Maybe you know, or maybe you don't, that I've been following food trucks and vans around the streets of Melbourne for the past few months to sample their delicious wares. It's probably one of the best assignments I've ever set myself. These are the trucks I've visited so far (loads more to come!). A few people have asked me how I know where the trucks are at any given time, since there are a LOT of food trucks in Melbourne and even if you followed them all on Twitter or Facebook, the odds of finding the one near you in your social media stream at right time aren't great. So today I'm going to reveal my secret: wherethetruck.at.
Created by three Melbourne blokes (Jack, Tom and Xavier) who love meals on wheels, wherethetruck.at is a website that tracks food trucks' whereabouts in real time on a map, so you just select your city of choice and voila! Trucks R Us! Recently Tom was good enough to spill the goss on how this website came to be and what the trio is planning next.
TOM: I love that it's all about quality food, done quickly and cheaply, all the while embracing our beautiful Australian landscape as the dining room. What should you love? That it's happening! It's so grass roots, no pretentious maître d', no bill shock, no need to dress up. It's all about fun, food and friends.
ME: What inspired you to start wherethetruck.at? How did you come up with the idea?
TOM: It was actually Xavier's idea, he saw something similar being done in the States, was pretty keen on the food trucks here, and so thought that we could put something together that was the best location service for food trucks and food truck enthusiasts.
ME: How long did it take for you go from idea to launch? Talk me through the process.
TOM: From inception to our public launch (March, Food Trucks United for Melbourne Food & Wine Festival) it took about a week. A LOT of coding, a LOT of late nights, a LOT of help from good girlfriends and from there it's been a very interesting ride. We basically screen printed our own t-shirts, got some stickers made up and then walked around for two days at Food Trucks Unite talking to people, giving them stickers, telling them about the site - from there we haven't looked back. Since March we've had over 100,000 people use our website to find themselves lunch or dinner from one of Australia's gourmet food trucks, and that's totally awesome.
ME: How do you guys know each other?
TOM: Xavier and I worked together at a market research company many moons ago (two-ish years ago?), we've been talking about ideas and things we could get going as a cool project for ages and this is the one that we made stick. Jack came on board as our Code Monkey on the day we launched V1 of the site and has been pushing the limits of Wordpress ever since. I met him at my place, he's a friend of my housemate, it was very serendipitous... He was around having a drink with my housemate and we were all shooting the shit, he came on board the next day - after a quick little dev task we gave him.
ME: How do you work together on this project? Who does what and how do you all keep in touch?
TOM: Email, Skype, face to face, SMS, phone...it's probably fair to say that around all of our day jobs, Jack's and my girlfriends and then Xavier's wife... it can be difficult to do exactly that. Keeping lines of communication open between the three of us is certainly our biggest challenge. We somehow mash the thing together though, things always work out in the end.
ME: What's next for this project?
TOM: Well first up it's our app*, we NEED to get this going SOON and so any support you and your readers can throw our way would be so greatly appreciated. From here, once we've got Australia's scene sorted out we'll be taking it to the States as the food trucking scene over there is just enormous. Bit of work to do here first though...
* At the time of this interview, the guys were crowd-sourcing funding to develop a smartphone app for wherethetruck.at. They reached their target, so look out for this app soon!
ME: If you could pick a cuisine that's not yet supplied on wheels here in Melbourne, what would it be?
TOM: Vietnamese!!!!! We need a Banh Mi van like nothing else, imagine tucking in to a beautiful French baguette stuffed full of Vietnamese grilled pork, coriander, pâté etc on a warm summer's evening... YUM!!!!
ME: Tell me a funny food-truck-related experience.
TOM: The FUN(iest) experience to date has been trying to get people who don't quite understand the concept of a "gourmet food truck" to understand that you won't get food poisoning from a dirty kebab here!!! Australians have been so conditioned to expecting that anything served out the side of a truck is bad news: dirty kebabs, soggy burgers...yuk. So taking friends and family along to a gourmet food truck for the first time is always a lot of fun, they're skeptical until the first mouthful, then their faces light up, and most of them are hooked from then on.
ME: Anything else you want to say?
TOM: We do this for the love of it, it can be tough sometimes as we don't make any money from the site however there is an expectation of quality from both a user's and the trucks' perspective. We love that people love our site, what makes it all worthwhile is when somebody has something nice to say about us and what we're doing. That's the fun bit for us, when we get feedback from our users saying that they love using our service.
If you live in Australia, go to wherethetruck.at and select your city to find your nearest food truck. For photos and a bit of a story about the trucks, click on my Meals on Wheels tag at any time as I eat my way through the streets of Melbourne.
ps. Last chance to win some beautiful handmade gifts by Sparkling Flora