Seabirds Says Goodbye — The Great Food Truck Race by Sarah De Heer in Shows, September 5th, 2011
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The second season of The Great Food Truck Race hit the road with eight new food trucks and a grand prize of $100,000. Each truck will try to pull out all their tricks to stay in the game but, ultimately, one truck must go each week. Every Monday, FN Dish brings you exclusive exit interviews with the latest Food Truck contestants to get the boot.
This week, Seabirds Food Truck couldn’t keep up with the crowds and found it difficult to adjust to Tyler’s costly speed-bump.
FN Dish: In the beginning of the episode, you said that you weren’t going to market the truck as vegan due to the demographic. Do you think that hurt or helped? It seems to me that you have a great story to tell.
Seabirds: I think it was smart not to tell people up front that we were a vegan truck because it can carry a stigma, and we didn’t want to turn any one off, especially in a small town like Manhattan, Kan. We decided to promote our food as local, fresh and organic instead, as it says on the side of our truck. It was great to tell our customers after they ate that, indeed, everything was vegan and see their reaction. So many people were shocked because they loved our food and never would have guessed vegan food could be so enjoyable. It was awesome to turn people on to vegan food; it was the most rewarding part about serving in Manhattan.
FN Dish: Your advantage was supposed to be a massive crowd in Aggieville and the crowds didn’t disappoint. So what was the ultimate downfall: menu items (like serving only pancakes) or wait time?
Seabirds: The crowds were great in Aggieville, but the crowds were almost even greater when all the other trucks parked together just outside the Aggieville limits. It wasn’t quite the advantage we were hoping for. But, in addition, we picked a menu that would have been high profit and easy to serve had we not had that speed bump that made us rethink serving portions and options. Having to change our menu at the last minute to 99 cent prices was almost impossible for us because we paid such a premium for local, organic and vegan products.
FN Dish: Someone waiting in line nicknamed the truck “Slowbirds.” Without taking shortcuts that would affect the quality of the end product, were there things you could do to produce the food faster (more efficient line, menu items with fewer components)?
Seabirds: Looking back, we could have made some changes to help us be quicker. Had we have known our price point was under a dollar, we could have made a more efficient menu. Also, Raya and I have never worked as line cooks or in a fast-passed kitchen. We just try to make really great, high quality food and that has been our focus over speed in the past. But since that “slowbird” weekend, I have made a lot of operational changes on the truck, and we are much quicker now.
FN Dish: Between Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Denver and Manhattan, Kan, which city had the most receptive crowds to Vegan food?
Seabirds: I absolutely loved the vegan crowd in Salt Lake City. They came out by the hundreds and many stood in line multiple times during our weekend there. They would bring us home-baked goods and coffee, help us find locations, save parking spots for us and gather up crowds — it was truly inspiring.
FN Dish: What’s the most important lesson your team learned on the road that you’ll take back to everyday life?
Seabirds: We had a really hard time in the competition because we did not want to jeopardize our food quality to make higher profit margins. We were introducing a lot of new people to vegan food and we didn’t want to do it an injustice. I think Manhattan was a perfect time for us to go home because we just couldn’t bring ourselves to serve anything less than perfection and that’s not how you win this competition. We may have been too slow, but our food rocked, and we felt that changing people’s minds about their diets was more important.