September 16, 2016
Food Truck Feature: El Pollo Submarine | Kensington, MD
We had the opportunity to sit down with Paul and Janee, owner's of the Kensington, Maryland streets' newest food truck, El Pollo Submarine. We discussed their food truck design, the unexpected bumps along the way, and what tips they have for food truck success.
How did you decide on a name for your food truck business?
Our main item is a savory chicken sub, or submarine. Chicken in Spanish translates to “Pollo”. As fans of the Beatles, “El Pollo Submarine” ala “The Yellow Submarine” instantly came to mind.
What inspired the branding, logo design, and identity for your food truck?
We drew our initial inspiration from the colorful and vibrant native artwork of El Salvador. Since the name of our truck is a play on “The Yellow Submarine,” we also wanted to incorporate the 60’s style artwork of the album. We then set Nicole upon the difficult task of tastefully mixing these two concepts together, which she pulled off flawlessly!
What kind of food does your truck sell in 10 words or less?
Salvadoran comfort food. Mainly: Pupusas, Chicken Sub, Enchiladas (Salvadoran Tostadas).
How did you decide to go forward with launching your own food truck?
Janee had always daydreamed about owning a food truck, but never considered it a realistic possibility. Paul had always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but couldn’t come up with the right idea for his first business. After dating for a couple years, we decided that together we could make our dreams a reality.
How do you use your food truck's website for new business and what features do you think are the most important online?
The most important feature to a food truck website is a calendar that displays a weekly location schedule. Next to that, contact information is essential to book catering gigs. And while we almost forgot to mention the menu, we realize that as a food truck you’ll rely on being seen or spotted. The menu will be on the truck, but you have to attract people to your truck first before they are compelled to look you up online. Having the menu on the website is only useful once people are interested or hungry enough to know who you are, and where you’ll be next.
What's been the hardest thing to date in the whole process of launching your food truck?
Aside from taking the leap and leaving the prospect of a “stable career,” the hardest thing we’ve had to deal with to date was getting our truck in good running condition. While you should trust your vendor to deliver a fully functioning truck, you should never doubt that mistakes can be made, and accidents can happen. Ours broke down after 10 minutes of driving it for the first time, and we were stuck trying to get a tow truck during rush hour traffic. Not all tow trucks can tow other trucks, and while it seems obvious to us now, we learned it the hard way. We called several tow companies, all of which denied our request. It took us three hours of waiting under the summer sun on the shoulder to finally find a company capable of helping us.
What's been the most surprising business tip you can share (success or tip)?
Cooking delicious food is just a small fraction of what you’ll do as a food truck owner. Starting and running a food truck business is a larger project than we anticipated, and you must be prepared to manage numerous tasks. Communication is key! Without effective communication you run the risk of a project steering off course. Unless you’re the type who likes to learn the hard way, our business tip to help you succeed would be to consider taking a few courses in project management before undertaking a food truck business.
What is/are some of the most helpful resources you found in researching how to launch a food truck?
Books we have found helpful are “Running a Food Truck for Dummies” and “The Food Truck Handbook”. And helpful websites include Foodtruckr.com and Mobile-Cuisine.com.
Words of wisdom you want to leave with us and fellow aspiring food truckers across the country?
Remember this: there is no food truck without a truck. The truck itself is the business’ biggest asset. Without a properly running truck, you have NO means of conducting business. Our truck was in bad shape when we first received it. Sometimes things go wrong, so our words of wisdom are: “expect the best, but plan for the worst.” If you plan for the worst, you’ll be one step ahead when things inevitably don’t go as planned. The saying “time is money” cannot be more true in the food truck business. Time not spent networking, catering or vending are missed opportunities and money not being made. How well you anticipate and bounce back from major and even minor setbacks will determine your success in this business.
What's your favorite thing on the menu?
Our favorite item is found in the name of our truck, the chicken “pollo” sub! Although any one of our dishes can be a favorite depending on what mood we’re in.
Favorite part about working with Design Womb on the food truck branding?
The best part of working with Design Womb was seeing our concept come to life. There’s something quite special about trusting someone to personify your food truck in such a way that it evokes an identity beyond your own. We no longer view our food truck as merely a vehicle that can cook and sell food. A food truck with a brand is more than that. Thanks to Design Womb, our food truck is a key team player who markets and advertises for us in a visual way. Not only is it a mobile kitchen, it’s a mobile billboard…our mascot.