We heard rumblings when we first started in the Gold Coast food truck scene that the first three months were “do or die”. And we admit, they were rough but we survived. And now having traded for a full year, we have paused to look back at what was an amazing first year of Barraca.
Having been in the food sector for most of our adult lives we knew that we had the experience, the knowledge and the skills to grow a successful food truck business. IF the Gold Coast was ready and it could be done, we knew WE could do it. But despite all the planning, the forecasting and the educated guesses also knew that there were things we didn't know.
We knew that we had amazing, time tested recipes and a truck that was going to blow the Gold Coast away but like any new business, we just didn't know how the Gold Coast was going to react to Portuguese food. We were confident that the Gold Coast food scene had evolved. No longer content with salad bars, glorified takeaways and all you can eat buffets, the locals were after fresh and healthy cuisine that was new and interesting. We had been sitting on this business idea for a couple of years and felt sure that this was the right time. Outside of piri piri Portuguese food was restricted to a couple of ‘family restaurants’ and was largely unknown. In our early days I remember both of us trying to peep around the corner of the serving window to see our customer’s reactions on that first bite. With every nod, every smile and every compliment our confidence grew and we felt reassured that we were on the mark and delivering on value and quality. A huge ‘thank you’ to all our amazing customers who turn up week after week and appreciate what we do. We genuinely love doing this and you make all the hard work worthwhile.
We didn't know how difficult it would prove to find somewhere to trade from. After a series of straight up “no thank yous” I soon realised I was best to stay in the car and have Sandra walk in and doing the pitching. Food trucks were starting to gain mainstream popularity on the coast but many thought we were trying to sell cream buns or salad sandwiches from a smoko van. Many business owners simply could not understand why we would want to do what we were asking permission for. We drove around the Gold Coast from Southport to Palm Beach scouting for trading locations that had everything we had learnt was necessary for street trading to be successful. And there weren't many but slowly we picked off a few and built our mobile street grill up from the concrete up. We didn't start trading markets on the weekends whilst we persisted with our day jobs. We quit our jobs, jumped in with no plan B. We did know that if we were to be successful with this new business and this new business model that people would need to see us and it was this philosophy that maintained our high spirits when we would only sell a couple of meals in a 2-3 hour period. “Don’t worry, this is a marketing exercise” we told ourselves. To the business owners who saw the passion in our spirits and gave us a chance - thank you.
We also didn't know how rewarding supporting local business was going to prove to be. Very early on we decided that our suppliers needed to be local. We would only support local businesses that were still privately owned and operated. It wasn't necessarily the cornerstone of our marketing strategy but it came from a belief that food trucks were people businesses and we needed to contribute to as many local people as we could. And that meant working with the Mum and Dad businesses where people know your name and they care about their products. I didn't know how rewarding that decision would turn out to be. We have developed some great relationships with our suppliers and I value their contribution to what we are doing. I still remember my first fruit and vegetable order arriving and being in boxes when I only ordered kilograms. I can only imagine what they were thinking when I continued to order a kilo of this and a kilo of that every day or two. Thanks to all our suppliers for the patience shown. We are now ordering in full boxes, bags of produce and in dozens and I couldn't be prouder.
And in such a competitive, emerging and positively restricted trading environment how could we ever have known how amazingly friendly most of the other food truck operators would be? We definitely didn't know that! For the most part (there were some with a severe case of stinking thinking), the existing food truck and trailer operators were welcoming and encouraging. There is a common held belief that as long as another truck is not selling the same type of food then more trucks mean more business for everyone. The more traders we have out in the neighbourhoods offering fresh and interesting street food, the more customers will think of us when they are hungry. In the 12 months that we have been trading, we have seen many new trucks and trailers join the market and its rumoured that there are currently 40 awaiting inspection to gain their mobile food licences. Despite this boom, the industry enjoys a very inclusive environment and that is something we are committed to continuing. Its fantastic to see because we believe that it is only early days. The advantages of eating from a food truck are many and varied and we believe that our customer base here on the coast is still only very small. Its growing and it will grow quicker once more and more people experience food trucks and tell all their friends.
And now with 2017 just a matter of days away, our focus turns to the future. We are always working on new recipes, new meals, new locations and new festivals or events. The reasons we started Barraca remain and we still jump out of bed excited for the day ahead. We also look forward to continuing to see your smiling faces at the serving window through the next twelve months. We hope the Portuguese rooster brings you lots of luck and have a happy new year!