Food trucks are becoming more common on the landscape, offering an amazing variety of food – an experience, really. Locally, a special event called Food Truck Wednesday has proven that people in the County of Newell also support this type of venue. Through the summer, the first Wednesday of June, July, August, acnd September have people packed into Veteran’s Park beside Brooks City Hall for an afternoon of food and music.
My family enjoyed the first instalment of this food fest so much that my wife and I decided to help a friend of ours with the hungry masses. Julie Umschied owns Greaser’s Grub, a food truck specializing in fantastic poutine combinations such as the Dad Joke (because it’s so cheesy!), the Bar Star, Preggo Pleaser and the Squealer. The Vulcan-area resident has several years’ experience in the food truck industry, and just has a knack for knowing what people want (as evidenced by the continual line-up for her fabulous food!). In fact, she’s booked solid for events all summer – a testament to the popularity of Greaser’s Grub!
Anyway, back to the point of this post – finding out firsthand what it’s like to work in a food truck. Fortunately, I was assigned probably the easiest job on the team – handing the final product to customers. Now I do have a background in food service, my first job as a kid was at a fast food restaurant as front counter staff, so some of those skills kicked in fairly quick. My wife was on the till, and Julie plus her two fantastic friends made sure the food kept moving quickly.
Yes, it was close quarters, but the key to an efficient, smooth operation such as this is teamwork. Sure, it’s easy to put out the grub in record time when it’s slow, but once the meal-time rush hits, the acid test of your team begins. Everybody’s job is important, and keeping a positive attitude is crucial. If you can’t get along with your team, then things will come crashing down. Luckily, the five of us in that food truck were like a well-oiled – er, well-‘greased’ – machine. Food and orders were flying left and right, the sound of deep fryers sizzling and the smell of poutine tickled the senses. And made me super hungry.
Naturally, if the food prep is buzzing along smoothly, food can get out faster, which obviously makes for happier customers. In fact, there were a few times where orders were ready while the customers were still receiving their change! What will make or break the system here is preparedness – having enough product ready, and timing of how long it takes to make an item. On the front end side, the person at the till is the first face a customer sees; their first interaction with the brand as well. This is also where the up-sell takes place – the simple suggestion of a cool beverage can bolster sales easily. Also, the job I had acts as a closing to that experience, so it’s important to be friendly and courteous to ensure repeat business. And we did notice repeat customers both from the June food truck event, and even the coming back for seconds on this auspicious night in July.
As any food service personnel knows, once the rush is over, the work doesn’t stop. There’s restock of items, cleaning work areas, and preparing for the next rush. Fortunately, all this rushing does make a shift go by quickly, and my wife and I enjoyed a quick snack as the final notes rang out from the onstage entertainment.
Five Food Truck Wednesday Hacks
Plans are to host two more Food Truck Frenzy events in August and September. If you haven’t attended one yet, make sure you don’t miss out!
1. If you can, arrive early to beat the line-ups as things start getting busy after 5 p.m.
2. While there are benches and picnic tables at Veteran’s Park, plan to bring a blanket also in case you feel like claiming a portion of grass instead
3. Washroom facilities are onsite in the form of porta-potties with sinks. This is a nice touch, as after hours, washrooms in local businesses may not be available.
4. Some downtown businesses have extended their hours to take advantage of the extra traffic downtown. If the lines are a bit long, why not stop in and check out some of the sales?
5. Parking can be a little tricky at peak times. Again, this is where the downtown comes in handy – you might find it easier to park downtown and visit some businesses as you make your way to Veteran’s Park. Besides, you’ll probably feel like a short walk after enjoying all that fine food!