Authors Posts by Hannah Ashor

Hannah Ashor

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Hannah Ashor is a marketing professional turned co-founder and contributing author to Mobile Cuisine Magazine. She is proud to be a part of this new and exciting sector of the food service industry. She is fueled by the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit in those she meets regularly. Using her event planning background, she organized Chicago’s first food truck event series; the first of it’s kind in the city. Since that summer, Hannah has met with folks on all sides of the industry and shared it online with the Mobile Cuisine readers. Hannah’s enthusiasm, coupled with her event marketing background makes her editorial contribution a vital part of the organization.

roaming buffalo
Congratulations to Roaming Buffalo for winning Mobile Cuisine’s 2015 Food Truck Burger of the Year!  We’re so happy for Roaming Buffalo!

The husband and wife team, Christopher and Valerie Taylor, are proud owners of the Roaming Buffalo food truck.  Originally started as a place for wings and weck, it’s evolved to creating some of the most interesting sounding and surprisingly delicious tasting burgers in town.  Surprisingly?  Most definitely.  In a good way, of course!

The burger in question:  The WTF!?!? Burger.  It’s a ¼ lb. burger with house-made bacon jam and peanut butter – crunchy or creamy.  That last condiment usually elicits the WTF!?!? response.  We’re not surprised.

wtf burger“We love the faces people make when they see it on our menu, but quickly reassure them if they don’t like it we well give them their money back,” says Christopher.  In the four years they’ve been serving the WTF!?!? Burger, they’ve only made one refund.  Why name it WTF?  It came from “our customers biting into the burger and uttering those three little words and with that the infamous WTF Burger was born.”

Roaming Buffalo burgers are not your run-of-the-mill burger.  They have a special blend of ground beef – a secret blend of meats that stand out from your traditional burgers (no, we didn’t get any trade secrets).  They also offer grass fed beef or bison meat for all of their burger creations to accommodate customer preferences.  They use a local bakery, Costanzos Bakery, for their brioche rolls.

With a solid foundation, Roaming Buffalo is always trying new burger concoctions.  The latest addition to their menu is their take on a Juicy Lucy, called the OD of Cheese.  The Juicy Lucy is a burger with the cheese stuffed inside the burger patty and when grilled it becomes a molten core of hot, oozing, creamy deliciousness.  It originated in Minneapolis and is part of their local lore.  Roaming Buffalo’s OD of Cheese consists of their secret burger mix stuffed with American cheese, topped with more cheese and their house-cured bacon.

Why do this?  “There is nothing better to me than being able to provide for my family while doing something I love,” says Christopher.  While not formally trained, Christopher found his love of cooking from his mother and grandmother.

Their families and friends have been very supportive throughout the whole process – from getting started to daily operations.  A loan from an uncle for the truck and his father that picked up the product got them on their way.  In addition to the love of cooking passed down from his mother, she’s been instrumental in their success watching the Taylors’ two young boys.  “My wife and I are so truly grateful for each and every one of them,” Christopher said thankfully.  “A lot of our customers and vendors have become like family to us and I know they have our backs 100%.”

All this support has allowed Roaming Buffalo to become one of the top food trucks in Western New York.  This community of support was evident during the voting process.  All of the Buffalo food trucks supported their nomination through social media.  “We are like a big family and have been through a lot – including getting some of the best food truck legislation in the country,” said Christopher.

“Buffalo is full of great culinary talent,” he boasts.  He comments that most of them are his fellow food truckers.  They come up with amazing creations “that I feed off of.”  They get together after big events and discuss how things can be done better.  They’re not seen as competition, but as inspiration.

When operating in such a positive environment – where the local laws are great for business and the food truck community is inspiring – it’s hard not to give back.  Roaming Buffalo is involved with many community charities, such as, Jim Kelly’s Hunter’s Hope Foundation, Food Bank of WNY, Roswell Park, American Cancer Society, UNYTS, Animal Shelter of Buffalo, Buffalo City Mission Buffalo Meals On Wheels and the B Team of Buffalo.  “With the help of our customers, we have raised over $5,000 in the four years of business.”

Being in business for four years, they’ve had some standout moments.  They’ve won multiple awards for their burgers – even beating out a local brick’n mortar for best burger in Buffalo – including Bufflalo Spree 2013, Yelp of Buffalo 2014 and the Hamburg Burger Festival 2012, 2013 and 2014.

They’re doing something right.  All of that recognition for the ever-present hamburger is truly incredible.  Roaming Buffalo seems to have the winning combination of food and attitude.  We’re happy for their success and can’t wait to see them grow…  I don’t know when I’ll make it to Western New York, but I’m dying to try the WTF!?!? Burger!

