We had the opportunity to sit down with Paul and Janee, owner's of the Kensington, Maryland streets' newest food truck, El Pollo Submarine. We discussed their food truck design, the unexpected bumps along the way, and what tips they have for food truck success.
Our main item is a savory chicken sub, or submarine. Chicken in Spanish translates to “Pollo”. As fans of the Beatles, “El Pollo Submarine” ala “The Yellow Submarine” instantly came to mind.
We drew our initial inspiration from the colorful and vibrant native artwork of El Salvador. Since the name of our truck is a play on “The Yellow Submarine,” we also wanted to incorporate the 60’s style artwork of the album. We then set Nicole upon the difficult task of tastefully mixing these two concepts together, which she pulled off flawlessly!
Salvadoran comfort food. Mainly: Pupusas, Chicken Sub, Enchiladas (Salvadoran Tostadas).
Janee had always daydreamed about owning a food truck, but never considered it a realistic possibility. Paul had always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but couldn’t come up with the right idea for his first business. After dating for a couple years, we decided that together we could make our dreams a reality.
The most important feature to a food truck website is a calendar that displays a weekly location schedule. Next to that, contact information is essential to book catering gigs. And while we almost forgot to mention the menu, we realize that as a food truck you’ll rely on being seen or spotted. The menu will be on the truck, but you have to attract people to your truck first before they are compelled to look you up online. Having the menu on the website is only useful once people are interested or hungry enough to know who you are, and where you’ll be next.
Aside from taking the leap and leaving the prospect of a “stable career,” the hardest thing we’ve had to deal with to date was getting our truck in good running condition. While you should trust your vendor to deliver a fully functioning truck, you should never doubt that mistakes can be made, and accidents can happen. Ours broke down after 10 minutes of driving it for the first time, and we were stuck trying to get a tow truck during rush hour traffic. Not all tow trucks can tow other trucks, and while it seems obvious to us now, we learned it the hard way. We called several tow companies, all of which denied our request. It took us three hours of waiting under the summer sun on the shoulder to finally find a company capable of helping us.
Cooking delicious food is just a small fraction of what you’ll do as a food truck owner. Starting and running a food truck business is a larger project than we anticipated, and you must be prepared to manage numerous tasks. Communication is key! Without effective communication you run the risk of a project steering off course. Unless you’re the type who likes to learn the hard way, our business tip to help you succeed would be to consider taking a few courses in project management before undertaking a food truck business.
Remember this: there is no food truck without a truck. The truck itself is the business’ biggest asset. Without a properly running truck, you have NO means of conducting business. Our truck was in bad shape when we first received it. Sometimes things go wrong, so our words of wisdom are: “expect the best, but plan for the worst.” If you plan for the worst, you’ll be one step ahead when things inevitably don’t go as planned. The saying “time is money” cannot be more true in the food truck business. Time not spent networking, catering or vending are missed opportunities and money not being made. How well you anticipate and bounce back from major and even minor setbacks will determine your success in this business.
Our favorite item is found in the name of our truck, the chicken “pollo” sub! Although any one of our dishes can be a favorite depending on what mood we’re in.
The best part of working with Design Womb was seeing our concept come to life. There’s something quite special about trusting someone to personify your food truck in such a way that it evokes an identity beyond your own. We no longer view our food truck as merely a vehicle that can cook and sell food. A food truck with a brand is more than that. Thanks to Design Womb, our food truck is a key team player who markets and advertises for us in a visual way. Not only is it a mobile kitchen, it’s a mobile billboard…our mascot.
August 16, 2016 | BY Aleksa Narbutaitis
We had the opportunity to sit down with Marissa and Matt of Boo Coo Roux, a Cajun & Creole food truck based in Chicago, and learn about their journey.
We thought about it for a while and imagined some different scenarios, some in where we would possibly leave Chicago. There was about two years of various research, trips to other cities, getting to know the scene around Chicago, and experimenting with recipes before we decided it was time to go for it. We realized the the food truck scene was growing in Chicago and wanted to jump in before it became oversaturated.
We wanted something fun and kind of crazy without going too overboard or looking like a scene from Bourbon Street. In our heads we imagined a clean and sophisticated look that had an edge to it. We initially wanted the design to be colorful without looking tacky. We never imagined black as being our background color or main color, but when we were presented with it we loved it. Nicole transformed our ideas exactly how we imagined it.
We originally thought of the name Roux, simple yet an important ingredient in one of our main dishes, gumbo. That name was taken, not by another truck but by another Illinois business so we started playing around with how we could still use the word roux in our name. We researched words and found the slang word "boo coo" which comes from the French word "beaucoup" meaning "a lot" and it all came together from there.
Homemade fresh and spicy quality Cajun comfort food with a twist.
