The Magic beneath Food Truck Location

ice-cream-van-roma-cafe-mid-40'sBack in 2012, the U.S. food truck industry for the first time blew past the $1 billion revenue mark (it in fact reached $1.5 billion that year), making it one of the fastest-growing sectors of the national food and restaurant market. Still, food trucks are often seen as the enemy of local restaurants. Just as cab drivers have taken to protesting Uber and other ride-hailing services, brick-and-mortar restaurant groups have rallied in cities across the nation to ban or limit food trucks.

But what do food trucks actually mean for urban economies? What impact do they have on local restaurants, food industries, and our choices as consumers?


A recent study from Elliot Anenberg of the Washington, D.C. Federal Reserve System and Edward Kung of UCLA takes a detailed look at the economy and geography of food trucks in our nation’s cities. To get at this, the study uses unique data on food trucks from the U.S. Census Bureau and a dataset of daily Washington, D.C. food truck locations, as well as social media data from Twitter and Google Trends. The study is particularly interested in the connection between food trucks and new digital technologies—especially social media—and how food trucks make use of them. Here are its five big takeaways.

via The Secrets to Food Truck Location – CityLab.


1. Twitter is a big factor in food truck location.

Food-seeking flocking behaviour.

2. The connection between food trucks and digital technology is greater in big, dense cities.

Network effect, more nodes, and more importantly, more connections. Check out Valdis Krebs.

3. When it comes to location, variety matters a lot.

We, birds, humans, weasels, get bored eating the same stuff. And to maintain health we need to eat different stuff. Variety matters. Duh.

4. Food truck location is spiky.

Even normal economics understands this power law effect.

5. Food trucks cause households to spend more money on eating out.

See 3 and 2.


Complexity fans will have spotted the lack of underpinning theory in the otherwise excellent CityLab piece. So I provided it, in bold italics. You’re welcome.




Sobering, eye-opening article. Also, of course, true of the UK. Here is an edited summary of the data:

” • EDUCATION: This is the first generation of boys in U.S. history who will have less education than their dads.

Yet male teachers are scarce. Recess and vocational education are being curtailed.

Boys are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, drop out of school or be expelled than girls.///

• FATHERLESSNESS: A third of boys are raised in fatherless homes. This lack of a dad leads to poorer academic and behavioral results for them than it does for girls. A recent study of boys revealed that by the third grade, boys with absent fathers scored lower on every achievement test.

Most gang members come from homes without dads.

• EMOTIONAL HEALTH: Depression remains hidden in boys because of the male taboo against the showing of feelings.

Boys’ risky, anti-social or violent behavior often serve as a mask for depression. Usually that behavior is punished but the underlying depression not treated.

Between the ages of 13 and 20, BOYS’ SUICIDE RATES SOAR TO FOUR TIMES THAT of girls of the same age.”

Things they didn’t teach me at Agricultural College…

Is Management Due for a Renaissance?

I wouldn’t normally give pieces like this, blog room, but David Hurst is the author of one of my favourite books, although to be honest, as is often the case for HBR, the paper it is based on is all you need. Check out his ‘Crisis and Renewal’.

Like Hurst, I have been waiting for that renaissance. We had the false dawn of applied complexity-based approached, for which I was a cheerleader, in the mid-Nineties. That little flame blew out because it couldn’t prosper within a machine approach. (Terrible sentence, I’m sorry)

Have a look, complexity and humanity fans. Have a think, too.

Ant groups ‘more efficient than Google’ in processing data, new study finds – Science – News – The Independent

It looks like there might be a bit of a second wave of complexity research going on. This might explain why more people are becoming interested once more in the applications of these idea in management.

Nothing new in this news item, except that it validated and underlines some of the core concepts of self-organisation.

New coinage: Bio-mimetic management

BMM would, apply insights from biology to management.

An example being the use of ant-derived search algorithms to model and satisfice traffic flow.

” animals have social lives rich beyond our…

”…animals have social lives rich beyond our imagining, and that cooperation and caring have shaped the course of evolution every bit as much as competition and ruthlessness have.“

That comes from this excellent article
(thanks to Morgan for alerting me to it via her blog)

”Moral in Tooth and Claw“
by Jessica Pierce and Marc Bekoff

The recently deceased Lyn Margulis might well have said that, around 20 or 30 years ago. Until she came along, biology was dominated by men who believed that the story of evolution was their story; a manly story of competition, a manly story of manly fighting and war and competition and conflict and did you spill my pint. The story of evolution, according to the people who chose to misunderstand and misinterpret Darwin, is the story of ‘nature red in tooth and claw’. The first person to challenge that notion was Margulis. Initially burnt at the stake by angry men, and thrown out of the boy’s science club for being a girl and wrong, she has, in recent times, been acknowledged as the brilliant scientist what she is/was.

That is a terrible paragraph, and I’m embarrassed, I’m being as vague as 4th former who left his biology textbook on the bus.

I’m just saying that the legacy of her work is clear in this article. Anyone in biology who studies cooperation owes a debt to her. I’m such a fanboy.

“…for many nonhuman primates, more than 90 percent of their social interactions are affiliative rather than competitive or divisive…”

And in this summers riots, more than 90 percent of our feral young people, didn’t.

Isn’t it time that we stood up to the right-wing idiots who tell us that our children are behaving like animals?

(oh, and thank you Barnardo’s – here’s that link:

And isn’t it time, to stretch a point, to point out that if we really meant that children were behaving like animals, then we would, like, actually be saying that “more than 90 percent of their social interactions are affiliative rather than competitive or divisive” and that “as animals they have social lives rich beyond our imagining, and that cooperation and caring have shaped the course of their evolution every bit as much as competition and ruthlessness have?

So to labour the point and sum up:

If you tell me I’m behaving like an animal, I’ll take it as compliment, and no I didn’t threw up behind the sofa, that was the cat.

Just back from that London where I very…

Just back from that London, where I very narrowly avoided becoming embroiled in street gang violence. On the receiving end. Not fun; very scary. Fret not, dear reader: I am physically unharmed and not robbed. Wrong place, wrong time.

Food for thought, coming soon (possibly) some musings – working title something like: “The natural history of the street”.

(‘Natural history’ is a term that predates what might now be called ‘biology, or biological sciences. I’m thinking of Gilbert White’s ‘The Natural History of Selborne’ from 1789, ‘The Peregrine’ by J.A.Baker, sort of thing…