Congratulations to Roaming Buffalo for winning Mobile Cuisine’s 2015 Food Truck Burger of the Year!  Keep up the WTF!!

2 Fat pic 2

Ramone Dickerson and Corey Simmons are back on the airwaves in “2 Fat 2 Fly” this Saturday, February 28 on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) at 10pm/9c.

This 8 episode series takes a look at how these two best friends operate their truck, the “Fonz,” and seek out business expansion opportunities.  Their hometown of Columbia, South Carolina has faithfully supported them, but they try to answer the question: “Is there more?”

Mobile Cuisine sat down with Ramone and Corey last week to get “the fat” (instead of “the skinny”) on their foibles throughout the series.  Overall, they were pretty tight-lipped on the specific happenings, but they’ve learned whole lot more about food truck operations and themselves.  Corey comments, “When we started, we were like teenagers.  We took our licks and bumps starting out, but like a teenager you quickly get up and keep moving forward.  Now we feel more like adults in business.”

What we will see are real friends/business owners face the hurdles and questions of business expansion.  They’ve been at the edge of a precipice of business growth for a while now.  How do they take that leap?  Which direction do they jump?  How do they do it while protecting their delicious stuffed wings?

Stay tuned to find out.  “2 Fat 2 Fly” will air on Saturday nights on OWN at 10pm/9c.  We’ll summarize each show after it airs and share more of our conversation throughout the season.

We want to see Ramone and Corey grow their un-clucking believable stuffed chicken wing business…  There will be tons of laughter and a look into their real lives along the way.

bolstr logo

There are around 4,000 gourmet food trucks in the country.  How many want to see their signature tacos, unique waffle sandwiches, delectable sweets and specialty sauces in storefronts and grocery stores nationwide?  I don’t know the answer, but I’m sure there are plenty with dreams of “world domination!”

Have you been in business for at least two years?  Is your annual revenue $250K or more?  Are you looking to expand your business?  Where do you go for capital?

Mobile Cuisine is partnering with Bolstr to give food trucks that opportunity.  Yes, there are many options out there, but we like what Bolstr is offering.

There will be an informative webinar on March 2-3 co-hosted by both Mobile Cuisine and Bolstr.  Click here to sign up.  The topics include the Bolstr investment process and their philosophy on aiding in business growth.

Mobile Cuisine wants to see food trucks grow – into whatever “world domination” looks like for them.  We want to meet you on March 2-3.

Bolstr color logo

Your food is great.  Your lines are consistent.  Your business has been steadily growing.  You’re ready to grow, but investment is the key.

Mobile Cuisine is partnering with Bolstr to help food trucks take their businesses to the next level. Bolstr is an online marketplace where emerging consumer, retail and manufacturing businesses can access up to $500,000 from accredited investors.  Click here to attend a co-hosted webinar on March 2-3.  (We apologize for the error in the link in the last article.)

money_treeThere are many crowdfunding services in the marketplace that are focused on funding everything from open-sourced software to creative and business startups to cosmetic surgery and pornography (who knew?).  As you review the list of these companies, you’ll notice that the majority of their business models require equity in the businesses they fund.

As a small business owner and presumably someone that built your business from the ground up, it may be difficult to part with the sweat equity that you’ve put into the brand that you’ve built.  Bolstr doesn’t require giving up equity in your business.

Did we grab your attention?

Bolstr is designed as a small business-friendly company.  They not only value the needs of the business owner, but seek out credible opportunities for their investors.

Businesses consider Bolstr because:

  1. Business owners retain 100% ownership. Owners keep their hard-earned equity while raising up to $500,000 in growth capital.
  2. Unprecedented speed in raising growth capital. Companies can raise funding in as little as 24 hours, typically within 5 days.
  3. Flexible payment structure. The financing model allows for monthly repayment amounts proportional to revenue.
  4. The network of engaged investors. Owners build lasting, valuable relationships with investors who believe in their business.

Bolstr is looking to grow their food truck industry investment opportunities.  They recognize the value of this industry and have been watching it grow.  It’s nowhere near maturity and prime for explosive growth.  Bolstr wants to help food trucks take that next step.  Mobile Cuisine and Bolstr are co-hosting a webinar on March 2-3.

Please sign up to learn more about the investment opportunities that await you.

bolstr_logo 3

What does that even mean?  Do you add a truck, scout out a brick’n mortar location, or launch a line of grocery store products?  You’ve got the dream.  You’ve made the plan.  All you need is the money.

What do you do now?

Not all food trucks will ever have the opportunity to pitch to the likes of Tim Love and Joe Bastianich on national television.  Most of us don’t have families that can write checks for tens of thousands of dollars.

