Tweets for eats: Burger truck uses online marketing

By Catherine Rierson

UNC Staff Writer

the Durham VOICE

Students lugging backpacks trickle out of the Duke Transit bus and make their way to nearby dormitories. Soon a line forms in front of a small white truck on Campus Drive.  It’s dinner time, and a savory smell wafts down the lane.

Serving hungry students on Campus Drive, Patrick Phelps-McKeown takes an order for OnlyBurger, the popular mobile burger joint in Durham. (Staff photo by Catherine Rierson)

“Fries with that?” asks Patrick Phelps-McKeown, leaning out of the truck window, notepad in hand.

OnlyBurger, “the only burger you’ll ever want,” is hitting Durham by storm.  Think taco truck, but burgers.

The offerings are simple: a beef, turkey, or veggie burger, a single or double patty, fries and soda. And it’s all ready in about seven minutes.

OnlyBurger is always on the move for lunch and dinner, and its whereabouts can be found on Twitter, a social networking, micro-blogging service that’s catching on all over the U.S.  OnlyBurger updates its “tweets” (Twitter’s short messages) regularly to keep customers posted on its next location.

Phelps-McKeown, an OnlyBurger employee since last August, credits the burger truck’s tweets for its success.

“It’s this viral marketing,” he said through the truck window. “Someone will get a Twitter update on their iPhone, and the next thing you know, 50 people know where the truck is going to be.”

OnlyBurger goes digital in the kitchen, too. Not only are Visa and MasterCard credit cards accepted, but Duke Points, one of the university’s meal plan options, are accepted, too.   Call ahead, and the order will be waiting in the window.

Brian Bottger, a co-owner of the enterprise, also thanked the Internet for OnlyBurger’s new twist on dining and business.

“It’s like one-stop shopping for me,” he said.  “Between Facebook and Twitter, it’s really the customers that spread the word.”

When Durham Catering Co.’s Tom Ferguson brought OnlyBurger to life in September 2008, his primary focus was Duke University.  Since then, Brian Bottger got on board with OnlyBurger and extended the mobile kitchen expertise to the rest of Durham.

The truck is always strategically placed. It parks by a bus stop for lunch, outside Cameron Indoor Stadium after a basketball game, or near the Durham Performing Arts Center for a show.

When it’s on the Duke campus, it sits at the end of Campus Drive, off Main Street on East Campus, or on Wannamaker Quadrangle, on West Campus.  It’s also often outside of Sam’s Quik Shop, and in the morning, it’s almost always at the Farmer’s Market with its breakfast burger—beef, cheese, a fried egg and a fried green tomato.

OnlyBurger buys its ingredients locally, too.  Cliff’s Meat Market, a meat vendor located about 15 miles down US 15-501 in Carrboro, grinds and supplies the fresh beef every day.

“OnlyBurger is always connected to the community—a community of carnivores,” Phelps-McKeown said.

To check out the OnlyBurger menu, go to

To locate the truck, follow it on Twitter: