Where to park your food truck?

Here is Eliot Abrams, doctoral student at the University of Chicago who is working on modeling food truck behavior:

Modeling food truck parking locations is complex, as there are around 70 active food trucks parking at more than 30 locations in Chicago. Thankfully, there is plenty of data because food trucks need to advertise their locations. Since 2011, Andrew Violette, who runs ChicagoFoodTruckFinder.com, has been tracking the city’s food trucks based on their Twitter feeds. I pulled 34,328 parking records from Violette’s website and created a simulation of how food trucks park.

This exercise translates the observed food truck movements into information on the relative number of customers a truck serves at each location on a given day. The number of customers is a function of many variables, such as the day of the week and the location chosen by the truck. I focus on estimating how customer traffic is impacted by the number and diversity of other trucks parking at the location and by the past frequency with which the truck has parked at the particular location. Just like Hotelling’s ice cream vendors, food trucks should (and do) choose their locations in response to these dynamics in order to maximize their profit.

As part of the same symposium, here is, Drew Davis, Booth MBA and most importantly a guy who runs food trucks:

In Wrigleyville, we ended up getting a lot of people out for Sunday strolls, running errands. We’re near a drugstore and a grocery store. By experimenting, we got to the right answer. We don’t want to be a destination in itself. We’d much rather make ourselves part of people’s everyday experience, a part of their lives.

At Booth, there’s always the question: Does the data exist and can I get it?  I could generate data from our truck sales. But you can really only compare results if the day of the week was the same, the spot was the same, and the weather was the same. By the time you’ve made all those cuts in the data, the analysis would be horrendous. I work much better with stories.

Read the whole thing, Chad Syverson opines as well.


"At Booth, there’s always the question: Does the data exist and can I get it?" That's two questions. And 'data' is plural.

"And ‘data’ is plural". Plural of "anecdote".

Fine, I'll bite. "The plural of anecdote is not data"

Anecdote - a short account of a particular incident or event, especially of an interesting or amusing nature.
Data - a series of observations, measurements, or facts; information

Person 1, Anecdote 1: "Hey this guy I know with X nationality, he's really lazy!"
Person 2, Anecdote 2: "Hey no kidding, I have a friend form country X thats lazy too!"

You do not have data that people from country X are lazy. You do have some anecdotes however.

It is more of a collective noun then. One swallow does not a summer make. How many stars do make a constellation? How many fish do make a school? How many bees do make a swarm? The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind. The answer is blowin' in the wind.

What are surveys? "Hey I asked a bunch of people a weird question and they said _____".

No it isn't. Like information it is singular.

"Data leads a life of its own quite independent of datum, of which it was originally the plural. It occurs in two constructions: as a plural noun (like earnings), taking a plural verb and plural modifiers (as these, many, a few) but not cardinal numbers, and serving as a referent for plural pronouns (as they, them); and as an abstract mass noun (like information), taking a singular verb and singular modifiers (as this, much, little), and being referred to by a singular pronoun (it). Both constructions are standard. The plural construction is more common in print, evidently because the house style of several publishers mandates it."

Lorenz Hart thought it plural, and he was the best writer of American English.

That's even more ridiculous than your original statement.

Using it as a plural dates you. "Data are" peaked around 1980. It also marks you as an economist rather than a computer person.

Isn't Data that guy from Star Trek with the weird glasses?

No dumbass, that's Geordie LaForge, the chief engineer.

Data is the android.

Jordi "la Forja"? Sounds like a bad nickname for a catalan separatist.

"The chains that forged for us
Perfidy's astute slyness,
There was a most powerful Hand,
Sneered on them Brazil.
There was a most powerful Hand,
There was a most powerful Hand,
Sneered on them Brazil."

Você não deveria estar praticando futebol?

Shouldn’t you be playing fantasy football?

On a Wednesday?

Shouldn't you be playing fantasy football?

My understanding is you can get pretty detailed analysis of people location over time periods by buying location specific data maps and analytic packages from foursquare.

Drew Davis thanks, I laughed.

I'm married to someone who graduated from Booth, but I have to admit.... I find Booth grads to be pretty insufferable.

Booth rules!

Brazilian slaver are you? John Booth is your hero. OK...

The thing that set me off what this line: "At Booth, there’s always the question: Does the data exist and can I get it?" *Rolls eyes*

I mean, it's not wrong -- it's just that when they say it, it's like they're telling you about Jesus and you have never heard of Jesus Christ before.

I don't get why people in my generation (Y) are so into food trucks. The prices are usually kinda steep for what you get, you have to wait around forever for your food, if it's cold outside then your food will probably be cold by the time you find a place to sit down to eat it, and the whole time you're waiting you're usually surrounded by hipsters. I'd much rather just go find a Carl's Jr.

It's also incredibly funny to me how everyone who works in a food truck looks the same.

Mickey Mouse once owned a food truck.

Authenticity, or the veneer of authenticity, is in now. In many different ways. It's a fascinating issue, and under-discussed on this website (perhaps because the authors are of the wrong generation).

Authenticity, as in the authenticity of the food? If you look carefully it's the same fatty salty crap, just garnished with some obscure vegetable.

Yes, and if sold by a Fortune 500 company it would obviously be terrible. But it's sold from a guy in a truck you see.

My (almost-ex) wife buys some really good donuts from a food truck. Not sure where to find them that good elsewhere.

"By the time you’ve made all those cuts in the data, the analysis would be horrendous. I work much better with stories. "


Food trucks, pffft.
Legalize push-cart vendors and sidewalk BBQs!
Remember, we believe in free enterprise, single-family housing detached zoning, and no push-cart vending.

The Nobelian economist Kenneth Arrow--still alive today at something like 97 years old--predicted and showed mathematically that the best place to park your food truck is...right where every other food truck is. Seriously. Google this. Whether the data fits the theory is another matter. I suspect if you park too close to another food truck, the competitor, not understanding Arrow's theory (that anticipated in some ways Krugman's theories of networking), that such crowding actually increases consumer choice and actually makes business better for every vendor (!) would likely want a fist fight with you. The working class does not understand highfalutin economic theories, for better or worse.

You're thinking of Hotelling's model, and that only holds for near-perfect substitutes...

...yes, but u r wrong about near perfect...



Another example of the law in action or practice is to think of two food push-carts at a beach. Assume one starts at the south end of the beach and one starts at the north. Again assuming a rational consumer and equal distribution along the beach, each cart will get 50% of the customers, divided along an invisible line equidistant from the carts. But, each cart owner will be tempted to push his cart slightly towards the other, in order to move the invisible line so that it encompasses more than 50% of the beach. Eventually, the push cart operators end up next to each other in the center of the beach

It's pretty clear that only holds for perfect or near-perfect substitutes OR for an stochastic distribution of idiosyncratic preferences along the beach.

In a city, one neighbourhood might be full of Mexicans and another might be full of Asians. It would be idiotic to assume that the optimal location for a truck selling frijoles negros and a truck selling pho would the same.

Comments for this post are closed