Saturday, November 17, 2012

Ruthie's Rolls Out Third Food Truck

This week I had the honor of attending a party hosted by Ruthie's Food Trucks, to debut their new Creperie and also showcase their Cheesesteak truck and their original Grilled Cheese truck.

It was a beautiful day for a party and a great way to visit with the truck staff. I'm a fan of Ruthie's Grilled Cheese Truck, having been with them since their opening day last August and eaten there many times since, so I focused my attention to the cheesesteak and crepes.  I will do full write-ups later, but have to say, I had high expectations for the crepes and they were absolutely met!

The trucks were serving limited menus for this event, but I picked up small menu cards to take with me and as I am looking at them, I keep having to stop typing and wipe the drool.... from the Grilled Cheese Truck, you can always build your own or go with featured sandwiches like The Boss...BBQ beef with cheddar cheese or the Italian Hippy...chicken, pesto and grilled tomorrows with mozzarella, or several other styles.


Or if a Cheesesteak is more to your likening, Ruthie's is doing them with steak, chicken or veggies. I had the Teriyaki style and  The Buffalo will be my next choice, with steak, buffalo sauce, jalapenos,  American cheese and seasonings. There's also the Italian or plain veggies with provolone to choose from.

I am most excited about the crepe truck, what I consider to be the crown jewel in the Ruthie's treasure box.  The menu has savory, sweet and even breakfast crepes. I had  the Nutella filling with caramel sauce, c'est magnifique! In fact, one of the employee's of Ruthie's sister companies', Executives in Action told me that earlier a gentleman from France had come to the truck, had a crepe and proclaimed it "as good as from Paris".  I look forward to having the savory crepes, I imagine it will bring a bit of Europe to the streets of Dallas.

While all three trucks will regularly serve on the streets, the trucks are frequent booked for private events. I, personally, would love to have both the Grilled Cheese truck and the Crepe truck at my next party. When the Grilled Cheese truck came out, Ruthie's motto was "Ain't No Party Like a Grilled Cheese Party". I have not seen an official update, but I'm thinking a cheesesteak party is going to be appealing to a lot of people and a crepe party is probably the best idea yet.

You can follow Ruthie's on Facebook and Twitter to find out where each of the trucks is rolling next.
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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Trucks Are Closing: What's Going On?


Over the last month, several high profile food trucks have closed their doors, including Food Traveler Truck, The Bacon Wagon, Zombie Food Truck and The Wiener Man.  Is it coincidence that these three trucks are all Fort Worth based? Is the food truck market shrinking instead of growing? What is going on?  are all questions I get every time I posted to say a truck is closing.

After watching the industry for the last 16 months, I am not sure that I have any better understanding of which specific trucks are going to fail, at any given time but there are some trends among the trucks that are closing and they seem to revolve around the two most important resources for any business owner, time or money.



To put things in context, since I have been blogging about food trucks, there have been approximately 85 gourmet trucks that have rolled, somewhere in the Metroplex.  In the same time period, approximately 19 have closed their doors. The a majority of these closings seem to be because of one or two things.

1. Time:  a high number of the trucks have closed were right around their one year anniversary,  City Street Grille, Crazy Sisters, The Wiener Man all went a few weeks post one-year.  The Bacon Wagon, just a few weeks short.  One year is long enough to determine if the food truck lifestyle is a good fit for the owner. They have been through a brutal summer  and in the case of early 2012, a fairly mild but stressful winter.  They have had 52 weeks of placing orders, standing on their feet, scouting locations and plenty of time to question their passion.

For those truck owners with families, like Zombie's owner, it didn't take a full year to determine that owning a food truck took too much time away from family.

2.  Money:  Quite a few food truck owners get in to a truck thinking it will be quick money. Nothing could be farther from the truth.  In reality, for most truck owners, for the first year, the hope becomes breaking even. For many, they do, but for some, the sinking in to debit comes deeper.  At some point, especially with those owners with families, the realization that they can get another type of job, that pays more and most likely  has less hours has a strong allure. 

