Fine Dining: Now On-Demand
Gourmet-on-the-go is the latest food trend to hit the District.
From ethnic fare to sweet treats, food trucks are differentiating themselves from food carts through their approach to food and customer service. The mobile restaurants are meeting the needs of busy customers by traveling to them and communicating through social networks.
“I had always thought like everyone else, thought of food trucks in a very different way,” said Farhad Assari, founder and ambassador of the Republic of Sâuçá, which features sâuçás (sandwiches) of international flavors. “I have a very good friend in New York, and she said, ‘let’s go to my favorite place for a burger,’ and it happened to be a food truck. And it was 'wow,' an epiphany. There is no question in my mind that this is the way I wanted to go.”
A week prior to signing a restaurant lease in DuPont Circle, Assari started planning for the truck, which opened for business last year. He said his travels were the primary influence for the menu.
“My best food experiences have been with street food - Mumbai, Hong Kong, Dubai, Delhi, Calcutta, Bangkok. I’ve always been a foodie and loved cooking. But my best food experiences have been in these places,” he said.
Ongoing communication with customers has led to a growing business and prompted them to begin planning a second truck for customers in Union Square and Capitol Hill.
“We react to what people want and where they want us to go. That’s the beauty of having wheels. Otherwise, we’d just be a restaurant,” Assari said.
Sâuçá serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night fare and the truck has more than 1,500 followers on Twitter and 400 fans on Facebook. Assari credits social media with changing how a business creates relationships with customers.
“Twitter is our lifeblood. That is where best way of advising people of where we are. It’s short and sweet and does the job,” Assari said of the micro-blogging service. “This is the next generation of the restaurant business. Why wouldn’t you take your services to where people are instead of making them come to you? The beauty of it is you’re giving people choice and that’s what it’s about.”
DC Slices launched the District’s first pizza truck yesterday and communicated with 900 hungry, anxious followers through Twitter and 400 fans on Facebook. Social networks are also a favorite of D.C. frozen yogurt and salad shop Sweetgreen, which launched the Sweetflow truck last year. The truck has developed a following of nearly 2,500 followers on Twitter.
“What happens is – I’ll tweet before I am about to drive to a location,‘see you guys in 15 mins,’” Sweetflow mobile coordinator Bona Park said. “I also tweet the day before to let them know I’m going to be there for lunch or dinner.”
Park said the response to the new venture has been overwhelmingly positive, and they recently served 400 customers in one day. Sweetflow is meeting demand by serving at lunch and dinner.
“Everyone is so enthusiastic,” Park said. “People scream, people call our office, our cell phones, to find where the truck is. I have a lot of repeat customers and we take their opinions very seriously. They truly know our product. They appreciate us as organic and fair.”
Kristi Cunningham, co-owner of the Curbside Cupcakes truck, said they have modified their offerings to meet customer requests.
“We try to stay in constant communication with them on what they want, and of course they demonstrate their preferences with their purchases and we respond accordingly,” Cunningham said.
Carrot cake and lemon are among the new flavors Curbside Cupcakes created upon customer request.
“We're working on gluten free ‘cause many of our potential customers come to the truck and ask if we have it,” Cunningham said. “We make more Red Velvet than anything else because that's everyone's favorite. We love the feedback and we love to bring new treats to the market.”
Curbside Cupcakes can be found on the web, Twitter or Facebook
DC Slices can be found on the web, Twitter or Facebook
Republic of Sâuçá can be found on the web, Twitter or Facebook
Sweetflow can be found on the web, Twitter or Facebook