Our saga started with tweets inviting customers to the alley behind our restaurant, CHARCUT Roast House. They’d ring a bell, pay cash and be on their way with a great burger. It was fun – and popular. Within a few months up to 350 people were lining up. We even trended on Yahoo.
By John Jackson
However, the demand was so great we simply couldn’t keep up. But we didn’t want to lose what we had created. There was no food truck culture in Calgary at the time, so, along with seven other people (not only restaurants but individuals with the same vision), we sat down with the mayor to look at how we could make the city more food-truck friendly. (Mayor Naheed Nenshi started a pilot project we were all a part of about cutting through red tape).
Today anyone interested in finding out more about how to set up and run a food truck can go to the city’s website. Here they’ll find information on permits, inspections, regulations and more.
I believe more than 40 food trucks now operate throughout Calgary. Alley Burger is one of them. Running a food truck is different from running a restaurant. Your kitchen is always moving – and that can be challenging. But it’s also exciting. The business is more customer-focused. Cooks are interacting with customers every minute.
You can also create a buzz more easily. People see a lineup and want to know what’s causing all the excitement. That excitement is good for business – everyone’s business. Alley Burger sometimes has lineups of 250 people, but we might only have food for 100. Hungry customers will go elsewhere to whet their appetite.
Food truck operators, in turn, need to be considerate of their restaurant colleagues. It’s all about promoting camaraderie and community within the food world. It’s also about making sure great food is accessible.
We have no plans to expand our food truck operation. But we have no plans to pack it in either. We simply love to do this.
Top 3 tips for food truckin’:
- Do it for love. Food trucks help you build a community and gain new devotees.
- Do your homework. You can’t just set up a truck on the street. There are bylaws and regulations. Check your local city’s website to find out more.
- Get out the word. Social media is the best to let your customers know where your truck is going to be.