Chief Food Truck Officer might sound like a strange title for a software startup founder, but it makes perfect sense for Ray Chow
Chow has spent the last five years building a successful local food truck business called Hibachi Xpress
. But all along, he's hoped for better software to help market his truck's location, operating hours and menu, to secure event permits and catering gigs and track his sales based on those details.
After years of frustration and no solution, he eventually found a couple partners and set out to build it himself. Foosye (short for food systems) hit the Google Play and App stores late last month and solves what Chow and CEO Chris Wellington call the "Drive, Park, Pray" market challenge.
In the past, a mobile food business would stock the truck with an estimate of the food and materials needed for the day ahead. The operator would drive to the decided upon location to serve, find an open spot and park at the venue, and then pray customers notice the truck and want the food being served.
Foosye's solution is meant to help food truck businesses operate smarter. The foosye mobile app creates an infrastructure for the mobile food industry by connecting food truck owners, foodies, companies, event spaces and other entities within a city.
The app pairs a mobile device’s GPS locator with the operator’s social media accounts to send automatic Twitter and Facebook updates with the truck's location in Google Maps. Future updates will sync with more social media accounts, provide analytics to measure the effectiveness of social media activity and location in driving sales and make it easier for event organizers to book and pay for trucks for their events.
The Garner-based foosye team spent 18 months developing the app—that gave them the chance to visit food trucks in 35 U.S. cities and to learn about competitive solutions, like small aggregators like FoodTrucksIn and Trackin' Trucks and larger players like Yelp and Roaming Hunger, an L.A.-based company that has about 9,000 trucks on its platform.
According to Chow, many competitors went to market without feedback from operators. He's collected plenty of that, and talks of foosye's connections to 20,000 truck operators around the country through the network he and Wellington have built (both have more than 20,000 followers on Twitter).
To rally the local community and position himself as a leader in the food truck movement, Chow also joined the leadership of the RDU Mobile Food Association and the food truck advisory board of the Wake County Health Department.
"Our goal was not to be first to market with no success," Chow says. "Our goal is we are going to lead the industry—I’ve positioned myself to be respectable in food truck industry, as a center of a lot of knowledge."
With U.S. food trucks projected to bring in $2.7 billion in 2017, up from $650 million in 2012, there is certainly room for more technology solutions to serve them. Foosye thinks it can build the app that helps owners increase their revenue and eliminates the risky “Drive, Park and Pray” system of the past.
Laura Baverman contributed.