Exclusive Interview with the Latest Food Truck Team to Exit the Race
On this week's episode of The Great Food Truck Race, the teams headed to St. Louis. Right away Tyler Florence had the rookies start on their Speed Bump challenge, which would have them earning their seed money for a change. In a surprise twist, Tyler visited each truck to do some quality control and found everyone's dishes were lacking. The next day he sent the teams out on a Truck Stop cooking challenge, the reward of which had the potential to save one team from elimination. Unfortunately it didn't play out that way. FN Dish has the exclusive exit interview with the latest team cut from the race.
In the weeks leading up to St. Louis, the team to beat was Beach Cruiser, which won either first or second place at every elimination. But their luck would run out, leaving room for others to surpass them in sales and popularity. Setting lower prices on their toasted ravioli in the Speed Bump challenge on Day One was where the tailspin began. Selling at a lower price point throughout both days in St. Louis contributed to the team's low earnings. But what Tyler saw as their biggest downfall was a signature dish that didn't live up to its quality potential, but correcting it by Day Two was too late. Not winning the potential to have their till doubled in the Truck Stop cooking challenge sealed Beach Cruiser's fate and sent the former top food truckers home.
What was your strategy going into St. Louis, especially because you guys had gotten second place in Oklahoma City the week before?
Beach Cruiser: The key ingredients to winning a city is researching the weekend hot spots, partnering with good locals, and finding a place that has lots of foot traffic and ideally serves beverages but not food. Going into St. Louis we kept our strategy pretty much the same but took Tyler's lesson of time management from the week before to heart and focused a lot more on cutting prep time.
What made you stick to your prices, instead of switching to a higher price point like the other teams did? In hindsight do you think pricing differently would have helped?
BC: Yeah, raising our prices definitely could have helped because it wasn't much of a money difference that sent us home. It was smart for the other teams to raise prices to earn more for the competition. We struggled with that decision because outside of the competition we all already had high-end prices, and if we personally can't afford $20 tacos, it's hard to ask that of our customers.
On Day One you guys couldn't find ingredients like cilantro or jalapenos, and only after Tyler tasted your tacos did you go out and find the ingredients you had been missing. Do you regret not sourcing ingredients earlier on?
BC: That was a tough one. We were penalized last week for taking too much prep time. So we simplified our ingredients and menu to accommodate. It was a calculated risk that ultimately backfired.
At the beginning of Day Two, Tyler called all the trucks together. What was running through your heads when he said your team would go home if elimination were right now?
BC: It was a wake-up call, for sure. It didn't matter how well we did in any other city or on any other day — at this point in the competition, one mistake can send us home. We gave up everything we had to make this dream a reality. In those last few hours we had to give every ounce of energy and be the best food truck we know how for even a chance at staying in the competition.
At elimination, how did you feel to find out you were so close to staying in the competition?
BC: It's pretty heartbreaking to watch your dreams and all that you worked so hard for slip just out of reach.
Overall, what was the biggest obstacle in operating a food truck business for the first time?
BC: Depends which one of us you're talking to! Overall it seems estimating customer demands and location, location, location. To stay in business you have to know when, where and how many customers to expect — not to mention make sure you have the right permits and permissions to do so.
What's next for you? Is operating a food truck still in your future? Has this competition fired you up even more?
BC: We loved running a food truck. Never in our entire lives have we worked harder or felt more fulfilled than we did in this competition. From the people to the food to the challenges, we can honestly say that our hearts are 100 percent in this business. We feel proud of the work we did, and leaving this competition does fire us up even more. It's challenging to have proven that we can run a successful food truck business, yet can't afford the truck itself. The best things in life don't come easy. Getting the Beach Cruiser truck up and running is no exception.
What advice would you give the remaining teams, and is there one you're rooting for?
BC: Stay true to yourselves and your brand. As long as you work your hardest and do your best, you will never have any regrets. It's too tough a call at this point to root for any one team. Behind the scenes, we've become friends with and respect the work of the teams moving forward. We truly believe all three are running successful businesses and deserve to keep their truck. Go get 'em, guys!