Much like a great wagon trek during a gold rush, countless food trucks have arrived in Auckland in an effort to snatch a piece of the fast (but gourmet) food market. Standing out in this increasingly crowded space is no mean feat, but this is exactly what husband-and-wife duo Otis and Sarah Frizzell have managed to do with their technicolour food truck business, The Lucky Taco.
How do you go about marketing your business?
We rely heavily on social media. We love it and find it to be the best way to engage and communicate with our customers. Their feedback and input is key. They provide and generate a lot of our content for us. People always used to think I was obsessed with taking photographs of my food (I am). Now it’s an integral part of our business and Instagram has provided a forum for that. #thanksinstagram #everyonelikesphotosoftacos #theluckytaco
— The Lucky Taco (@TheLuckyTacoNZ) April 6, 2014
What technology do you find most useful in marketing your business?
The internet. The iPhone. We wake up in the morning (before a service) and tweet when and where we’ll be that day. Next, we use our phones to take a photo of something that’s going on in the kitchen to give people an appetite. We then post it to Instagram, and people start getting hungry! These days, you can build and create a desirable product or brand from the palm of your hand.
How do you set yourself apart in the competitive food truck market?
We did our research. We did it well. We studied the food truck culture in LA.
We went to the home of tacos, Mexico. We ate the food. We did a food course with a fabulous Mexican chef, Ruth Alegria. We spent days together, trawling taquerias, learning, devouring, savouring and then cooking and eating.
(Alegria pictured left)
But it’s not just the tacos. It’s the experience our customers receive when they come to the truck. It’s the music, the enthusiasm, the laughing, the familiarity, and, of course, the beautiful truck, ‘Lucky,’ which was Lovingly built by Bruce Greenidge from Custom CoachBuilding.
Why do you think Kiwis are starting to latch onto the concept of mobile food?
It’s big all over the world. We’re just catching up. People are excited by its creativity, flexibility and spontaneity. Most importantly, it makes gourmet food affordable and available to everyone. It’s not exclusive and we love that. Our customers are so varied: a melting pot of hip, young social media-savvy students, six-year-olds, 60-year olds, Westies, foodies, immigrants, locals and, of course, people just passing by.
What did you make of the recent family feud that disrupted operations of California Burrito? And how important is your relationship to your brand?
It’s pretty sad. But shit happens. Their model is so radically different from ours. We have a very different set of business objectives. The closure suggests that there was no driving force or enough energy or love behind that brand in order for it to succeed. Our relationship to our brand is one of pure love. The brand’s our baby. We created it from the ground up. The logo. The truck. The recipes. The website. The voice. The everything!
Your website contains a section dedicated to your story. Why is story-telling important in brand development?
Your story is your credibility. No story, no brand. If we didn’t travel to Mexico and LA to immerse ourselves in the food and culture, why should people come and try our tacos? Would they be compelled by the fact that we bought a truck and thought we’d give it a go? No. All great brands have a great story.
What has been the biggest challenge to your business?
What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learnt since you first started the business?
That you can order pre-peeled garlic and onions (this saved us hours). As neither one of us has a hospo background, this revelation was life-changing.
Seriously though, that’s a tough question. One of the biggest lessons we’ve learnt is to never underestimate what other people will do to try to take you out. Behind some of those crocodile smiles are people sizing you up and checking you out. You’re competition and they don’t like it. After all, it’s business. One Friday afternoon, we had a visit from a council incident inspector warning us that we may be at risk of closure. He was following up on numerous complaints from another business on Ponsonby Rd. Of course, he couldn’t disclose who it was, but the business had spent months and went to extravagant lengths to shut us down. Too bad for them though. We’d done our homework.
Why did you choose to locate your truck in Ponsonby? How did you determine that this was where your target market was located?
Our good friends own Flying Fish, which is a production company at 230 Ponsonby Rd. It’s their car park, which they very kindly let us park in Friday to Sunday. However, it wasn’t just as easy as pulling up in your mate’s car park. We still had to spend a lot of time, money and effort wading through council red tape to establish ourselves in that spot. This being said, we’re very lucky to be there. We also love Ponsonby. I’ve worked and lived in/near Ponsonby ever since I moved to New Zealand eight years ago. Otis grew up here, and many of our friends and family also live here.
Any advice for those keen to get into the Food Truck market?
Just start. The hardest part is starting. And we’re always happy to chew the fat with anyone who wants advice. We’ve already mentored a few newbies onto the scene.