meet people online who share common interests. A friend of mine is thrilled with the contacts she has made with others in her field across the country and around the world and gushes “I never would have met these people if not for Twitter!”

But to me, the interesting news in Twitter-dom is the potential of the medium to enable new local business models and new formats. Thanks in part to Twitter, Meals on Wheels no longer just refers to home-delivered meal services to people in need. As reported in the Wall Street Journal last week, “New technology has been a game changer, allowing trucks to pick and move to where the customers are on short notice."

Here are three concrete examples that illustrate a range of new ways Twitter is helping locavores find and eat great food.

With no retail storefront, no waiters, no tables or silverware, dishes, or hardly any overhead - KitchenetteSF serves fresh takeout-only lunches Monday through Friday from the garage door of their warehouse in the Dogpatch neighborhood of SF.

Their chefs have worked at some of the best kitchens in the Bay Area: Foreign Cinema, Chez Panisse, Incanto, Eccolo, Betelnut, Fog City Diner etc. Menus are posted on the blog at the end of each day for the next day’s lunch.
“Whatever we find that is super fresh and delicious is what we’re serving. Everything will be organic, local, street food inspired, spontaneous, affordable, handmade from scratch, and delicious (we’re eating this for lunch too!)"
The easiest way to know what’s for lunch today is to follow KitchenetteSF’s tweets so the menu comes to you. And over 1,000 people are following the tweets of this self-proclaimed “spontaneous organic covert nourishment” innovator.

Last month, Chez Spencer in SF added a mobile component to its bistro repertoire with Spencer on the Go!—according to Urban Daddy the first food truck to serve white tablecloth French fare. With 1,001 Twitter followers as of today (6/15/09), the converted taco truck serves customers in SoMA on weekend evenings, and will soon be a regular at the Ferry Building farmer’s market during the day on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Kogi BBQ is run out of a truck serving Korean-barbecued meat inside Mexican-style tacos in Los Angeles. The company operates the kitchen in superhip, late night hangout, The Alibi Room, but the truck is its direct to consumer business. KogiBBQ currently has over 31,000 followers on Twitter.

According to the Wall Street Journal, more truck operators are following Kogi’s example and have begun using Twitter to post messages on followers’ cell phones, alert customers of their whereabouts and even ask for tips on parking spaces. These things are not hard to do - they just take creativity and follow through.

Today, creators of movable feasts are using high tech to drive up close and personal local experiences. Could the Helms Bakery Truck, the Good Humor Man, and the Oscar Meyer Weiner Mobile find new life in a Twitter-powered world?


Carol Phillips said...

These types of examples are why I think those who say Twitter has peaked are wrong. It may have peaked for those who use it to tell people what they HAD for lunch, but is just being picked up those who use it tell you what you can HAVE for lunch. The platform is flexible and creativity will make it indispensable.

About Us said...

I had no idea that organizations were using Twitter in this manner, but it really makes perfect sense. Yet again, Twitter connects business to consumer. Thanks for the great resource!


Martin Predd said...

I visited the Portland version of LA's Korean BBQ cart today. We trekked across the river to Burgerville parking lot to catch the truck during its lunchtime interval.

Arriving a few minutes early, we were shocked to see 20+ people waiting in line before the truck even showed up! Pretty fascinating use of Twitter, and some great food to boot.

Phil Dunn - said...

I wrote about this. @weirnermobile retweeted it (RT), and I'm now following weinermobile. Maybe I'll get a hot dog out of it. My baloney has a first name.. it's T-W-I-T-T-E-R...