Pizza Mike’s Says Goodbye — The Great Food Truck Race

by in Shows, September 2nd, 2012

nonna's kitchenette and pizza mike's

The third season of The Great Food Truck Race took the remaining six trucks to Amarillo, Texas, this week, and while the contestants are starting to learn the ropes of the food truck industry, they weren’t without newbie difficulties this challenge. With a grand prize of $50,000 on the line and the chance to keep their truck, each team tries to pull out all their tricks to stay in the game, but ultimately one truck must go each week. Every Sunday night, FN Dish will bring you exclusive exit interviews with the latest Food Truck contestants to get the boot.

There’s no doubt Pizza Mike’s is used to hardship: Mike’s restaurant career ended three years ago with a fire that destroyed his restaurant completely. But that didn’t stop him. Along with friends Pat and Gino, Mike battled through challenges on his food truck, and Pizza Mike’s even secured second-place spots two weeks in a row. Even though they had to hand their keys back to Tyler this week, this team has much to be proud of and many lessons to take back with them.

Tyler gave each truck $500 worth of seed money this week, and you followed up by saying, “I can make $500 last three or four days.” You ran out of food during the first challenge while everyone still had strong lines. What happened?

leg of lambThe first challenge was to create and sell a ballpark special at the Amarillo Sox baseball stadium, where we served our Italian beef sandwich. I don’t think you can get more all-American than baseball and beef. We were prepared to sell over the weekend and our pizza crust was being prepared by a local baker. Considering the “curve ball” Tyler threw at us, and having no pizza to sell on a pizza truck, we were behind probably a few hundred dollars compared to the others. At that point I really wasn’t too upset because we had the entire weekend left, and I was confident we could make up for it.

The reason we ran out of food was because we were busy, and I believe we outsold the others at that point. We did have some waste that wouldn’t happen in my restaurant. This was attributed to using a flat-top grill to grill pizza instead of baking it. Along with Under the Crust, we were the only team that needed to bake our products.

Between running out of food and having a boot on your car, your team was up against some pretty difficult barriers this week. In the end, you were only $400 apart from the second-to-last-place team. Did you ever try to use social media (Twitter, Facebook) to raise awareness of your location?

The boot was the killer because we had three great locations lined up for Sunday. First, we started out near a huge church on the outskirts of Amarillo, but it was too far off the grid. So that put us behind the eight ball time-wise. Next, we drove back into town to a great family event called Muttfest, a dog festival in a park with very few competing vendors. It was awesome. We were doing about $300 an hour. For the few hours we had left, the plan was to meet up with the other trucks for the final three hours. But, when they put the boot on us, we knew we were in trouble.

Looking back, using Facebook and Twitter to get the word out might have helped some, but I don’t believe it would have been enough to keep us in the race. Besides, at that time we were just learning about social media and weren’t too savvy with it, to say the least. Remember, Pat tagged us the “Rolling Grandpas.” All we needed was more time at any one spot this weekend and we would have been moving on in the competition.

What do you consider the most important tool in the food truck industry: active social media accounts or the perfect location?

I still believe location is the most important factor in being a successful food truck operator, after the quality of your food, of course. I know social media is changing the way the world communicates, but if you’re in a bad location or your food is poor quality, Twitter and Facebook won’t make people track you down or build repeat sales.

Any plans for a Pizza Mike’s brick-and-mortar or food truck in the future?

Yes! Actually, my truck is being completed as we speak. It is outfitted with double-deck stone Blodgett ovens, just like I had in my restaurant in Westerville, Ohio. So, Pizza Mike’s will be taking it to the streets real soon. We even have a Twitter and Facebook page now!

We thank Tyler for a great experience and a wonderful adventure.

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Comments (31)

  1. SeoulSausagefan says:

    Its all about stratgy.But Pizza Mike,did their best.That's all it matters.However,I'm still glad that Seoul Sausage are still in the game.I really want them to win.Altough,its hard to tell who would go home next.Because I thought for the finale it was gonna be Pizza Mike Vs Seoul Sausage.But I guess I was wrong.Now the next one going home.I'm just gonna guess it might be Momma's Grizzzly.Just from the preview I saw for next week episode.Plus from the tone of Tyler's voice.When he was refering with two common mistake.I'm not sure though.But hey I loved this show.

