Exclusive Interview with the Latest Food Truck Team to Exit the Race
This week's episode of The Great Food Truck Race saw the teams riding into Alabama. They started the day with a shrimping challenge in Bayou La Batre. Next they moved to Mobile, adding three seafood dishes to their menus at Tyler Florence's request. But lengthy prep time led to some unhappy customers. Tyler then tasked them with selling brunch dishes, which he'd taste to determine the two teams that would get a chance to cook in a seafood challenge. In an ironic turn of events, the team that won was ultimately sent home. FN Dish has the exclusive exit interview with the latest team cut from the race.
Despite winning the seafood challenge in Mobile, Let There Be Bacon made the least amount of sales among the three teams and was sent packing back to Cleveland. But throughout the competition, the team showed great resilience. In the first episode, they were in second-to-last place, and with each successive week they moved up in standing; just the week prior in Episode 5, they finished in second place. The secret to these underdogs' success? Knowing their customer base and marketing right to them, in turn building a Bacon Army of dedicated followers. Their failure in Mobile came down mainly to two things: not having enough bacon in their dishes and not being able to open fast enough. Both compromised their sales, putting them at the bottom.
You guys came into Alabama hoping to focus more on the bacon, but when you found out you had to sell seafood dishes, did that put a wrench in your plans?
Let There Be Bacon: We feel we increased the food quality by bringing seafood into the mix. Having to carry three proteins on the menu in the midst of a pork shortage was a burden from a cost perspective. Bacon is supposed to be the staple of our menu, our brand, but the price had been rising and hit $7.99 per pound by the time we got to Mobile. Working on the limited budget we had, we tried to strike a balance between quantity and quality that we were comfortable with.
Tyler called you out for taking too long with prep. And you lost a lot of customers because of it. Did you regret buying that shrimp? Are you almost thankful you didn't win the 100 pounds?
LTBB: Really good food takes time, and we were working as hard and as fast as we could. Yes, ultimately, we regretted the decision to purchase that shrimp. And winning it? It would've been great to have the free product — we could've spent more on other ingredients. But at the same time, 100 pounds of frozen uncleaned shrimp is not our idea of a good time. Fifteen pounds was tough enough.
Tyler praised you guys for your marketing tactics, creating a Bacon Army following along the way. How much do you think marketing helped you, from simply creating that jingle to utilizing social media in an effective way?
LTBB: Our single greatest attribute is being able to connect with our customers on a personal level. Our customers are family, and Bacon Army is a real force. You saw the lines in St. Louis. The fact that fans we didn't even know started making websites and videos dedicated to the truck really helped to spread the Bacon love. We put a lot of work into our social media, and a catchy song didn't hurt. We felt without a doubt we had the best pitchman in the business in Matt, and the crowds really responded in kind.
Matt, you had a strong reaction to the long lines of customers. What was going through your mind then? How did you recover? It looks like Jon gave you a pep talk.
LTBB: What was going through my mind? I saw the other trucks open and selling. I saw our customers walking to their line. I saw the frustrated faces of our remaining loyal customers. I didn't want to let anyone down — not my customers, not my team, not my family, not anyone. All the stress and pressure just caved in on me. Jon talked me off the ledge. He calmed me down and put me back on course. That's Cleveland, Ohio, for you.
During your time in Alabama, how was the team's morale? Did you guys have a going-in-winning mentality ahead of the challenges?
LTBB: We had high hopes coming into Mobile. Our morale before the challenge was high; we had ultimate faith in our grits dish. After what transpired the first week we told ourselves never again, and we always showed up "in it to win it." But we tried to keep ourselves grounded and never feel completely safe.
It seems at points a few roadblocks might have shaken up the morale, like not being able to prep fast enough or not being able to buy seafood from the local purveyor before the seafood challenge. How did you guys deal with setbacks like that?
LTBB: When these things happened we just made adjustments and moved on to the best of our abilities. Each team member works through frustration differently, and the competition is a real showcase of human dynamics. The important thing is that what happens on the truck stays on the truck. Nothing should be taken personally. It's simply passion in the raw.
After winning the big seafood challenge, which was worth an extra $1,000, did you ever think you would be sent home at elimination? Did you feel you were safe and going on to the next city?
LTBB: We were still very concerned given the extra prep time we took and a bogus shopping trip. Time is money, and we knew we came up short regardless of the challenge. The competition in Mobile was very high and small mistakes are costly.
What was the overall hardest part of operating a food truck for the first time?
LTBB: Parking. No, seriously, finding parking is a beast.
What's next for you guys? Will there be an Ohio Bacon truck in the future?
LTBB: The Bacon Army marches on. Expect to see us on the streets of Cleveland soon.