Can't Hear the Jingle? Locate Mister Softee Trucks on an App Instead

Turns out there's a better way to track your favorite ice cream truck.

<p>wdstock / Getty Images</p>

wdstock / Getty Images

Most people think that there’s only one way to track down a Mister Softee ice cream truck: listen out for the jaunty, irritatingly loud jingle. During the muggy summers in New York City, that strategy is usually effective — especially since it seems like there’s a Mister Softee truck hanging at every park corner, blocking every last bike lane. But for anyone looking for their soft serve fix outside of the Big Apple (yep, there are 625 Mister Softee trucks across 18 states), a jingle can only go so far.

“People are willing to drive 10 to 15 minutes to track a truck down because there may only be one truck in that county compared to the 20 to 30 trucks in [the Northeast],” says Mike Conway, Mister Softee's vice president. “Here at the front office, that’s one of the main questions we get. They call and say, “Hey, where’s the truck? I need ice cream now.’”

It turns out there’s another way to locate Mister Softee trucks, and it’s been right under our noses since 2020. That’s right — Mister Softee has an app, and it's had an app for four years. Is this the first time you’re learning about it? You’re not alone.

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To most New Yorkers, Mister Softee has always felt elusive. We don’t think about where the trucks come from in the morning or where they go at night. They just sort of appear as soon as the weather reaches north of 60 degrees. It’s a thing that only exists within the confines of your cravings for sub-par soft serve or a Spongebob popsicle that looks more like a horror movie villain. There’s something pleasantly simple and timeless about that — as if New Yorkers in the ‘50s had the exact same relationship to Mister Softee as we do now.

Because of that, it’s hard to imagine Mister Softee being associated with something as modern as a smartphone app. But really, the app is just as elusive as Mister Softee itself.

<p>Roman Tiraspolsky / Getty Images</p> Mister Softee, which has been based in Runnemede, New Jersey since 1958, launched its smartphone app in 2020.

Roman Tiraspolsky / Getty Images

Mister Softee, which has been based in Runnemede, New Jersey since 1958, launched its smartphone app in 2020.

The main feature of the app is its map function. Its homepage is essentially an Apple map flooded with cartoonified images of Mister Softee trucks. You can enter your zip code or share your location — both options will show you how close you are to an ice cream truck. Click on an image of a truck, and you’ll find its name (usually something simple, like “Bronx truck 18”) and how long the truck has “been on the road for.”

Nearly every truck in Manhattan has been “on the road” since July 18th, 2023 — a complete coincidence, surely! You can also click “View Menu,” which takes you to what should have been Mister Softee’s full menu. Alas, it really only shows just the trucks' chocolate and vanilla soft serve offerings.

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Tap the information button and you’ll be led to an “About Us” page. “Welcome to the App of Mister Softee! This app will allow you to locate your local Mister Softee franchise, learn about becoming a franchisee, learn about private parties with Mister Softee and download our jingle,” it reads. As described, there’s a “History” page, a contact form for party and event requests, and a page that describes how Mister Softee really, really wants you to become a franchise owner. 

Fleets of Mister Softee ice cream trucks are owned by franchisees, and those franchisees are able to decide whether or not they would like their trucks visible on the app. “We didn’t want to make it mandatory,” Conway told me. So really, there are only a select number of trucks that are traceable. For reference, when I look at New York City on the app, I can see dozens in Manhattan and the Bronx and only two in Queens and two in Brooklyn. Let me assure you — I live in Brooklyn and there’s at least six regular Mister Softees in my neighborhood alone.

Either way, if you really have a hankering for ice cream, you might want to go the distance for it. The real question is, does the Mister Softee app actually work? I decided to test it out.

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I looked at the map and found the nearest truck: Bronx truck 76 on 17th Street and Broadway. I made the 30-minute trek north and passed two Mister Softee trucks on the way (both of which were not present on my app). Still, I continued on, took the subway to Union Square and as soon as I stepped outside I spotted it. Bronx truck 76 was exactly where the app said it would be.

I asked the driver, Oswaldo, if he knew about the app. He told me that he had heard about it, but didn’t think his boss wanted him on it. I told him he was, in fact, on the app. He shrugged, I ordered a snowcone, and then he drove off to a new location as the loud jingle played through the truck’s speaker. 

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