When a group of local mobile food truck owners wanted to start a “Tasty Tuesday” event in Rohnert Park, they didn’t advertise in the local paper or online. They went straight to Twitter.
They let their followers know they would be in the Community Center parking lot and let Twitter-sphere work its magic. Even though they had just eight days to promote their February 1st event, more than 400 people came out, followed by at least 500 the next week.
Now this merry band of mobile chefs--offering Indian food, cupcakes, dim sum and plenty of other gourmet fare, want to start a similar scene in Petaluma.
“In this economy, people don’t have $20-30 to spend for lunch and an hour to sit down,” said Jeff Tyler, who owns Chicago Style Hot Dogs, a food cart, with his wife Suzette and lives in Santa Rosa.
He describes events that have sprung around the region--such as Munch Monday in Santa Rosa and Food Truck Friday in Napa--as "a whole culture and really fun, a place where dad can get a hotdog, the kid a cupcake and the mom a taco. Being able to eat six different things at one stop is a great thing.”
Just a few years ago, the only type of food readily available from a truck in Sonoma County was tacos. But as the mobile food scene exploded in New York and Los Angeles, local entrepreneurs caught on, realizing they could make a good buck selling food on the go while saving money on rent.
(Food trucks are required to have a license from the city where they are selling and are subject to health department inspections.)
“It’s a whole nationwide movement that’s just now coming to North California,” Tyler says.
Since they didn’t have storefronts to hang signs on and could seldom afford advertising in the local press, the food-trepreneurs gravitated to Twitter to keep followers in the loop. They would tweet where they would be and their followers would show up.
One of these is 34-year-old David Musgrave, who owns Karma Mobile Indian (@FindKarma), a truck that frequently sets up shop outside of on Cypress Drive on Sundays. Musgave, who grew up in Petaluma and now lives in Cotati, is the former owner of Karma Bistro, which closed last year, victim of the bad economy.
Despite going out of business, Musgrave had a loyal clientele and decided to make his business mobile.
“We’re not fast food and people should not be expecting $1 tacos from us,” he said. “We are using high quality ingredients and care about what we are serving.”
Now, Musgrave and Tyler are scoping out locations in Petaluma and plan to speak to the city about creating a regular event, on either a Thursday or Friday, similar to Tasty Tuesday or Munch Monday in downtown Santa Rosa, which began in January. The latter has been a big hit with locals, but has drawn ire from some business owners who complain the food trucks steal business.
Tyler won’t disclose which sites the group is eyeing in Petaluma, but says they would consider any available lot, including those not necessarily downtown.
“Food truck events brings vibrancy to an area of town that may be needing it,” Tyler said.