|Hart Van Denburg|
long-running jab about Facebook and Twitter is that they're places
where "friends" insist on telling you what they just ate for lunch.
Yawn, right? Well, I'm joining the club. Here's why. On a recent
Saturday evening I read this tweet: "Tempura soft shell crab sandie at the Kingfield Farmers Market tomorrow!...come early!!! 43rd & Nicollet..."
The next day, squeezing past the berry bakeoff, I stood in a line 20 foodies deep in front of Chef Shack,
mobile kitchen on wheels that serves delectable goodies at the Farmers
Market. Soft shell crabs are a fleeting seasonal treat and the Chef
Shack only had a limited supply--if I hadn't found out about them on
Twitter, I might have missed the tasty sandwich, or tweet treat, if you
|Hart Van Denburg|
Since Lisa Carlson and Carrie Summer took their gourmet street food truck to the road in
2007, they've been generating followers (more than 400 on Twitter),
friends (more than 500 on Facebook) and headlines ever since.
In addition to earning the honor of Best Street Food
from City Pages, USA Today
named Chef Shack one of the "10 great places to flag down a fabulous feast" and Forbes
included it in a rundown of "elite street eats" nation wide. Mashable
spotlighted the Shack as an example of how to create community and
customers using social media tools.Not bad for an operation that opens
only on summer weekends at two local farmers' markets -- Mill City and
Kingfield -- and a few special events around town.
living the dream," Summer said with a laugh. "We're serving good food
with a smile and a giggle." And posting tempting -- and sometimes
eyebrow-raising -- tweets from the trailer via cell phone. "Rolled out the corn ice cream @ Kingfield!..it was a beautiful thing...so fresh!" reads a Facebook post. "The beef tongue taco! For serious foodies only!" reads another. "Just tasted the new Walnut Veggie burger yum! Also plenty of PBR to cook the Vegan Brats in!" reads a third.
secret to their success is the menu, for sure. And there's what Summer
calls the "kitchy" trailer. But social media helps, too. Summer said
she isn't sure what percentage of the Shack's customers are driven to
stand in line for Indian-spiced mini doughnuts, beef tongue tacos and
the aforementioned softshell crab sandwiches. But she guesses that,
after every weekend, they notch between 10-20 more followers and
friends. And they make a point of giving shout outs on Twitter and
commenting on the Shack's Facebook page. It's all about building their
network, she said.