I pass any number of breakfast vendors in the morning. From eggs and bacon to buttered rolls and bagels with cream cheese to oatmeal to coffee—oh, the heavenly smell of coffee (which I only drink maybe once or twice a week)—the carts and trucks that line the sidewalks, sometimes two or three to a block, are responsible for feeding a good majority of this city in the morning. Some also do lunch duty. And it's not always a case of one side fits all. These vendors offer slight differences: For example, a husband and wife team serve tortas, another offers Turkish coffee, and another makes a gigantic breakfast wrap with egg whites, cheese, tomatoes, and possibly avocado. (It's always seemed a bit too big of a breakfast for me, so I haven't actually tried it.)
[Above: The Love Truck serves up coffee with the Beatles and other favorites playing in the background.]
But there is one that has come to stand out because the husband and wife team offer something I haven't seen before: They have a sign inviting people to text message their orders! So you're sitting on the train trying to stave off those lingering waves of sleepiness when someone boards with a large cup of coffee. Suddenly, heads snap up, people sit up a little straighter, and an almost audible sigh sweeps through the car—I've both seen and experienced this phenomena first hand. Now that you've been teased fully awake by the aroma of freshly brewed caffeine, you want a cup too. And you're thinking of how you'll have to either stop and get a cup or make do with the office sludge—er, coffee. Well, what if when you got off at your stop (or maybe even while you were in the subway tunnels and had a cell phone signal for a brief moment), you texted your order to a breakfast vendor and it was waiting for you to pick up as you scurry to your office?
Okay, admittedly, this isn't exactly new. Several nearby food establishments accept orders placed over the web or via fax. However, this is the first instance I've encountered of a street vendor trying to attract business in this way. And it's exciting because it means that the trickle of digital and social media is indeed filtering through society. Is this going to revolutionize breakfast? No, but it's a sign of how the social order is changing—adapting—to reflect a new social norm. Digital and social media is changing the way we interact with each other, and our expectations regarding turn-around times. By implementing this service, this particular vendor is catering to the culture of this city. First, he's tuned into a medium that most people can access and understand, and linked himself to them with it. Second, he's reduced wait-time, or at least he's attempting to reduce wait time. Presumably, if you text your order, you can bypass the line and just pay and go. A person who's running late isn't likely to wait online. With this extra service, he's added the potential to keep the business and create a loyal customer base. It's a smart strategy. [Left: A vendor advertises Turkish coffee.]
Have you placed an order for food recently via Twitter, the web, or any other way using digital/social media? Are these options available where you live? And would you use them if they were? Talk to me—how does this compare to your neck of the woods?