8/23/2012 02:54:00 PM

TruckyLove: Food Trucks Get an App of Their Own

While the individuality of a food truck is one of the best things about it, independence also creates challenges. How do hungry patrons know where to find the truck at any given time, and how will people hear about new or interesting menu additions? Most owners currently depend on Twitter and Facebook for this, but the need to constantly update takes a lot of time and energy away from running the mini kitchen.

Enter TruckyLove. Partners Steve Palmer and Luke Bayas are building the app and social platform from the ground up, with plans to give truck owners and their fans a new and easy way to stay connected. We caught up with Steve via e-mail in South Carolina, where he’s participating in a start-up incubator to help refine the app. He gave us the deets on what to expect when the app launches, as well as a special Zagat promo code to sign up for the private beta test, which starts this September.

Zagat: How and when did you come up with the idea for a food truck app?
We were actually building a location tracking service for repair service and delivery companies. While promoting the idea on Twitter, we connected with Patrick O’Rourke of the Philadelphia Mobile Food Association. After a few follow up meetings that included people like Dan Pennachietti (Lil Dan's Gourmet), George Bieber (Sunflower Truck Stop) and Drew Crockett (HubBub Coffee), my business partner Luke and I determined there was demand for a food truck app.

Initially we had visions of creating a location tracking services platform that other developers could build upon, but we made the decision to change directions and focus solely on building and shipping TruckyLove. The idea of building an awesome resource for food truck owners and fans in Philly and beyond generated a lot of passion, more than our previous product idea.

Zagat: How is TruckyLove different from other food truck maps?
When trucks use our GPS enabled app, it’s super easy to share their location. Owners simply turn it on when open for business, and turn it off when closed for the day. When in the “on” position, the truck’s location is reported in real time to the web and mobile app. Users can count on finding the the truck in the correct spot, and even if owners are too busy to tweet, TruckyLove has them covered.

Zagat: So it’s an automatic food truck finder app?
TruckyLove goes beyond just location. We’re building a web and mobile community for food truck owners and their fans, across the U.S. Not just news, blogs and articles about food trucks, but a unique profile page for every food truck. Fans can search for any food truck, anywhere; view them on the live map; view their menus; add them to their favorites and engage the owners via social streams like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

On the other side, TruckyLove allows owners to manage all of their business information, social channels and location within a single web page. Their regular social media streams will be pulled into their profile page, and we’ll offer them access to valuable analytical data that is otherwise unavailable or really time consuming to find.

Zagat: What's the revenue model? Do trucks pay to be included/get the transponder?
We are offering a freemium model - the service is free to join, but as we push out other features, including custom analytics reports, an event booking marketplace, a sponsorship marketplace and “event” or “association” profile pages, we’ll roll out purchase plans and transaction fees. However, our philosophy is that we only want to make money if we help the truck owners make money.

Zagat: Are you planning to launch first in Philly? What’s the timeline for launching?
Philly is definitely where we will hard launch and then we’ll expand to additional markets. We are preparing for a private beta release in September. Anyone interested in participating in our private beta can sign up here using the code ZAGATLOVE.

Zagat: What’s your background? Have you been involved in the food scene before?
My background is mostly in Human Resources, but after a trip to Sonoma, CA I started blogging about wine, and have been doing it enthusiastically ever since. If I wasn’t currently participating in this startup incubater, I’d have made the trip to Portland for the Wine Bloggers Conference. In addition to being a wino, I just love street food.