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United Problem Solvers™: Uncovering The Secret Ingredient To A Successful Food Truck Business
  • 24 February 2016
  • Nicole Cox

United Problem Solvers™: Uncovering The Secret Ingredient To A Successful Food Truck Business

At The UPS Store, United Problem Solvers isn’t just a slogan – it’s the way we work. Every day, we encounter new business challenges posed by small business owners and entrepreneurs who partner with us to identify solutions. One example is Chef Phil Vanderhider who worked with his local The UPS Store to develop a custom marketing solution for his food truck business.

Phil, a native of Lafayette, LA, had always dreamt of owning a Cajun restaurant. But having three daughters, he did not want them to feel pressured to work for the family business and was worried being a restaurateur would require long hours away from his family. It wasn’t until one of his daughters moved to Los Angeles to begin her own career that Phil received the inspiration he needed to make his vision a reality.

On a trip to visit his daughter, they visited a Los Angeles neighborhood which was saturated with food trucks. Seeing this immediately lit a fire in Phil. At the time, there were only a handful of food trucks in his hometown of Spring Hill, FL. Opening a food truck was the opportunity he had been waiting for because it would allow him to share his love of Cajun cuisine but did not require the same level of staffing, overhead costs and long operating hours. Plus, he saw the benefit of mobility to reach customers in different neighborhoods and cater special events.

Phil opened his food truck, Cajun in a Truck, in 2012, which serves authentic Cajun dishes such as jambalaya, gumbo, red beans and rice, and Po’ Boys along with regular street food. What differentiates Cajun in a Truck is that every dish is slow cooked and all ingredients are made–from-scratch including the Roux for the gumbo and Boudin, a popular sausage dish in the South.

“I feel that our food is equivalent to what you would find in a New Orleans or Baton Rouge sit-down restaurant in that we cook it the same way and prepare it using the same techniques. We are using authentic seasonings created for us in South Louisiana and combining the flavors with our Gulf Coast cuisine background,” said Phil.

Because traditional Cajun dishes require slow cooking and the food truck environment does not lend itself well to that, Phil identified a need for a commercial prep kitchen. In Feb. 2015, he acquired a local Dairy Queen— a landmark in Tampa — that had been closed down. He rebranded it to use for his commercial kitchen and get some attention to his food truck. Ironically, when locals saw activity coming from the Dairy Queen, they assumed it had reopened and started walking up asking for ice cream. To meet the need, Phil started selling ice cream along with offering Cajun carry out dishes.

The biggest challenge for Phil was getting the word out. Phil had been using The UPS Store in Tampa, FL to ship and receive various seasonings and sauces as he was finalizing his menu. One day he stopped by and the design associates on staff, Miguel Cruz and Blaine Haverty, approached him with some ideas for logos and print pieces, even taking time to mock up a few samples.

“As a small business owner, that was a step in the right direction. Having The UPS Store take the time to provide me with some actual examples showed me that owner Tariq Khan and his team were serious about helping my business succeed.”

Phil started using The UPS Store for his print needs, including the signage for his truck, banners with stands, menus, business cards, coupons and flyers, promotional items, direct mail pieces, and more. One day, Phil got wind of a local hotel chain preparing to launch a food truck night every week. He knew time was of the essence and he needed a professional marketing piece to get their attention. He worked with The UPS Store to design a professional postcard that really popped. Phil was the first one to get his card in front of the marketing staff and with his new professional image, he won the business. He now has Residence Inn as a weekly client.

Since using The UPS Store, Phil has seen his business double. Cajun in a Truck now services corporate lunches, conferences, seminars, wedding rehearsal dinners, large groups, tournaments and more. And the good news is the prep kitchen is large enough to run 3-4 food trucks out of it which allows Phil to continue to grow his business. Phil has also licensed “In a Truck LLC” so he can expand and add products later. He’s already begun to conceptualize his next food truck which could be desserts — and that’s just the icing on the cake.

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