Food trucks are flooding the highways, by-ways, side-streets and pavements of America, and quickly gaining popularity in SA. We chatted with Daniel Forsthofer who, together with his wife Clementine, own Tutto Food Co to find out their insights into the SA market as well as what is involved in setting up this new form of restaurant.
What, to your mind, makes for a successful food truck?
A tasty menu, an outgoing personality and an eye-catching vehicle.
What did you do before you became a food trucker and how long have you had your food truck?
My wife and I are business partners in Tutto Food Co. We both came from corporate backgrounds in healthcare PR and consulting respectively. Two and a half years ago we started cooking paella at the Neighbourgoods Market as a side project. We’ve grown this business and its catering spin-off into something that now supports us completely. We ventured into food trucking a year ago as a next step in the mobile food business.
What does your food truck specialise in and why did you decide to offer this?
We specialise in paella as we’ve developed a solid reputation based on this product in Johannesburg. We do however have other street food items on our menu for day-to-day trade – we serve Afro-Mediterranean cuisine from the food truck.
How did you go about conceptualising your brand and marketing your food truck?
Our brand came naturally. We believe good food is everything and it makes life whole, so we searched for a word that encompasses this as well as our heritage in European and Mediterranean cuisine. Tutto is the Italian word for whole, or everything, so the word fit perfectly. With regards to marketing, we gain a lot of exposure for our paella at the Neighbourgoods Market in Braamfontein and at Market on Main in Maboneng, and we use social media to publicise when and where the food truck will be trading during the week.
Where did you source your truck and its equipment from?
We sourced a VW kombi from a company called Vdubtech that specialises in old VW restoration. We made sure the engine was in good running order and then asked them to strip the interior completely. They sprayed the inside white and the outside yellow and handed the kombi over to us. My father has a steel fabrication business, Tidewave Steelworks, so we did a few modifications and installations in-house, and hey presto we had a working food truck. We keep the actual cooking equipment separate as the truck needs to be modular so that we can cook different dishes at different times. Sometimes we have our paella pans in the truck, and other times we load our grills or deep fryers. It just depends on the day’s menu.
Where and when do you offer your wares? Do you sell enough food during this time to make it worthwhile?
We have traded during the week in Parktown North near Foundry, at the JSE in Sandton and at a few other street corners here and there, but we are mainly doing private functions and a lot of outdoor events at the moment, making a name for ourselves and showing people the food truck. We have made enough off the events so far as well as the publicity the food truck has brought about to justify the truck’s expense. We are gearing up our business to hit the streets more regularly in the near future, which will definitely make it more worthwhile than it already is.
What sort of clientele do you have?
Mainly professionals and high LSM individuals / households as all our food is handmade with good quality ingredients so it is more costly than your average take-away. Private functions take us to all corners of Gauteng.
When developing the menu, what sort of considerations did you have to take into account as you’re operating from a truck?
Limited equipment in the truck per day means that we focus on one or two meals at a time. The space inside the truck determines how many portions we can do by dictating ingredient storage space and staff working space. We do all of our preparation beforehand at our fixed kitchen, package the ingredients ready to be cooked and assembled in the truck and then dispatch. If there are multiple cooking processes, we do some in the kitchen too and then finish off bits that need to be done freshly in the truck. For example, we toast nuts, blend dips and marinate eats in our kitchen, then flame grill our skewers and heat flatbreads on the truck before assembling our lafatjies (middle eastern flatbread wraps).
What sort of paperwork and documentation is needed before you can operate?
One needs a business license and certificate of acceptability for the region you will be working in. Basic bylaws and acts pertaining to the food industry must be adhered to. Little things like head cover, wash facilities, gloves, aprons and bins with lids amongst other things make up the hygiene requirements, but these are easy to abide by and are straightforward.
Is the South African market open to food trucks?
SA is desperate for more, new, innovative and exciting food offerings. We are nowhere near saturation point, rather at the beginning of the road.