Not so long ago, food trucks were your last resort to grab a bite during a lunch break. Better known as “Roach Coaches,” they’d pull in and out of your parking lot faster than the Ice Cream Man and offer up exhaust-stewed hot dogs that likely converted many of your co-workers to vegetarianism.
How things have changed.
Today, food trucks are entry-level opportunities for gourmet chefs to prove their skills. As Time Magazine puts it, they now exist to “bring high-end food to the masses at drive-through prices.” Food truck entrepreneurs have fan bases who are alerted to daily specials and their social media skills are second in importance only to the cooking.
Not surprisingly, there are even food truck TV shows on the Food Network.
Now it’s time for the food truck concept to evolve even further. This afternoon, in an experimental pilot promotion by Dolby Careers, mobile pizzerias and burrito stands will double as recruitment centers for top engineering and computer programming talent.
From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at San Francisco’s SOMA StrEatfood Park, surprised lunch goers can score $2 off any meal simply by photographing a food truck and sending the pic to firstname.lastname@example.org. Those diners lucky enough to have chosen the Secret Wild Card Truck will be entered in a drawing to win a free lunch party (valued up to $100) for their friends or co-workers.
Saving money isn’t the only thing that will put everyone in a good mood, though. Dolby, a leading global developer of audio, imaging and voice technologies for cinema, home theaters, PCs, mobile phones, and games, is providing a live lunch soundtrack — via Pink Mammoth DJ Derek Hena.
So how does heart-thumping music and cheaper lunches translate into job recruitment for Dolby?
“We’re always looking for non-traditional channels to get in front of the city’s best talent,” says Craig Campbell, Director of Global Staffing for Dolby Laboratories. “We’re not going to beat them over the head with a heavy recruiting message. We just want to project a fun impression of Dolby, use an indirect approach to capture possible job candidates’ information and plant a seed with potential prospects.”
With steep competition for engineers and computer scientists in San Francisco’s tech sector, Campbell notes there is recruitment fatigue for candidates pummeled with the usual inquiries from headhunters, cold calls and LinkedIn messages. In that context, trying the soft-sell approach when engineers are relaxing with friends is worth a shot.
“People love to play games, people love to take pictures and people love to eat,” he adds. “It won’t be tough to convince them to participate.”
The SOMA StrEatfood Park, the city’s first permanent “pod” for gourmet food trucks, features covered seating at picnic tables, a projection screen for movies and presentations, bike parking racks and free wifi. It is a magnet to high-tech employees working at local start-ups.
Dolby’s “Find the Wild Card Food Truck” promotion is being powered by Pongr, a mobile photo marketing and image recognition technology company that specializes in helping global brands connect with new audiences.
“I like the image recognition play because taking photos with your mobile phone has become a very common activity and Pongr helps me convert that activity into a marketing and engagement opportunity requiring no heavy lifting by the user,” Campbell explains.
Participants in the game take a picture of any of the Park’s 10 food trucks, which is automatically recognized by the Pongr platform. After sharing the photo, mobile users instantly receive a discount coupon on their device, accepted by any of the mobile restaurants. Instructions on how to Snap, Send and Win are shared on posters, table tents in the seating area and on cards handed out to customers in line.
Campbell acknowledges he’ll also be giving away $2 coupons to lots of hungry non-engineers, but he likes the odds of reaching his targets.
“People leave their homes every day with three things: their keys, their wallets and their mobile phones,” the Dolby recruiter says. “If we gain permission to connect with prospects on their mobile devices and respect that permission, we’re always with them. And when they’re ready to explore opportunities, we’re an immediate text message, phone call or email away.”
“During lunch, it’s a strong bet that they are talking about work,” he adds. “The conversation might be positive or it might be focused on complaints when people are ready to start looking for new opportunities. Those scenarios could be good timing for us.”
Even if Dolby comes up empty on engineers Wednesday, it’s never a wasted visit to the StrEatfood Park.
“They’re constantly switching things around and rotating in new trucks,” Campbell says. “I like the deli sandwiches, the pulled pork, the Korean barbeque and the pizza. I try my best to check out the latest dish.”