Kansas City pizza franchisee uses food truck to build brand visibility (Part 1)
Food trucks are becoming an integral part of the nation’s commercial foodservice landscape. KC Pie, LLC, the Pie Five Pizza Co. franchisee for Kansas City, has been quick to recognize this fact, having recently launched a food truck to complement its 12 brick-and-mortar locations.
|Siblings Kerry Goebel, Lyssa (Goebel) Krumholtz and Kevin Goebel believe their food truck has been a worthy investment for their franchise.|
For the Goebel family, which has grown their franchise into the largest in the Pie Five system in four years, starting a food truck has required a commitment to learning the nuances of the food truck business.
In just over three months since launching the truck, the owners — Dave Goebel, sons Kerry and Kevin, and daughter Lyssa Krumholtz — believe the truck has proven a worthwhile investment.
The truck has helped improve the brand’s visibility as well as delivered a new revenue stream. It has also generated excitement among the company’s 270 employees.
The Goebels became interested in starting a food truck while brainstorming ways to improve the brand’s visibility in the Westport district of Kansas City, an historic and entertainment area. They believed a food truck would improve their brand’s visibility.
“I started putting some numbers together on what it would take,” said Kevin Goebel, operating partner. Goebel is an engineer by both training and profession, having served in the role in the hospitality industry.
Being an established restaurant operation, KC Pie brought some key advantages to launching a food truck.
Design and build expertise
The fact that the company does its own design and general build-out for its restaurants proved beneficial in designing a food truck. Goebel used a software program to write the dimensions for a truck that would accommodate an oven, prep tables, sinks and a beverage cooler. He wanted to include the conveyor electric oven used in the restaurants.
“We really wanted to maintain that exact same product integrity that we bring to our restaurants,” Goebel said. “Everything is still rolled out by hand.”
|The Goebels transformed a Cape Cod Potato Chips delivery van into a food truck.|
He decided he needed at least 14 by 7 feet of open area inside the truck.
In searching for a truck, he came across a used Cape Cod Potato Chips delivery step van available for $10,000.
He installed the oven, tables for rolling pizza dough, a beverage cooler, a dishwashing sink, a hand washing sink and a POS iPad.
He found a diesel generator that can generate 25,000 watts of electricity that doesn’t make a lot of noise.
Tapping the services of a carpenter and an electrician, he transformed the truck into a mobile kitchen in just four days for a total investment of about $50,000. He pegs the truck’s market value at $85,000 to $90,000.
Food prep and storage
The company also had the benefit of already having a food prep and storage facility to support the truck. All food ingredients are prepped by hand at one of the restaurants.
“We’re using all the inventory and prep that that restaurant has in place,” Goebel said.
Devising a plan for determining how much food to move from the prep and storage space to the truck has been a process of trial and error.
“It’s understanding how many people we are feeding,” Goebel said. “We never want to run out of ingredients while we’re active, but at the same time, we want to minimize whatever is on the truck and whatever is leaving the restaurant, because we don’t want to bring anything back. We can operate almost as efficiently as our restaurants.”
The truck offers the same pizzas as the restaurants, including the toppings, gluten-free crust, vegan cheese, bread sticks and cinnamon sticks. They chose not to include the salad offerings due to the additional space required for the preparation.
The company recently hired a general manager for the truck, Cody Sutherland, the only dedicated employee for the truck, which is active five days a week.The number of people working on the truck ranges from three to seven based on the event.
Because the company serves two states, Kansas and Missouri, the truck is subject to safety requirements by two departments. Goebel said Kansas City, which does the Missouri inspections, is especially strict, which he likes.
“The fact that Kansas City is a little more stringent keeps the corner cutters out,” he said.
In addition to the operational nuances, sales and marketing presented another set of challenges for the Goebels. Part 2 will explore how the Goebels mastered the key sales and marketing tasks.
(Photos courtesy of KC Pie, LLC)