In the future, will all of our restaurants turn into roving trucks? You may not ask yourself that question every day, but answering it will reveal a few things about the evolution of social media.
This megatrend of trucks serving gourmet food is one of those cataclysmic events that can only be brought on by a slew of events that were never supposed to happen at the same time (think "The Day After Tomorrow"):
New York City has a multiplying fleet of truck chefs. Battles for the streets have become so intense that one truck food purveyor told The New York Times a few weeks ago, "I should not have to carry a baseball bat on my truck in order to sell cupcakes." I've visited two trucks for food this month alone: Van Leeuwen artisan ice cream by the High Line park (after trying the vanilla, "artisan" must be a synonym for "bland"), and the CupcakeStop.com truck that I found via a colleague's tweet, which served the best red velvet I've had east of the Mississippi (either side of it, you can't top Sprinkes).
The most famous, uber-hip food truck isn't driving near my office anytime soon. It's Kogi, the Los Angeles-based Korean barbecue truck fleet with over 35,000 followers on Twitter. Proprietor Mark Manguera seems to have an Oprah-like command of his followers, with hundreds of them lining up for Asian-Mexican food whenever his trucks tweet.
How much further will this trend go? Here are a few ideas:
Thanks to social media and the mobile technologies facilitating it, these trucks may in time lead to a super-race of Twitter users. Consumers already too thrifty to gorge themselves will spend four hours running around after a truck and four hours longer standing in line, all to consume undersized portions designed to easily fit in their hand for on-street consumption. While engaging in these tweets and spending ample time with their fellow line-waiters, they're bound to comingle and eventually reproduce. These offspring will in turn exhibit the genes for fitness and tech savvy that will give them disproportionate advantages in the centuries ahead.
I'm not sure I'll be one of them. Sunday night, while walking home, I discovered a Vietnamese restaurant in my neighborhood and ate my first banh mi sandwich. I had read no reviews, whether by professionals or consumers. I saw nary a tweet about it, and didn't tweet it either. Monday night, I went back for another banh mi. It won't be my last. The whole time, the restaurant stayed in the same location, there was no line, and I sat down while waiting. I'm clearly not cut out for the future of truck-based food consumption, though if it's carrying red velvets, I may make an occasional exception.