Dan Salter / Lantern reporter
As though food rolling up to the curb wasn’t convenient enough, one app and website is making it even easier for Columbus foodies to find their favorite mobile eatery.
Roaming Hunger, a food truck locating system, recently added Columbus to its mapping system for people to track the location of more than 50 food trucks from their computer or smartphone.
Available on the company’s website or as an iPhone app, users type an address into the search bar and an interactive map automatically zooms in to show the closest mobile vendors.
“The key for food trucks in Columbus is for people to be able to find them,” said Jim Ellison, coordinator of the Food Fort, a local organization that helps food trucks and carts get their businesses off the ground.
Ellison said there are already more than 100 food trucks and carts in the Columbus area, about half of which are on Roaming Hunger, and the growth of the industry doesn’t look like it will be stopping any time soon.
“A lot of them don’t have permanent spots where they’re set up, so a site like Roaming Hunger or some of the other food apps that are out there help people become aware of a food truck, but also, when they’re put together well, how to find a food truck.”
That is exactly what Roaming Hunger founder Ross Resnick said he was trying to do when he started the company in Los Angeles in 2009.
Since then he has added mapping systems for cities such as Atlanta, New Orleans, Dallas and Indianapolis, to name a few.
“It’s about bringing the food trucks and the eaters together in a way that’s really easily understandable,” Resnick said.
Facebook and Twitter pages seem to be must-haves for any mobile food vendor, and many trucks have a specific following, such as OH! Burgers, owned by Brian Thornton.
Thornton said social media, specifically Twitter and Facebook, is how most of his regulars track where he will be.
For some trucks, a dedicated website is their most effective tool.
“I find that most of my people come through my website directly, but those are people that already know us,” said Jim Pashovich, owner and operator of Pitabilities.
On Roaming Hunger, users can sort results by what type of meal they are looking for – breakfast, lunch, dinner or late-night snack. Site visitors will also be able to scout vendor locations one or two days into the future.
The company will also offer a text message-based alert system.
For example, if someone wants to know if a truck is within five miles of them at lunch time, they can sign up to receive daily text messages with a list of nearby vendors.
The site also posts the trucks’ most recent Twitter messages, as well as links to their menus and individual websites.