  2. Debra says:

    This was a great show. I did feel so bad for Pizza Mike. He has been through so much. Hopefully the confidence shot he received in this show will help motivate him to continue what he does so well when he gets home. By the way, does anyone know what time of year this season was filmed? I live in Fayetteville, AR! Wish I had known they had been here.

  3. Mark says:

    I think Pizza Mike definitely got hosed here. The point of a food truck is to be mobile and follow the crowds. That is exactly what they planned to do. Immobilizing the trucks was an unfair and unrealistic action to take. Challenging them by forcing menu changes at the last minute is one thing, but preventing them from following the crowds totally invalidates the point of a food truck. They should have planned better at the ballpark the first night, but they would have made up the money difference if they had been able to move as they planned.

    • Joe says:

      I totally agree. What's up with booting the trucks? That's unfair and bad form! I don't believe the show has resorted to this before, have they?

  4. Mike says:

    Bogus… Since this show is called THE GREAT FOOD TRUCK RACE, should sales not be cumulative??? To have a team that has killed it the first two weeks get screwed by the show is just bogus.

  5. Suspicious says:

    Since I know who the final 2 trucks will be, I keep looking for the telltale signs that indicate a group will be eliminated. Pizza Mike was pretty obvious. In fact, this 3rd season is pretty bad for a number of reasons, including that none of the trucks seem to really be making an effort to make one or two special dishes. In fact, they seem to be making the same dishes over and over: kimchee balls, etc. which was one of the things I liked about past seasons where you could see new dishes. I know that these are supposed to be "newbies", but that doesn't stop them from making things from scratch or making a really special dish. They only seem to try that on the special guest contest. In addition, they complain and whine and seem to want TV time to promote themselves, not be concerned about food. I can't honestly root for any of the trucks. BTW, I think this was filmed in May/June.

    • andrew says:

      At least it wasn't as bad as last season. The trucks then were worse and had cutthroats and cheaters. I only noticed whiny behavior from two of this season's trucks. So far I'm pulling for Seoul Sausage. They're cool guys, have been winning every leg so far, and has made more money than most if not all of the trucks from the past two seasons. Go Seoul Sausage.

  6. GardensGrace says:

    Newbies or not, how about some business sense … or at least common sense? Could not believe the 3 Nona's girls closing down for an hour so they could go buy new food supplies! Why not send one person in the smaller car, leaving 2 to cook and manage the truck's business?

  7. Tom says:

    These shows are too hokey. Let's throw an ingredient at you you dont use and ses if you make it taste good. Hell throw them some old shoes and see if they can make it taste like a Tyler Florence Applebys steak, probably could match the last meal I had there! How about letting them do their own menu and judge sales only, good food draws money and followers.

  8. Guest says:

    For being professional cooks, I was disappointed to see that Coast of Atlanta bought a lot of pre-made foods this episode.
    In one of the other episodes they decided not to help one of the other teams by showing them the safety list. I know it's a competition, but it's a cooking competition. That would have been good Karma for them.

    • Foodtruckfan says:

      On that note, Momma Grizzly bought a lot of pre-made food as well. That was very disappointing…

      • andrew says:

        I don't think they had a choice. They were on a budget.

        • Linda K says:

          Wouldn't buying premade foods be more expensive – I would have to reference restaurant impossible and Robert Irving who stresses that fresh is best and cheaper.

          Just Saying??!!!??

          • jack says:

            you are assuming that these people can actually cook and are not just in it for the fame – 3 days to open ???

          • andrew says:

            Point taken. But what about creating foods that need multiple ingredients? And sometimes foods like seafood is more expensive fresh than canned. Some fresh foods are cheap yet some aren't.

  9. Maggie says:

    I've been voting for fan favorite and am wondering how eliminating teams from the vote will result in a true fan favorite? Won't the only team left be the winning team? Should we even bother?

  10. Doug says:

    I was surprised to see pizza guys go home so soon. I think their biggest problem was not making enough money at the ball game. Even though they got booted they seemed to do pretty well there. I'm disappointed to see how many of the "chefs" are using pre-packaged food. The nonnas girls with no experience are the only team that have had nice variation in their menu and seem to be doing everything from scratch so props to them. seouls food looks great but they keeping frying rice which costs nothing. mammas using rotisserrie chicken is just gross!!

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