City of boston X Brandeis university – Office of Food Initiatives – Food trucks project


What is Food Truck Project?

The City of Boston has currently about 80 food trucks running. The department dealing with food truck processes is doing most procedures manually. This is prone to human error and requires a lot of time and effort. When we team first approached the project, we tried to examine the food truck industry from bigger to smaller scale. We started with research and learning about the way other cities mange their food trucks. We were introduced to the food trucks costumers, culture, constrains, and challenges.

After further analysis we decided to focus on one of the biggest challenges in the Boston Food Truck sector scheduling. The scheduling is mostly controlled by the lottery process annually and quarterly. Most shifts allocations are made during the long, in person, annual lottery. Besides, each food truck owner are required to go to the lottery in person, waiting for long time until it comes to their turn. After picking their preferred shifts, they need to come to a staff and confirm their choice. The staff then type his choice manually into computer. After the lottery, the whole food truck schedule is tracked and controlled totally through E-mail and Excel, which is very ineffective and inefficient.

Therefore, we thought a web application could be a good solution which makes the process easier, faster, more convenient, and perhaps in the future even remotely. We created a web-based application allows data to be written and read from both sides more easily and conveniently. The back end database system spares the efforts of inputting data and tracking records. We hope to give a better lottery and scheduling experience for both the food truck owners and The City Of Boston. In addition, we are building a structure that is flexible for future scaling and improvement.


Research and Survey

We reached out to food truck owners through the contact information extracted from the internet. The feedback shows that food truck owner are also unsatisfied with current process and system.

On the other hand, we conducted a field trip to Boston downtown food truck sites to gather instant feedback and opinion from customers. Even though our final deliverable is almost all about the improvement of lottery system,  feedback from customer helps us learn the pain point from user side. After all, the goal of office of food truck initiatives and food truck owner are serving better to city residents and they are the real users for this city service. The analysis based on their answer is anyway useful to the city of Boston, no matter now or in the future. Below is the analysis based on the survey results from customers:


  • More than half of people don’t follow particular food trucks — maybe just depends on mood, location. ( meaningful to the food truck owner)  
  • Unfortunately, most people don’t want to receive notification from food truck.
  • 30% respondents get food truck time & location information from government website.
  • To improve the user experience,  we should design a more direct interaction and visualization solution for all food truck time & location dataset.
  • Taste and locations both matter.
  • They don’t know when and where the food truck operates through Mobile app but would like to give feedback through app.
  • They don’t wanna notification, but would like to give feedback.

Customer Survey

Truck Owener survey

At the same time, we are keeping updating and presenting our progress to the city of Boston POC monthly.





System Design

database xml diagram

Technology Stack

We chose PostgreSQL as our database and drew the architecture diagram of our system. Through the database, city of boston can track each records from year to year by the “Assignment” table. The Sequence table generate a sequence for each round according to the backend algorithm, which decides the sequence of food truck owner’s picking shift for next year. In each round, they can only pick one shift which they prefer most. After they pick their preferred shift, data about that choice would be automatically recorded into our database. This spares the effort of inputting data.

Crafted with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript as front end, Java Servlet and PostgreSQL as backend and database, the client app dynamically displays and updates data in the backend database. On the other hand, we use websocket to allow system admin control and communicate with client-side apps fluently.


Client-side app

The client-side app used by food truck owners have two functions: display the current shifts chosen by the trucks for the first year and allow truck owners to choose shifts from available shifts.

Before their turn to choose shifts, truck owners would be waiting while checking their currently assigned shifts for the new calendar year. owners with multiple trucks can check schedules for different trucks by swiping left or right.

Clients will be notified one before and at the instance of their turn that their turn is close, so that they could pick the shift one by one on the web application.


Administrator app

Administrator app allows the city administrators to start each round of selection process and output the final result from database to a calendar feed that allows future output to the city’s website.


Feel free to check our other sources regards to this project below !

Landing PageGithub Source