Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States
Before I became a food truck owner, I loved to move around and live in different places. I was very nomadic. Being a food truck owner provides a different opportunity to continue my quest to experience new places. On a daily basis we change our locations and adapt to new and often challenging operational situations.
In 2011, I opened American Meltdown, a food truck specializing in high-end grilled cheese sandwiches. Since then, we have grown in scale each year. During the first year, we had two full-time employees and some part-timers. Right now, we have three full-timers and a rotating part-time crew. We have one truck and move to multiple locations in North Carolina within a 50 mile radius (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Hillsborough). Annual sales have grown considerably as our reputation builds. Our catering revenue now accounts for 40-45% of our annual income.
Here’s a bit of what we can cover in our PivotPlanet session(s):
• How to identify a niche food product that works in your target area and how to bring your concept to market.
• Advice on building operational systems to make a food truck work efficiently.
• How to build a marketing/launch plan.
• Advice on the initial stages of setting up the company through the selling of food on the first day.
• How to follow sanitary guidelines.
Food trucking and the hospitality industry are notorious for not providing a good work/life balance. However, I think food trucking does. There will be a busy season and an off-season. There is not a lot of room for socializing during busy seasons if you are the owner/operator. Conversely, during the off season you can plan vacations with colleagues, family or friends and have a lot less work to do and a lot more life to live...just make sure you saved up for the slow season.
I have spent my 10+ years in the restaurant and hospitality industry in many different positions. I have worked in restaurants in both the front and back of the house. I worked as a sales representative for a boutique wine distributor selling to many high-end establishments in New York City. I have also styled food for Conde Nast magazines. I knew the food industry was where I belonged after working some offshore and domestic construction jobs. I loved cooking and loved the restaurant industry because of all the daily excitement and challenges.
The confluence of the rising food truck trend, a love for street food and the desire to build my own brand lead to the creation of American Meltdown. Food trucks defy the old restaurant adage of “Location. Location. Location.” Instead, food trucks can follow the crowds and develop a following based solely on the merit of how delicious the food is. Building a brand has been one of the most invigorating aspects of the job, which I didn't anticipate when we were in the conceptual phase and even as we entered into commerce. The brand building and “chefing” provide the creative sides of my job.
My primary areas of expertise are menu building, marketing and operations. We started American Meltdown with just a rough draft of a menu, and it grew from there. One of the reasons we have been so successful in the three years since we conceptualized our plan is the branding - the overall look, the menu, our style of service.
We have placed in cooking competitions (3rd place in the Grilled Cheese Invitational, Los Angeles) and have garnered a lot of press to back up our food. We have been able to appeal to a wide audience in a variety of age groups. Serving that wide variety of age groups turns into volume. Having the most efficient systems in place to serve as many people as possible, is one of the most important aspects of food trucking.