Fort Worth vs. Dallas
People also ask if there is something with Fort Worth, since it seems that a disproportional number of Fort Worth trucks have closed.  26% as compared to 8% of Dallas trucks.   From the outside, it seems  harder to operate a truck in Fort Worth than Dallas.  The laws between the two cities are significantly different, both in type of trucks and how they can operate.  Fort Worth is more lax in truck design, allowing trailers, over sized trucks and trucks retro-fit by the owner to all operate freely.  Dallas requirement are more stringent in terms of size, as well as requirements regarding the standards for the retro-fitting.   Fort Worth does not require the trucks to operate out of a commercial commissary but allows designation of commercial or private kitchens as a commissary.  Dallas requires trucks to operate out of a commercial commissary, although rules changes last year loosened some of the restrictions on which  commissaries can be used.

The most notable differ race between Dallas and Fort Worth is the areas in which trucks can operate. With the exception of certain areas in the Central Business district, trucks are allowed to freely operate in Dallas, subject to an agreement between the property owner and the truck operator and a few code restrictions regarding being on paved ground, access to restrooms and other minimal issues.   Trucks can rotate through locations and have multiple trucks on location without additional permits.  This is the primary reason Dallas has truck events almost every night of the week, especially when they are put together by the trucks, who don't charge other trucks to be there.

In Fort Worth, the food truck scene has built up around food truck parks, primarily because of restrictions concerning where and how many trucks can park at a given location. When a truck owner and business owner agree that the truck can park on the business property, the truck must apply for a Certificate of Occupancy from the City. The application must include a sketch of the parcel of land and only one truck can hold a Certificate of Occupancy for that parcel, in accordance with the Rules.  The City does allow a variance to the Certificate of Occupancy processes, which is how the food truck parks operate. The owner must apply for this variance and I am told the process is time consuming to complete.  Many trucks prefer operating at the parks as it takes a bit of the hardest part of operating a truck, finding locations, out of the equation. However, the trade-off is the amount of rent paid to the park owner and being subjected to the business decisions made by the park owner. 

Fort Worth has lower start-up costs which are significantly off-set by the limited locations in which to operate. Dallas trucks have more restrictions at start-up but once they get permits in Dallas, they can get them in every other city in the Metroplex that allows trucks. This is not true for Fort Worth, where a small trailer, operating out of their home is most likely limited to doing bushiness in Fort Worth.

Even with all these restrictions on truck operations, in reality, the Dallas Fort Worth food truck scene is thriving. Nationwide, 23% of restaurants will fail the first year.  I don't have the numbers for a 12-month period in DFW, but in the 16 months that I have followed the industry, 21% of the DFW trucks have closed their doors. The percentage is higher, in Fort Worth with 26% and lower in Dallas with 9%. 

More and more, trucks are now operating  between both Dallas and Fort Worth, even trucks that were adamantly committed to one city or the other have recently been seen passing city limit signs in order to expand their customer base. With this mobility, the potential for growth increases, albeit tempered by the increase in costs of fuel and wear and tear on the trucks.  Despite the recent closings of high profile trucks, I do not see an end to the food truck scene in DFW.  Like all new industries, the field does have some leveling off, while those with great product, passion and resources thrive and others find other business opportunities.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

DFW TRUCKS FOR TOTS EVENT TO BENEFIT TOYS FOR TOTS


25 Food Trucks Come Together in Deep Ellum on December 8th for Charity Event

DALLAS, TX- On Saturday December 8, 2012 from 11:00am-7:00pm, 25 Dallas and Fort Worth food trucks are gathering at the corner of Elm St. and Gaston Ave in Deep Ellum (2505 Elm Street, Dallas, TX) for a massive toy drive for the Dallas-Fort Worth Chapter of Toys for Tots. Over 20 United States Marines will be on hand to take toy donations and guests are encouraged to bring a new, unwrapped toy for a needy child. Pictures with Santa will be available in addition to live music, bounce houses, and over 50 vendors for holiday shopping.

In partnership with local schools including W.E. Greiner Exploratory Arts Academy and Lincoln High School, students will be encouraged to collect toys and bring them to the event with their family. There will also be a performance by the Lincoln High School Tiger Marching Band. Over 25 confirmed food trucks will be on-site including Rock & Roll Tacos, Rockstar Bakeshop, Easy Slider Truck, Ssahm BBQ, Gepetto’s Pizza, Three Lions, The Gastro Bomber and more.

Guests are encouraged to ride the DART Green Line and get off at the Deep Ellum Station, which is across the street from the event. Guests coming from North Dallas can ride any line into downtown and transfer to the Green Line without worrying about the hassle of parking. This event is brought to you by DFW Food Truck Group, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, Deep Ellum Outdoor Market and other local sponsors.