We originally considered moving to Colorado in order to open a Chicago-style food truck with dishes like homemade Italian beef and homemade hot dogs and bratwursts. After some research on the industry in Colorado we decided to stay in Chicago and try it here first. We needed to drop the Chicago-style food since there are already so many options (but we still have an amazing Italian beef recipe on the back burner just in case!). From there we thought about the type of food that was lacking in restaurants and especially the food truck scene and we landed on Cajun. Matt and Louis have strong backgrounds in French cooking as well so it really made sense since so many of Cajun dishes incorporate French cooking techniques.
We use the website to advertise our menu as well as catering options. I think the most important feature is keeping an updated menu. Most people want to know what is available if they are going to make the trip to the truck. We don't use the website yet to post our schedule but hope to in the future. Without going into detail, the food truck parking scene is no joke and there are days where it can be hard to know where one will park. We post our locations for lunch both on Facebook and Twitter.
Everything. It's an emotional experience when you own your own business, you become invested in every aspect. However, if I have to pick one area that was the most difficult it was probably the initial startup and build of the truck. It seemed like it would never end despite being organized and doing everything in our power to move things along.
We are not from Louisiana so we were very cautious to pursue this style of cuisine and wanted respect the food while making it our own. This involved a lot of R&D and some trips to New Orleans. That being said, it's an overwhelming success when someone from the region compliments our food. We always create food that we hope pleases the masses but a compliment from a native is always the icing on the cake.
Matt knows the owner of the Fat Shallot from his days at Everest and he was lucky enough to work on the truck. He got to see first-hand what operation on a truck was like. His experience gave him a good foundation of where to begin the process and what to think about. They were and still are a helpful resource. There are so many details to think about with startup like insurance, propane, vendors, food cost, website, design, etc.
It's tough. Any cook or chef in the food industry already understands the demands of that world, and a truck is no exception, especially when you approach it with the intention to create everything from scratch like we do.
The gumbo! We went through many batches and minor changes to come up with a recipe that we feel best represents the dish.
Nicole! Throughout the entire startup process she was one of the best people that we worked with. She never missed a beat. We are still obsessed with the final design and could not be happier. I don’t even think we had to make any changes on the design option that we picked because it was so spot on, in fact we had a hard time picking from the options that she gave us because they all were so great!
June 21, 2016 | BY Nicole LaFave
“Brand names reveal a lot more than you think, as the fascinating science of ‘sound symbolism’ suggests.”
Which ice cream has fewer calories: Frish or Frosh? Which city is geographically closer: Fleen or Floon? The majority of people would think that Frish would have fewer calories than Frosh, and that Floon was farther away than Fleen. Did you think the same? These words are fictional, but the sounds that they make cause our minds to apply certain meanings to them.
Language studies have shown that humans make cognitive connections with sounds and meanings. There are a lot of components that make up brand voice, but is your name aligned with what you do? Or more importantly, with what people may think you do? Different sounds in words create different connections than you may intend your brand to say. Read on (especially if you’re in the market for a new name!) to see what your sounds may actually mean to clients at first glance. Definitely something to consider when you’re branding, rebranding or naming your next company.
June 04, 2016 | BY Aleksa Narbutaitis
Brand Voice might sound like the robot language of a dystopian future, or the natural result of Citizens United, but thankfully it’s neither of those. Quite simply, Brand Voice is the distillation of everything your brand stands for. It’s a codified set of beliefs that inform every communication your brand puts out, from TV commercials to Tweets, to customer service calls. Defining your brand’s voice means making sure everything your brand says is true to itself.
Brand Voice should be a direct reflection of the brand, it’s employees, customers, and products. When working with a brand team to define their brand voice, I always start with “Why did you start this company?” Most businesses are started by passionate people with an idea, and there’s nothing more powerful than sharing that passion with customers. Then we talk about the brand’s ethos, what does it stand for? Is it about empowering employees, or saving the world, or perhaps letting customers ice their own toaster strudel instead of relying upon pre-iced pastries that only lead to heartbreak and disappointment. We get to the bottom of why the business exists, and how it makes its customers feel. We get to the truth behind the brand, and that becomes the foundation for the brand’s voice.
I tell clients more than I probably should, when you hire a writer to help define your brand’s voice, you’re hiring them to ensure you don’t need a writer every time you need writing. Defining and understanding your brand’s voice gives you a clear roadmap on how to communicate. It ensures that every message is “on brand” no matter what the medium or subject matter, and perhaps most importantly, it gives your brand a point of view that differentiates it from every other one out there. Brand voice is about articulating what a brand stands for and saying it in a way that’s ownable, distinct, and different, and making sure that every time your brand opens its purely metaphorical mouth, what comes out represents exactly what you intended.
