One of the things I have enjoyed most about the food trucks is meeting people, not only the other customers but those who are bringing the trucks to life each day. These men and women are incredibly passionate about what they are doing and the food they are serving. I was also noticing that they all had a story of how their truck came about and how their life evolved in to being a part of one of the fastest growing small business concepts, not only in DFW but in the US. Each week I will share these stories in “Truck Talk Tuesday”.
This week we meet Ashlee Kleinert of Ruthie's Rolling Café.
- What did you do before you were a food truck owner? We are also in the special event planning business. My sister and I have a company named: In Any Event Dallas. We plan all categories of special events from small dinner parties for 20 guests to large nonprofit fundraisers with 2000 guests - and everything in between.
- How did you come up with the name for your truck? Ruthie's is named after my sweet grandmother Ruth who absolutely loved good old fashioned comfort food. Grilled Cheese sandwiches were a staple item whenever I'd go to her house to stay the night.
- What made you decide to have a food truck rather than a brick and mortar restaurant? I've played with the idea of having a little tea room/cafe and gift shop for many years and was waiting for the economy to get stronger. Then as we heard and learned more about food trucks in our event business, we made several trips to Austin and talked to truck owners there. I became sold on this idea. I love the flexibility of being on wheels! We can be in different locations for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- What is your favorite menu item? It's honestly tough to pick a favorite because it changes weekly for me! My personal Ruthie's favorite at the moment is a turkey and bacon with mozzarella grilled on the Hippie Health Bread...and our special slob sauce! It's extra good but also extra messy when dripping out of your sandwich, so sometimes I use it as a dipping sauce.
- What has been the biggest reward of having a food truck? We love our customers and the just the general food truck culture! We've met a lot of fun and interesting people the past few months of being open. The friendships developed have definitely been a blessing.
- What has been the biggest challenge of having a food truck? This is a new business venture for us, and there have been several challenges along the way but I believe every challenge has also been a great opportunity to learn and grow. Initially, it was the permitting process in Dallas. That was a little discouraging to say the least! Next, it was tough to manage early expectations with customers who might think of us as a fast food joint. We have a small kitchen on wheels and custom grill each sandwich as they're ordered. Currently, our biggest challenge is managing our calendar and scheduling. We want to do it all! But, with just one truck and lots of special events, we're having to decline some business or requests to be in a certain part of town because of prior commitments. We're not alone in this, I know a lot of the other truck owners and managers feel the same way. The demand for food trucks in the metroplex definitely exceeds the supply.
- Most marketing for food trucks is through social media, do you see that as a benefit or challenge to you and why? Thankfully, because of In Any Event Dallas already being established with a Facebook and Twitter following, we've been able to promote Ruthie's without having to start from scratch. I love the real-time communication we're able to have with our customers! If we add a location last minute or change locations, we can communicate instantly.
- You spent most days on a food truck, where can we find you when you aren’t on a truck? When I'm not with Ruthie's Rolling Cafe or in our event office, I love to spend time with the wonderful nonprofit agencies in town. My husband and I founded Executives In Action a few years ago, and we match executives who are temporarily out of work due to the economy with a nonprofit agency needing someone with that executive's specific skills for a short term, high impact project. We love it.
- If you could only cook one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? If I could cook only one thing for the rest of my life it would be: "wonderful!!" I'd love to eat out every meal and try all the other food trucks in town!!
- What would you like to see in the DFW food truck scene in the next two years? I'd love to see even more collaboration with city officials and be a part of large civic events. There's so much room in DFW for growth in this industry, and it would be great if we could all partner together!
Thank you Ashlee for the insight! You can roll with Ruthie on Facebook and Twitter and find out where the next grilled cheese party will be!