After hearing a bit about our research, Patrick suggested that food truck lessons also apply to IT. We were a bit skeptical, but he quickly convinced us. He also got us thinking about about how food trucks relate to another tech trend - lean startups.
For those outside of the tech industry, the lean startup movement is based on quickly and inexpensively creating a product that can be tested with customers. In lean terms this is called the "minimum viable product".
The goal of the minimum viable product is to verify that people are interested in what you make, before you sink large amounts of time, energy and money on the project.
After creating the first version, you quickly iterate to create better versions based on customer feedback. The lean startup methodology calls this the "build - measure - learn loop".
At it's simplest, lean startups focus on rapid prototyping, business flexibility, cash and resource conservation and a laser-like focus on customers to quickly adapt to market needs.
Lean startup approaches and methods have mostly been applied to software and internet businesses. But it's interesting to look at food trucks through the lean startup lens:
1. Food trucks are much cheaper to start and can get to market much faster than brick and mortar restaurants. In many ways, food trucks fit the Lean concept of the minimally viable product.
2. Food trucks can quickly and easily test new concepts, menus and recipes. In many cases food trucks are being used as lean startup-like laboratories to test potential brick and mortar restaurant ideas.
3. Food trucks take an iterative approach to their menus and even location based on customer feedback. "Build-measure-learn" is a daily occurrence with food trucks.
4. Food trucks are tightly focused on their customers and interact with them every day.
The Lean Movement is very hot in Silicon Valley (see this Wired article) and has both fans and detractors. But the basics make sense and it's interesting to see how food trucks fit into this paradigm.
We'll have more on this topic as we get closer to finishing our food truck research.