Like his father, Tom Samodolski beeps his coffee truck horn three times when he arrives at sites on his Farmingdale route. But he also checks in on FourSquare, tweets his location and updates his Facebook status.
“It’s all about rebuilding with the people, changing with the times,” said Samodolski, owner of the one truck business My Mobile Munchies.
Samodolski, 31, is a second generation coffee truck owner who hopes to use technology to innovate the mobile food industry on Long Island, despite facing some resistance from his older peers in the business, a less social media active suburban clientele and a discouraging economy.
After graduating from Providence College in 2002 with a degree in business management, Samodolski worked briefly in finance before getting involved in the family business.
“My family has been maintaining the same routes and trucks in Farmingdale for 30 years,” he said. “We were here way before all the 7-Elevens and Dunkin Donuts'. We served the businesses who built Long Island and to this day they are loyal to us.”
It was at stops like tech schools and internet businesses that Samodolski learned about the web, before buying his own truck two years ago.
“I learned from everyone on my stops every day over coffee,” he said. “At a school for Graphic Design, they taught me PhotoShop and DreamWeaver. At a internet marketing company, they taught me how to put my website online, where would host it for free and how to use Google ad words. It was great and it really helps me as an entrepreneur to run my own technology.”
Dozens of coffee trucks are registered in Farmingdale, but Samodolski is the only one with a website and on Twitter, Facebook and FourSquare.
“The other truck guys are older and don’t do technology so I figured I would be the voice for as many coffee trucks as I could,” he said. “Since we all go to the same supplier I tweet the daily specials for all of us. These other guys don’t really get the point.”
Besides tweeting daily specials, Samodolski takes orders on Twitter and Facebook from customers along his daily route and tweets about the industry and local news. He said a few customers have installed Twitter just for the coffee truck.
“It’s perfect for us,” said Sean Blanc, who owns Global Facility Management, a stop along Samodolski’s route.
Samodolski said he is disappointed that his customer base isn’t more “techy,” but that there are some advantages a less crowded social media scene. On FourSquare he’s often listed as the only “to do” at each location at his daily check in times.
“It seems like people in the city are more adapted to technology,” he said. “I only get a few orders each day on Twitter, around a dozen or so a week.”
Samodolski has had to raise prices because of the increased gas and food costs, but says he refuses to fixate on the rough economy.
“I think that all the negative talk is contagious,” he said. “The other food truck guys complain, but I won’t. I am doing as good if not better than ever. And it is because of things like social media, good marketing and being accessible.”
Samodolski has started getting calls for stops outside the Farmingdale area, something he credits to his web presence.
“I have to give some of those stops to other trucks,” he said. “Now that they can look us up online, it’s really helping me with leads.”
Samodolski just redesigned his truck, hopes to expand his fleet next year and wants to continue to explore how to use social media for his customers.
“We just get a 10 minute break,” said customer Mario Barahona. “He saves our lives every time he shows up.”