About Toys for Tots: The mission of the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program is to collect new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December each year, and distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in the community in which the campaign is conducted. The U. S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program is directed by the Commander, Marine Forces Reserve, with the assistance of his staff, from the Marine Forces Reserve Headquarters in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, an IRS recognized 501(c)(3) not-for-profit charity, is the authorized fundraising and support organization for the Toys for Tots Program. The Foundation provides the funding and support needed for successful annual toy collection and distribution campaigns. The Foundation staff is headquartered in the Cooper Center located just outside the main gate of Marine Corps Base, Quantico, Virginia, about 35 miles south of Washington, DC. Local campaigns are conducted annually in over 700 communities covering all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The Commander, Marine Forces Reserve has under his command 163 Reserve Units located in 47 states. To cover all 50 states and more communities in each state, the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation selects Marine Corps League Detachments and Local Community Organizations (generally veteran Marines) located in communities without a Marine Reserve Center, to conduct Toys for Tots campaigns as part of the overall U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program. For more information visit www.toysfortots.org.

About DFW Food Truck Group: DFW Food Truck Group is a community-based promotions group made up of local, independent food truck owners and operators working together to promote awareness of the local food truck scene and food truck events in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex.
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Sunday, November 11, 2012

My Cupcake Garden: Dallas's Newest Cupcake Truck

When it comes to food trucks, I do my best not to compare them to other trucks, each has its own style, even when serving the same types of food. This is especially true with the cupcake trucks, of which there are six across DFW.  Six different recipes, six different styles of frosting and six different ways of making itself unique.  I was looking forward to seeing how Dallas' newest cupcake truck, My Cupcake Garden set itself apart.

On the day of my first visit to the truck, I had an afternoon meeting at the office, so I decided to order a dozen to share with co-workers, on the condition that they help me with feedback.   I placed my order and was given the total of $48 plus tax! Wow!  It was then that I realized that each cupcake was $4, a higher price than any other cupcake  truck and there was no discount for purchasing by the dozen. This was going to be a hard one to not compare when I was use to paying about $1 less per cupcake.

I got back to the office, went to my meeting and we broke out the cupcakes. The first thing you notice is they are larger than other cupcakes from other trucks.  With an assortment of five flavors, we split things up and started our meeting.  At the end of the meeting, I asked everyone to email me their thoughts, which are outlined here:


Peanut Butter Cocoa Chips with Peanut Frosting:  Liked the chopped nuts inside, the chocolate chips were a nice surprise.  Had more of a muffin texture than cake texture, meaning  that it was dry.




Strawberry with Strawberry Frosting: The frosting made the cupcake, it was light and flavorful.  not a lot of flavor in the cake.


Cookies and cream:  all the flavor was in the frosting, but it was too sweet.   Cake was dry and bland.






Orange with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting. Flavorful icing, cake was light but on the dry side.  Texture was more like a muffin; this would be good for breakfast.

Key lime:  Icing had a greasy taste.  Cake only had faint lime taste.

Overall, not the response I had wanted.  So, as is my practice before telling you about new trucks that may be having an off-day, I visited the truck again about 3 weeks later.  As I was studying the menu, the truck owner recommended her favorite, the red velvet, which I ordered, along with a carrot cake.

The red velvet had the best frosting of any of My Cupcake Garden's cakes.  Again, I found the cake to be drier than what I prefer. I do love the individual cupcake holders that My Cupcake Garden provides. Very easy to transport your cupcakes in!

The carrot cake was the most flavorful cake  of any of My Cupcake Garden's cakes. It was moister and had large raisins and thin slices of carrots baked in.  Unfortunately, I found this frosting to be have an oily taste.

All in all, I did not feel like I got my $4 worth from any of the cupcakes.  Most were much drier and lighter in flavor than I prefer. The icing was inconsistent in taste, on some cakes it was great, on some it was greasy and not very good.  I am hoping that as the truck evolves and refines its technique things become more consistent and the owners find a way to drop their price point. If you are going to have the highest price point, you have to prove your worth by having the best product.

You can follow My Cupcake Garden on Facebook and Twitter to find out where to find them. They can be found all over Dallas, both at lunch time and evening events.

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