Mobile food entrepreneur, Chris Jarosz uses a charismatic personality, customer relations, Social Media Marketing, a winning menu, a little bling, and his own special blend of creativity and innovation to stitch together some tried and true concepts with today’s street food culture to expand his business despite economic challenges and restrictive market landscape in Sacramento. Jarosz is the owner of one of Sacramento’s newest food trucks, Wicked ‘Wich, and he plans to unveil a revolutionary new spin on a very simple concept at the third Sacramento Mobile Food Festival (SactoMoFo3), sponsored by Stitches ‘n Dishes. We’ll reveal photos and footage of this incredible new concept after it debuts next weekend.
SactoMoFo 3 is a full-day mobile food festival at the Farmers Market on 8th St. and W St., in Downtown Sacramento, CA on December 3, 2011 from 11:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. We’re awarding a Nintendo Wii game console, including Super Mario Bros, Food Network’s Cook or Be Cooked!, Order Up! and a Wii Cooking Set, a $250 value, in a no-purchase-necessary, free drawing during the event. Find all the details here.
You might remember my previous review about Jarosz’ wicked sandwiches in October at El Grito – The Mexican Independence Day Celebration. Andrew and I met up with Chris at Old Soul coffee shop in Downtown Sacramento recently, and talked about how he’s coping with the challenges associated with serving street food in Sacramento. The first being Sacramento’s restrictive parking ordinances that prohibit food trucks from parking longer than 30 minutes within City limits.
SactoMoFo, a volunteer organization is aimed at effecting change in City Council to permit food trucks and food carts to operate on city streets for longer than 30 minutes. While most food truck operators compete for limited space to serve their fare in parking lots, Jarosz and his Wicked ‘Wich have brewed up an innovative “food truck” spin on some tried and true concepts to expand his business and beat the odds. He begins with his menu, including locally baked bread, the finest Italian meats, and locally grown produce.
“We’re not fad food,” said Jarosz. “We cook with heart, passion and instinct, and offer something unique and interesting. We offer things you won’t find anywhere and use only fresh products. Nothing is frozen; not even the fries.”
Chris is constantly experimenting with his menu, and in response to his customers’ needs, will begin serving a vegan line as well as breakfast in December. He believes that there is more to running a successful food truck than a great menu. He places an emphasis on creating a unique personality for his business, and firmly believes that getting to know and interacting with his customers is key. “I talk to people as much as I can, and I always respond; every email, phone call, Facebook comment, or Tweet,” said Jarosz. In my article in October, I talked about how converting fans into customers requires a consistent effort focused on developing an engaging relationship with fans. Social Media Marketing is essential to operating a successful mobile food business. Earlier this month, Rodney Washington offered ten very easy tips on getting started in marketing on Facebook and Twitter.
With a winning menu in place and his charismatic personality, Chris effectively established his Wicked ‘Wich as a pioneer in street foods in Northern California. He’s taken the typical food truck atmosphere to new heights, creating an unique entertainment destination where his customers enjoy a fully equipped truck with LED screens, exterior speakers and a state of the art sound system. People flock to this truck for its creative design alone. Bling alone isn’t enough,though. Not in Sacramento, where the food truck phenomenon hasn’t quite seated itself into the culture of the city. Due to the parking restrictions, food trucks are barely visible, unless you’re in the know, and tapped in to this underground movement.
Recently, Chris realized that he needed to offer something more than a great menu, and something bigger than a mobile entertainment venue. He listened to what his customers wanted and needed the most, and began cooking up some ideas about additional services that he could offer to them. Given limited public exposure and accommodations, accessibility to customers is a food truck’s greatest challenge in Sacramento. Chris found that being mobile comes with its own set of challenges. Food trucks move to multiple locations throughout the day, and with limited exposure to public view, customers find it difficult to locate them. He also found that many customers either do not have time to leave the office for lunch, or won’t stand in line for lunch in the rain.
Problem solved. Wicked ‘Wich became the first food truck to offer drive-thru service during rainy days. The business-savvy restaurateur partners with businesses and shares parking lot space to accommodate drive-thru customers as they pull up along-side the crimson ‘Wich to place orders. This beats the drive-thru at a fast food restaurant any day. On December 3, Wicked ‘Wich will become the first mobile food truck to incorporate the use of a chase car in its service offering. The chase car, wrapped in its wicked insignia, a miniaturized version of its Mother Truck, will bring street food directly from the truck to the front door, the office or a conference room. “When people can’t get away for lunch at their favorite food truck, we’ll bring it to them,” said Jarosz.
A multi-billion dollar industry, prepared meal delivery service is typically associated with brick and mortar restaurants. In 1988, Takis Zarikos and Constantine Stathopoulous introduced Waiters on Wheels, a concept that revolutionized prepared meal delivery, and conceivably became the fathers of today’s food truck phenomenon. Prior to the launch of Waiters on Wheels, delivery options were limited to pizza and Chinese take-out. Waiters on Wheels introduced the concept of bringing gourmet meals directly to the consumer.
The food truck explosion introduced yet another concept to consumers – gourmet meals prepared curbside. Prior to gourmet food trucks, consumers were limited to traditional “roach coaches” found behind factories and on construction sites. Food trucks bring restaurant-prepared meals curbside, and the concept has become a national phenomenon, inspiring the popular Food Network television show, The Great Food Truck Race, and has made national headlines in exponential proportions over the last two years.
12/2/11 – UPDATE TEASER ALERT! Channel 10 News, Sacramento, caught up with Chris Jarosz and his Wicked ‘Wich yesterday, and gave us a glimpse of the L’il ‘Wich, along with some sound advice about delivering babies.
Watch the video clip, unless you want to be surprised at the unveiling!
Increased visibility and accessibility to his customers allows Jarosz to expand the ‘Wich’s offering further. In December, he’ll launch his own baked goods line, home made sausage and fresh meats from his new commercial kitchen. He continues to face Sacramento’s prohibitive street vending ordinances head on, and champions solutions for a very challenged market by effectively bringing two proven mobile food concepts to the food truck platform, and he’s using them to expand his business, despite the barriers to entry in the street food market in Sacramento.
Witness the unveiling of the L’il ‘Wich on Saturday, December 3, 2011 at SactoMoFo. Click the image below for details.