Since I officially qualify as one of those telecommuting statistics you always read about, I never really understood the "food truck" phenomenon until last week in New York City, when I was killing time between interviews.
There were 8 or 9 of them parked along Union Square, where I was waiting – and these weren't your typical dirty-water-dog vendors. They ran the gamut from purveyors of organic juices (I had a peanut, butter and jelly sandwich prepped that way) to champions of custom, organic ice cream sandwiches courtesy of the Coolhaus truck.
I snapped a picture of the latter because I had literally just interviewed one of the founders, Natasha Case, about the sort of mobile payments technology the company uses to process curbside orders from walk-up customers and to keep track of what's selling (and what's not).
First, some background about California-based Coolhaus/Farchitecture BB (which is the official name of the company founded by Natasha and her business partner, Freya Esteller).
Their trucks have been on the street since 2009, and can now be seen cruises Los Angeles, New York, Austin, Miami and Dallas. Coolhaus products are distributed to supermarkets in 400 markets – the company's biggest partner is Whole Foods, Case told me when I interviewed her last week. The company's ingredients are locally sourced (whenever possible) and organic (although not certified as such).
Although the exact figures are private, the company brings in 7-figure revenue, she said.
Coolhaus didn't get serious about its mobile payments solution until spring 2010, but when it did, the company opted for a full-fledged point of sale (POS) solution rather than just a mobile payments application.
That solution came in the former of the PaySaber, a device that works with the Apple iPhone, Blackberry handhelds and various Android devices.
The energy-efficient technology (pictured left) enabled Coolhaus to start processing credit cards, but it also offered a rich POS system that helped the company start analyzing sales trends, Case said.
PaySaber is affiliated with USA ePay, which has offered merchant services since 1998 – so it also had the sort of long-time history that gave Coolhaus comfort that it would be around for a while.
"Part of the real attraction was the software that came with it," she said.
Although I am sure the pricing varies, I found a deal on GotMerchant that included the PaySaber hardware for $199 – along with a $10 service fee. The merchant fees were 1.7 percent plus 20 cents, per transaction. The application can be downloaded for free.