ConceptPin ItIt was almost two years ago, when visiting our farmer's market in Urbana that I wondered what it would be like to own a food truck. There was a new vendor selling vegan dishes that were actually quite tasty. This surprised me. They had a brand new trailer with all top-of-the-line restaurant equipment to serve the masses. By the end of the market's season a sign hung in the window: BUSINESS FOR SALE
Price of entry: $84,000
I put the idea out of my mind. Sort of. My mom called it "truck envy" as I had grandiose visions of how I would trick-out a bread truck. Years ago my family owned a bakery/cafe. It consumed us. After speaking with a number of concessionaires who all seemed to be older (retired-type) sorts of people, I felt that a food truck couldn't possibly be as much work as a restaurant. (I was wrong, by the way.)
We researched a bit more and landed on breakfast food. This is the heart of the midwest and although our bakery/cafe made french pastries and artisan breads, it was our buttermilk biscuits that the people requested from sun-up to sun-down.
We thought about making gourmet biscuit sandwiches with the melt in your mouth recipe we used at the restaurant. (The recipe was adapted from the one on the back of White Lily flour. Like alot of things, biscuits are all about technique and quality ingredients.) After a trip to the health department with our plans modeled after Denver's Biscuit Co Bus which we believe was modeled after the famous Portland Pine State Biscuits, the CUPHD sent us back to the drawing board with a request to carry a more simplified menu.
Then while watching Bobby Flay's throwdown on the NY waffle truck I thought why not waffles? I asked my mom to figure out the secret Liege waffle recipe. We purchased a $10 Belgian waffle iron from Farm and Fleet and began testing. Since Mom is a baker, she became as obsessed with creating a waffle that everyone would crave as much as I was obsessed about making it happen. The health department was much more receptive to our simplified menu. As with most things creative, our concept was collaborative:
- It started with finances. Like most things in life, you have to use what you have and make the best of it. $84k for a trailer that would need a vehicle to tow it from place to place was out of the question. Since my step-dad was already pretty handy constructing much of the family restaurant and he was my go-to person for any of my own car problems, I needed him on board.
- My uncle is a marketing guru and one of my biggest fans. When I told him the only thing standing between me and my new food truck business was $1k for a pair of brand new commercial waffle irons on ebay, (vs $7k for the gas-fired HVD European ones) he purchased them and sent them to the house. There was no turning back.
- We purchased the truck from an ad off Craigslist in Indy. It was a bit terrifying to drive the monster home, and in truth my step dad had to take-off early from work that day because sometime an hour and a half on the freeway into it, the truck suddenly had "issues." He bonded with her the rest of the drive though while I drove his pick-up home.
- Originally, we had plans to expand into a brick and mortar breakfast joint. (This is often in the back of my head.) We knew the future stationary restaurant would be called the Garage and serve breakfast with a vintage service-station theme. Our logo font came out of that for a look that is slightly industrial with a bent metal feel. The marketing guru nixed the service station theme for the truck though, reminding us that even though we were going to be a restaurant on wheels, we really don't want to remind people that they are basically eating off the back of a (impeccably clean A+ health scored commercial kitchen) truck. We kept the "distressed" caps and nixed the service station uniform shirts.
- The marketing guru suggested an eye-catching color that wouldn't be confused rolling down the streets with a laundry truck or something similar. My passion for fast-cars narrowed the field down to the classic car colors: Red. Yellow. Black. As a foodie family everyone has their heart set on the next concept. My step-dad called dibs on his favorite before I even chose mine. His will serve grilled cheese from a sports-car yellow truck.
- And what's in a name? Well, with the potential for multiple street food menus, we had to keep in mind that the name had to be something that would not limit future truck concepts under the same brand. Whatever new trucks we may roll out, they must be food that people on the streets CRAVE.