I was born and raised in L.A. There are many terrible things about living in the City of Angels: earth quakes, exclusionary property values, paparazzi, terrible drivers, etc. There are also some excellent benefits. Namely, restaurants offering virtually every type of ethnic food – from hole in the wall Cuban and Pho fair to Nancy Silverton’s insano Pizza – within walking distance of my house. L.A. is also home to the ubiquitous taco truck.
Catering trucks are normal in these parts, and “roach coaches” actually kept me alive during my first few years of high school, before I had a driver’s license. The food it better than you would imagine. Just think NYC food cart, on a big rig chassis and with a fancy horn. However one particular such roaming palace of Good Eats has been making HUGE waves in the traditional media thanks to its wildly successful use of new media.
The Kogi Korean BBQ Truck does an INCREDIBLE job at PR/Marketing. Here’s the breakdown. First, a guy named Mark Manguera started Kogi with the idea of offering a hybrid of Korean BBQ flavors and traditional Mexican street food. He brought in a business manager from the Omni hotel chain, a CIA trained chef who worked at Le Bernardin and a PR guru who also works as a food blogger. They also have a two-man new media team in charge of twitter, blogging, etc. That’s right… this crew has more communicators than cooks, and its working. The buzz is INSANE.
The team cranked out a killer menu, lots of hype and name recognition and a key element all of L.A.’s hottest eateries must have to survive: exclusivity. Except unlike Katsuya + Starke or Mozza, this restaurant changes locations every night! They announce locations via Twitter, and the hipsters, lawyers, foodies and other L.A. ilk flock. If you want the grub, you have to pay attention… some even call it stalking. The trad media LOVE this story… which is where it gets kind of crazy.
First local “ist” blog LAist ran a piece back in December 2008. Then in January Pulitzer Prize winning food writer Jonathan Gold wrote a story for LA Weekly. Then LAist ran a story about LA Weekly’s article. Then the always-thorough-but-usually-tardy LA Times ran a long piece in the Thursday “guide” section in February. The New York Observer jumped into the Korean Burito fray in April. Then the motherlode: On May 15 the Associated Press ran a story about the tweeting taco truck that got picked up in dozens of papers across the country. The editors at CNET must have been motivated by the AP because three days later they ran a story about the tweeting food truck trend. Finally, none other than Gourmet Magazine ran a story about Korean Tacos (yes, they wrote about the food, not the media trend – thankfully).
So what’s all this mean? Well, apparently people realllly like Korean tacos. And since human nature is to want something you can’t have… people really like chasing a gourmet restaurant on wheels. But the lesson for me is that even in a down economy in a city so spread out most people rarely leave their ‘hood, a social media savvy PR team can drive huge consumer interest and then leverage that interest into traditional media coverage which only drives more customers. So the truck is the story for the consumers, and the consumers following the truck is the story for the media. This model won’t apply to every business, but I offer a deep bow and hat tip to Mike Prasad.
Oh, and for my car friends, you can check out the new Camaro AND eat a Koji Korean Taco at the same time. More info here.