On this week’s episode of The Great Food Truck Race, the teams found themselves headed to Tucson, Ariz. Some hoped the change in location from California to the Southwest would be a seamless transition that wouldn’t require much modification in menu or strategy. A Truck Stop challenge of selling a local favorite, and later a Speed Bump that relocated the food trucks to a local festival, both tested the teams’ marketing abilities. But the challenges were easier for some more than for others. One team in particular wasn’t able to get out of the rut they had put themselves into in the previous city. FN Dish has the exclusive exit interview with the latest team cut from the race.
Gourmet Graduates came into Tucson with “an all or nothing” strategy. Having been in the bottom in the first week, they had nothing to lose. Unfortunately, a number of issues in finding good locations to sell their menu of gourmet dorm-room dishes led to low sales, which contributed to their being in the bottom again. Arguments among the team members didn’t help with morale, either. Closing early on the final day of sales was also a contributing factor. In the end Tyler felt that they should have done much better at marketing their brand, which was the goal he gave all the teams on their first day. A full-blown marketing strategy might have made the difference. Ultimately $184 separated them from Middle Feast. Gourmet Graduates left the race without their truck, with only their dreams in tow.
You guys were in the bottom three in week one. What was your goal going into the second week of competition to break out of the bottom?
Gourmet Graduates: Our goal going into the second week was to find and correct our mistakes that kept us from being No. 1. We really wanted to focus on securing a location with heavier foot traffic.
This time Tyler challenged the food truck teams to come up with a marketing plan. How did your team take on the challenge?
GG: We used our marketing tools very efficiently and we were able to take customers from other trucks that were still not open, giving us the advantage on neighboring competition.
How easy or difficult was it incorporating Sonoran hot dogs into your menu as part of Tyler’s Truck Stop challenge?
GG: Incorporating the Sonoran hot dog in our menu was a win for us, because it gave us the opportunity to showcase our ability to adjust and combine flavors/textures that would make our dog stand out from the pack.
Your team presented a really good jingle at the Folk Music Festival. Did you see your sales improve afterward?
GG: Thanks to our high energy and explosive personalities, we were able to create a jingle that people enjoyed, which led to more customers stopping by the truck, not just for good food, but entertainment as well.
Why did you guys decide to close early on day two instead of staying open later?
GG: There were numerous reasons why we decided to close early. The foot traffic had decreased significantly, our propane tank was running on fumes, our top competitors had closed their doors and, most importantly, we were confident in our overall sales in Arizona.
How would you describe your team’s relationship? There was a moment between Keese and Roberto where you two almost lost it.
GG: With both of us being one of four siblings, we are used to bumping heads with those who have similar personalities to one another. But at the end of the day, when you have three passionate, young entrepreneurs, all with the common goal of being successful, there’s no doubt about it that there will be some differences.
What was the biggest obstacle in operating a food truck business for the first time?
GG: Aside from trying to find parking for a 14-foot food truck, getting used to the limited space and appliances were obstacles we had to adjust to immediately if we wanted to make it out of the Venice Beach brawl alive.
As recent culinary school graduates, what’s next for you guys? Is operating a food truck still in your future, or maybe something else?
GG: Being able to operate a food truck for the first time and successfully spread our brand was an awesome experience, without a doubt. However, it opened our eyes to the unlimited possibilities. In a perfect world, the Gourmet Graduates are looking to spread our cuisine on a larger scale by reaching out to fans/foodies on a national televised scale. In other words, we are heading to Hollywood.
What advice would you give the remaining teams, and which one are you rooting for?
GG: Don’t make the same mistakes that we did. “If it’s not broke, then don’t fix it.” Really focus on building your brand; it’s the foundation of your business. Lastly, work together and trust your teammates to execute on a larger scale. We are rooting for our friends Beach Cruiser. They represent a group of young, hip and goal-oriented individuals, just like us. Best of luck, guys! Kick some butt!