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Meals on Wheels
December 02, 2010
GW students create website to track D.C.’s food trucks.
By Jennifer Eder
When the food truck craze first hit the District last year, GW students Randy Shore and Dan Preiss were some of the first customers.
Tired of the same old lunch spots around campus, Mr. Shore and Mr. Preiss, both passionate foodies and seniors in the School of Business, were excited to not have to walk very far to try Indian food or Sweetgreen salads and frozen yogurt. But they quickly realized that searching Twitter feeds to figure out what food trucks are close to campus – and what times they will be there – can be pretty time consuming.
That’s when they came up with the idea for thestreats.com – a website that tracks food trucks on one simple and easy-to-use map.
“Just because a restaurant is on wheels doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be on a map,” says Mr. Shore, who is studying information systems and technology.
The website, which launched in August, tracks food trucks in real time on a Google map. Users can run their cursors over the map and click on a designated food truck to see the exact address and the truck’s last Tweet.
“Before our site, the only way to track them was through Twitter, and we thought there should be an easier way to do it because not everyone uses Twitter,” says Mr. Preiss, who is studying international business. “So our site is very simple. You go on. You see a map, and boom that’s where you get lunch.”
The food truck fad has taken off in D.C. At the beginning of this year, there were three trucks – Fojol Brothers, Sweetflow Mobile and Sauca. Today, there are 29 trucks and seven more on the way. These food trucks offer a wide variety of food including gourmet macaroni and cheese, lobster rolls and burritos.
“Food trucks are kind of like a novelty. They’re not in the same place every day. And people are craving something different from their usual Au Bon Pain, Potbelly’s and Corner Bakery,” says Mr. Preiss, of Sarasota, Fla. “Plus these food trucks are run by former executive chefs and entrepreneurs. It’s gourmet food at a reasonable price.”
Thestreats.com is not the first business idea Mr. Shore and Mr. Preiss have come up with. Beginning in their freshman year, the two roommates, whose fathers are both entrepreneurs, started mapping out various business ventures. However, thestreats.com is the first one that didn’t require a lot of capital and therefore was feasible to set up.
Since the site launched in August, more than 17,000 people have visited thestreats.com. The site receives about 200 hits a day, and the site has even received hits from the Executive Office of the President.
“It’s exciting to gain experience and skills from this and be able to say we have one successful venture down,” says Mr. Preiss.
Mr. Shore and Mr. Preiss are constantly updating the site in between their classes and internships by tracking the various food trucks’ Twitter feeds. However, they plan to begin automating the site by linking food truck drivers’ GPS systems to the site’s server
Also in the works is a mobile application that will allow users to order and pre-pay for their lunch online so they won’t have to wait in long lines. The mobile application will also allow people to view the various menus on their phones, rate menu items and request a truck in a specific area.
D.C. is not the only city with a food truck craze.
Food trucks are on the rise in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, Portland and Chicago, and Mr. Shore and Mr. Preiss hope to take their site to these cities.
“There’s a lot of opportunities for us to expand. Our plan is to perfect the site in D.C. and then move it to other cities,” says Mr. Shore, of Cherry Hill, N.J. “But even if this goes absolutely nowhere, the biggest thing we’ve gotten out of this is being able to take the stuff we’ve learned in class and actually apply it to something that’s our own.”
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