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What I Learned in the First Three Months of Owning a Food Truck: Spotlight on Pop Goes the Waffle in Tampa Bay
When you want to make the jump from the dream to the reality of owning a food truck, restaurant, or another food-industry concept, some of the best knowledge and advice comes from owners and managers who have done just that. Below, one owner, Sara Fludd, Chief Waffle Officer at Pop Goes the Waffle in Tampa Bay shares some personal history and business advice.
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As the owner, marketer, chef, and boss, Fludd sells a unique concept of waffles baked and topped with a variety of sweet or savory options. Her waffle pops are waffles baked on a stick, and she also cooks unique waffle-based options, or “Can’t Believe These are Waffles,” for example, shrimp and grits, mac and cheese, and biscuits and gravy. You can find the food truck at public events, hire Fludd for private parties, or find the tasty waffles at local coffee shops like Kahwa Coffee.
How did you get started?
I’ve been obsessed with waffles since I was eating Eggo® waffles as a kid. I started making “snow day” waffles for my family when my daughter was in elementary school. I was always rather adventurous trying different recipes and trying lots of savory options because I wanted to eat waffles all the time.
How long did it take you to go from concept to your first client?
I came up with the idea in 2015 and started working on the business plan then. We actually established the LLC and started the “real” work when we moved to Florida in 2017. However, due to getting displaced by Hurricane Irma just a few months after we arrived, we pushed the launch back a year. Our first waffle pop-up was in September 2018, and our first event with the truck was in May 2019.
What’s your history in the food industry?
My very first job in high school was at Wendy’s. I worked in everything from fast food to fine dining as I worked my way through college.
What are your most significant challenges in running a successful food truck? What are your current challenges?
A challenge in the beginning – and one that continues to vex me – is finding a generator that is powerful enough (yet quiet enough) to provide enough power for four waffle irons at once. So far, no luck. So I’m juggling menu options to accommodate. But we’re continuing to have the truck sidelined for generator issues. It is VERY frustrating.
The secondary challenge is time. My husband and I both work fulltime, and though I would love to waffle fulltime, it just isn’t feasible yet. I think it’s smarter to make sure we have a solid and reliable income stream before I make the leap to the full-time, food-truck life.
What do you wish you would have known before owning a food truck?
- I wish I had known how to drive a 20-foot-long truck.
- I wish I had budgeted double what I thought would be needed.
- I wish I had taken a Quickbooks or other bookkeeping class. I just want to feed people. The paperwork part of the gig is a real drag for me.
What advice or tips do you have for someone wanting to start a food truck?
- Make sure your idea is one that either doesn’t already exist or that you’re bringing a unique twist to the market that will bring customers your way.
- Make sure you have a product that you can scale and mass-produce on a food truck. If you’ve got great-grandma’s prize recipe that costs $20 a serving and takes an hour to make and you need to teach someone how to replicate the 20 steps it takes to make it – yeah – that is NOT the thing you want to sell on a food truck.
- Have more money than you think you will need to launch. Things add up quickly.
Do you have specific marketing, financing, or social media knowledge you learned on the job?
My professional background is in web and marketing so that was a definite advantage. What I underestimated is how much time I would need to spend each week on social media. It’s really driven our success, but it takes lots of planning to create good content.