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How this San Francisco food truck keeps diners coming back

With a secret ingredient — and it’s not what you think
The famous Phat Thai food truck

With lower overheads and the freedom to move around at will, food trucks are becoming more and more popular across the nation. It’s an easy way for aspiring restaurateurs to cut their teeth and build a fan base before going all-in on a brick and mortar location. The more successful of these mobile businesses have taken advantage of social media to build their following.

The trucks that do it best understand how to use each platform.

  • Twitter provides a non-visual voice for the brand. It’s awesome for specials alerts and to draw customers to the latest locations.
  • Foursquare’s location-based features allows trucks to checkin wherever they are and automatically post the current location to other platforms.
  • Instagram sells the sizzle with well-styled images of artfully-prepared food.
  • Facebook is a clubhouse for converted fans. It’s perfect for tapping into ambassadors — those who’ll want naming rights for the next menu item or becoming customer of the week.

Phat Thai is a popular Thai food truck seen daily in the SOMA area of San Francisco. The truck is the brainchild of the Hossain brothers, Bobby and Alom, teed up with their mom, who has brought the true flavors of Thailand to friends and family for over 30 years.

The Hossain’s knew right from the beginning that it was essential to establish a recognizable brand and personality for Phat Thai. They knew that having a distinct personality would make their truck stand out and that they’d be remembered when it came time for diners to decide “What’s for lunch?” They wanted to set themselves apart from the competition, attract customers that would become their brand ambassadors, create relationships with diners and suppliers and build a sense of community with their diners. They knew that all of these benefits of a memorable brand adds to the bottom line.

Wanna tuk with us?

Wannee and Bobby Hossain

The family settled on a funky, tongue-in-cheek, bright brand identity and developed every part of their business around the phrase “Wanna tuk with us? Yes you do!” From the bright orange truck to the colorful lights used at night to the chalkboard menu — everything about their brand consistently communicated funky, fresh and fabulous.

It very quickly dawned on the Hossain’s that their brand identity needed to be conveyed online too. In the constantly-connected city, they needed to regularly engage with their fans and followers. Since Phat Thai is mobile, they regularly had to answer questions like “Hey dude, where are you today?” and “What’s on your specials board?” Hiring a social media agent was way too pricey and doing it themselves was far too time consuming. Besides, they enjoyed cooking and conversing with their patrons in-store and not run social media marketing.

The Hossain’s knew they needed a solution, but didn’t know where to turn. That’s when they stumbled across Joy, a digital assistant powered by artificial intelligence.

“Working with Joy has been a pure delight,” says Bobby. “She has made our lives simple and saved us a lot of time. Now we have a strong community of repeat customers. We can broadcast messages and get repeat customers in no time. Our online engagements are comparable to much bigger restaurants, and we have a much smaller budget compared to other top tier Thai restaurants that run high paid sponsored ads.”

@PhatthaiSF Bot UX

Their diners also love how Joy helps them order online and are even planning to integrate messenger payments.

All a diner has to do is visit the Phat Thai chatbot, where they can find out exactly where the food truck is, browse the menu and even place an order for collection. It’s a much more interactive and the chatbot allows for 1-on-1 personalization, in real time.

The Hossains are delighted with Joy’s ability to help them automate their social media engagement. The Phat Thai Facebook page says they are “Very Responsive” to messages, and Bobby is grateful that none of them have to spend hours and hours online every day.

Bobby loves how Joy guides him through social media marketing without hitting hard on his wallet.

“I can drive further foot traffic during off-peak times, schedule ads during our peak hours, and automate higher growth. The best part is that I can do it all without having to ask my patrons to download yet another app. We do this all using the platform most of our diners already spend a lot of time on: Facebook.”

Bobby also loves how he can lookup their customer insights quickly and start or stop promotions instantly. Joy has helped Phat Thai with social media engagement and ensuring that their brand identity flows smoothly from the truck to their Facebook and Twitter followers. They’ve also been able to achieve consistently higher engagements than many of the much bigger Thai restaurants in town, all without hiring a social media manager or spending too much time doing it themselves.

Phat Thai engagement rates compared to bigger ad spending restaurants

So there you have it — the secret ingredient in Phat Thai’s business - Joy, digital assistant with marketing intelligence.