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National Public Radio's Marketplace has a story about how the food truck industry has adapted to a new reality imposed by the pandemic.

"Food trucks are one of the many industries that have been flipped upside down by the coronavirus crisis," the story says.  "As cities around the country started shutting down, many food truck operators had to rethink their business models."

That meant - like a lot of city dwellers - food truck owners started looking to the suburbs.

Marketplace talked to Matt Geller, founding president of the National Food Truck Association, who said that "food trucks traditionally have had lunches as their bread and butter. And within a week’s time, we saw every lunch just shut down. And so our job was to figure out what was next. We changed our app — we’ve updated our app six times in six weeks for more features, easier features, better features for the trucks. This traditionally lunchtime business turned into almost exclusively a nighttime, evening, go into a neighborhood, have people online order and then pick up their food."

Traditionally, Geller says, "you’d think more dense equals better. Now, the suburbs are so well connected in a lot of communities, unlike Los Angeles. I talked to one person from one area, and she runs the Facebook page for 400 homes. And when she says a food truck’s coming, everybody knows it. The truck goes there and they knock it out of the park.

"Food trucks are serving suburban communities that are very well connected, because they don’t have to do advertisements or social media, they just have to get ahold of the one person that runs the Facebook page, or the Nextdoor page or even a WhatsApp stream in some communities. You get to that one person, you get to everybody. And that’s much more of a suburban thing than a dense, city thing."

The food trucks also have changed the way they do business - having people wait on line to order and get their food no longer makes sense.  And so, waiting on line has shifted to going online.

"When we started online ordering two years ago with Best Food Trucks, food trucks were like, oh, that’ll ruin my business, I can’t have that," Geller says.  "But when this happened, everything changed. [Now it’s] we need online ordering, we need it now. And then it was, we need online ordering, we need preordering. I want my customers to preorder 24 hours in advance. And then it was, I want them 48 hours in advance. So I mean, it has been a paradigm shift that came basically in one week."

KC's View:

I love this … and not just because it could mean that food trucks - one of the things I love most about city living - might find their way to the suburbs, one of which is a place where I am currently ensconced.

I love the ides that faced with change, these trucks adopted new approaches that would keep them relevant.  They adapted.  That's what retailers do.

It'll be interesting to see if they are able to move the competitive needle in some of these suburbs.  One of the things that food trucks often do is bring a sense of culinary adventure to the people they serve.  That can be an enormous differential advantage, and it could challenge retailers that take a lowest-common-denominator approach to the food they serve.