May 03, 2016 | BY Aleksa Narbutaitis
We know starting a food business and working on your food packaging design is hard enough as it is. Throw in the added worry about making sure your labels and packaging design are in line with any required regulations, and many food startups are asking for a headache. We've asked our extended Design Womb team member and legal expert, Lauren Handel, who just launched her own firm, to share some helpful insight on what to consider while working on your packaging design and brand's launch.
At the federal government level, food labels are regulated by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) (for meat, poultry and processed egg products), the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) (for alcoholic beverages) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (for all other foods). The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has jurisdiction over advertising, including websites and social media marketing. States also have authority to regulate food labels and marketing.
YES! In the last few years, the plaintiffs’ bar has played an increasing role in “regulation” of food labels by bringing hundreds of class action lawsuits against food companies allegedly for deceiving consumers with false or misleading food labels. Foods labeled as “natural” that contain genetically modified, synthetic, or highly-processed ingredients have been the primary target of such lawsuits to date. But the litigation has expanded to other types of allegedly false or misleading food labeling—such as labels using the term “evaporated cane juice” to describe a type of sugar ingredient, labeling claims about antioxidants and “superfood” ingredients, and claims about certain products being healthy or good for you when they contain lots of sugar or fat. Competitors also can sue for unfair competition based on a false or misleading food label.
It is flatly illegal to claim that a food product can help to treat, cure or mitigate any disease. Such claims may be made only for drugs, which must go through extensive review and approval by FDA before they may be sold. However, it is permissible to claim that a food product helps to support a normal, healthy bodily structure or function (such, as “supports a healthy immune system” or “builds strong bones”) provided that the manufacturer has sufficient scientific evidence to back up the claim.
FDA rules also set conditions for using the terms “healthy,” “health,” and other variants of those words, when used in connection with a claim about the nutrients or ingredients in the food. It is illegal to use those terms if the product contains too much fat, cholesterol or sodium, or if does not contain enough of at least one beneficial nutrient (vitamins A, C, calcium, iron, protein, or fiber).
FDA regulations govern claims characterizing the level of a nutrient in a food product—for example, “high fiber” or “low fat.” Manufacturers may use only certain terminology in making such claims—such as, “good source,” “high,” and “excellent source.” You may not say that a product is “packed with vitamin C,” for instance. FDA regulations also define how much of each “bad” nutrient is too much for a “low” claim and what minimum amounts of “good” nutrients are needed for a “good source” or “high” claim. In some cases, a manufacturer may make a nutrient content claim only if it also includes an additional disclosure.
In general, no. If the company’s web address is printed on the package label, FDA considers a website to be part of the product labeling and subject to the same rules as apply to the package label. Other kinds of marketing materials—such as product brochures and sell sheets—also can be considered part of the labeling. FDA also looks at websites (and, potentially, social media) for evidence that a company intends to market a food product as an unapproved drug. And, as mentioned above, the FTC also has jurisdiction over websites and social media. The bottom line is: be careful about claims you make anywhere you market your products.
Bio: Lauren Handel is the principal attorney of Handel Food Law LLC, which exclusively serves farming, food, and alcoholic beverage businesses. Lauren’s practice focuses on regulatory compliance and enforcement matters, commercial contracts, and intellectual property.
February 25, 2016 | BY Nicole LaFave
While we love to help you launch your food packaging projects, we also love to share exciting news about things that our team and extended family members are up to. Allison Ball, our food industry consultant, is launching an exciting new online course in February called "Brains of the Buyer." This course is for Producers of Good Food, and for the inaugural session, the Design Womb community will receive a generous discount of 30% off.
"Brains of the Buyer" helps producers grow their food business, thoughtfully. Alli works with you to create a 1 page business plan to clarify what you're actually selling & who you're selling to, why your product is different, and who your competitors are. Together, you then move on to understanding the thought process of wholesale buyers: why they choose particular products to carry and why they pass on others; how they price them; the strategy behind re-ordering, merchandising, and marketing them; and how to convince those retail accounts to say "Yes!" to carrying your products.
Alli currently helps producers increase their wholesale presence through her one-on-one consulting, and is offering group work for the first time this winter. Prior to launching her consulting business, Alli was Head of Grocery & Store Manager at Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco, one of the nation's most influential specialty food markets, where she discovered, supported and promoted hundreds of small food businesses and thousands of retail products.
To sign up or learn more, follow this link and use promo code FOODFRIEND to save 30% off the inaugural course. Please note spots are limited, and registrations closes Friday, January 29th at Midnight, PST. Still have questions? Email email@example.com.
January 22, 2016 | BY Nicole LaFave
Welcome to Made For Food Trucks by Madestack. We are thrilled to share our labor of love with you. Madestack was born when we came together on client work and saw a huge gap in the market between mediocre website design templates that the average startup person doesn’t know how to install/use and quick web design services that give too much control, aren’t industry specific enough, and might not look very custom.
Facebook isn’t enough. Your customers are online, on their phones, and reading their tablets. When a friend mentions a delicious tamale or sandwich they tried from a new local food truck, it’s extremely likely that they are immediately looking for you on google to find out where you will be or to check out your menu.
Our experience in the food truck industry includes the launch of 10 trucks (and counting!) in the branding, truck design, and web design spaces across the globe. The problem? Like many startups in the food and restaurant space, food truck startups and owners don’t have thousands of dollars to throw into a custom website before they launch and generate revenue. They usually spend most of their investment on buying the truck, building the truck’s kitchen and finally branding and wrapping the truck with something visually striking.
We started with something simple. A low-cost subscription template solution that you can use to get your website up quickly without the overhead upfront of paying for a full blown custom website design for your food truck. With our website design templates, you can update information yourself, place photography, and swap to colors that are in line with your food truck’s branding. We’ve designed with the intent that the site has a flexibility and a beautiful end product with a custom look and feel.
We’ll be adding to Madestack and Made For Food Trucks now that we’ve officially launched. Stay on top of news about our future font sets* and features by joining our mailing list.
*coming very soon
August 31, 2015 | BY Nicole LaFave
How does the food truck design process work? Paint or wrap? Raw or finished? Decals or hand-painted with custom signs or add-ons? This stuff takes time. Always more than you think.
As a new business, you acquire a food truck. You buy it new or used, have a truck modified or (gasp!), spend the big bucks and custom build a beauty. Before this step or while you are shopping, you have reached out to a branding team, such as Design Womb, to begin working on the name, logo design and branding collateral. The minute you knew what you were serving, you started. Every week counts leading into the big food truck debut.
When a client calls me with a food truck concept, we discuss the big list wish items, we create a proposal, prioritize the items and than immediately dive in. This list should include not only the truck design itself, but your menus, the food packing, website, uniforms and all the other branded collateral and swag. It is helpful to have your wish list with some realistic dates in mind when you contact Design Womb. Prepare to be asked a lot of questions. If your designer doesn't ask you questions and they can do all of this on a penny, find a new one. You'll end up spending twice as much having to start over if it isn't right from the beginning.
At this point, Design Womb continues to assist in the process. We can help find or source the right team to paint, wrap or decal the vehicle. We walk through a careful food truck design process which involves planning and templates that act as a blueprint for your truck. If you are printing and wrapping the truck, any good printer should be able to provide you with a template file to scale. This is very important. The goal is to leave nothing up for interpretation so there is very little wiggle room for change from design file to actual truck execution.
When your design is approved, Design Womb will assist in the material selections and color planning. We pre-press and set the files based on your client-approved paint, Pantone and color selections. Once these final art files make it to the truck wrapper, printer or painter, you might have a final vehicle within a matter of days, sometimes a week or two. Here is where I push every one of my clients to be sure to have a photo shoot of some sort planned. You're going to want those beauty shots of your brand new truck for press and marketing. Drawing on first-hand experience, its a lot easier for you to do this before your truck hits the streets. Once you get super busy, it is hard to justify shutting down for a few hours and becomes hard to capture some decent off hours to take photographs, or (dare I say it) your truck starts to get dirty or dinged up. This is also prime time to keep pushing forward with your other brand collateral and your website. Your website should update customers on truck locations, menu changes and events. That's a whole different blog post for another day.
April 29, 2013 | BY Nicole LaFave
I've always wondered the thought process behind why people chose the twitter background they have on their profiles. I try to update my profile background every handful of months. Earlier this year it was all about the shoes. Last month it was felted texture, and this month a wallpaper collage of portfolio work. What's your background and why? If you use twitter as a marketing tool for yourself or your business, you should pay close attention to that background or invest in having one made to reflect your brand.
April 21, 2010 | BY Nicole LaFave
I would call myself a pretty decently successful freelance designer. I am working to grow my business, or double/triple it by the end of this year. Back in college, I was an AIGA student member, but since graduating and working in a handful of studios and deciding to go solo and freelance full-time, I haven't paid my dues since. I fully support an organization such as AIGA, and I love what they are about, but I find is so hard to cough up that $300. It's a love hate relationship. I am a professional, but I am also going it alone at the moment. Finding a way to pay for these extra organizations and at other times paid design competitions can be rough, no matter how much you think the benefits or results from joining might be later. Luckily AIGA offers a way to pay quarterly now, though I am still not sold on making the big leap. Is it work it, is it necessary? I'd love to hear what other professionals have to say about memberships and which ones they find the most valuable. My heart and my mind are saying yes, though I am still on the fence about how to rationalize taking the leap and finally joining AIGA again.
March 28, 2010 | BY Nicole LaFave