Traditional banks are usually time consuming, offer rigid repayment schedules and rarely lend to food and beverage operations.  Maxing out credit cards seems like an easy alternative, but that could lead to future credit issues.

What do you do now?

bolstr money_bag_manIn today’s social economy, there are fundraising options that weren’t a part of our lexicon a few years ago – “crowdfunding.” Most people are familiar with Kickstarter or Indiegogo.  These two popular crowdfunding platforms gained popularity by funding creative projects and business startups.

There have been numerous successful campaigns, but even more that go partially or completely unfunded.  Their business models are based on gaining support through friends and family, albeit extended, but friends and family nonetheless.

At the end of the campaign, fees are calculated and can sometimes total up to almost 20% of the quantity raised.  Other crowdfunding services will take a percentage of equity in the business.  These two business models aren’t always that appealing.

There is another way.  bolstr!

Bolstr is relatively new to the crowdfunding industry.  Bolstr is a marketplace where emerging consumer, retail and manufacturing businesses can raise funding for expansion from real investors.  Mobile Cuisine has chosen to partner with bolstr for various reasons.  Here are a couple of them:

  1. The business owner maintains 100% equity in their business.
  2. The repayment schedule is based on a percentage of monthly revenue. This is good because the payments can fluctuate with your sometime seasonal revenue.

Mobile Cuisine and bolstr will be hosting a webinar on March 2 -3.  Please register, if you’re ready to take your food truck business to the next level, click here.  Space is limited.

Learn more about bolstr and how they’ve already helped many businesses grow – including food trucks and food/beverage businesses – throughout the next two weeks.  We know that many of you food trucks out there are ready to expand and just need that last, most important piece of the puzzle, funding.

Not Just icing

Raleigh, North Carolina has got it goin’ on!  They not only are home to the 2014 Local Food Truck Blogger of the year, they are now the proud home of Mobile Cuisine’s 2014 Best Dessert Food Truck of the Year!

Congratulations to Not Just Icing for winning this year’s 2014 Dessert Food Truck of the Year!

We’re always honored and humbled to have the opportunity to meet food trucks around the country and learn about their journey.

Not Just Icing OwnersLike Donna Downs and Cristal Harrison, the intrepid owners of Not Just Icing, most food truck owners never realize their dreams of entrepreneurship lie in the confined kitchen of a food truck.  For these two, buying “Joy,” the 1982 RV converted to cupcake bakery, and third member of the Not Just Icing team, wasn’t on their radar at all.

They met eight years ago when their daughters were in school together.  While their friendship developed, Cristal grew to love Donna’s baking.

They came up with the idea and within 30 days Not Just Icing was not only a thing, they were at their first event – an outdoor concert at the American Tobacco Campus in Durham.  That’s got to be the record for starting a food truck – or pretty darn close.

Their families helped them tremendously from mechanical services to bakers and everything in between.  They “could NOT do this without the support of our families,” they both claim.

Now let’s talk about the reason Not Just Icing won… Their cupcakes!!

Not Just Icing cupcakes

They sound incredible.  I’m pretty sure if I was in line, I wouldn’t be able to make up my mind!  Their flavors are filled with tradition and modern sweet twists.  A commitment to natural ingredients set them apart from other sweets. You won’t find cans of fruit or jars of store-bought peanut butter on “Joy.”  Donna and Cristal scour the markets for fresh ingredients and build upon them.  Donna “has lots of tasty ideas and observes what’s around her, what sounds good and what’s available at the store or market,” says Cristal.

Their cupcakes run the gamut to tempt your sweet tooth.  They have grouped their flavors with enticing names like “heaven” and “cocktail” to name a few.  “Heaven” cupcakes are either chocolate or vanilla cake with flavored buttercream icing with a surprise-spice swirl.  The “Cocktail” cupcakes are just that…  With a Guinness chocolate cake and Baileys Jameson buttercream icing, you may decide to skip happy hour after eating one (or two!). The most unusual flavor is hummingbird.  This Southern treat of a hummingbird cake is translated into a cupcake with hummingbird icing containing banana, pineapple and pecans.  “It’s different, but delicious!”

We’re excited to have Not Just Icing as our winner.  A lot of times trucks never know they’ve been nominated until we contact them.  This was the case with Not Just Icing.  They’re not sure who nominated them, but they’re thankful.  As soon as they found out, they pushed the contest in their social media network.  They also received a lot of local support ranging from the local news outlet NewsObserver.com and local bloggers (including our Blogging Winner, Wandering Sheppard) to their dedicated customers and other local food trucks.

When we hear about a community that rallies for one of its own, it warms our hearts!  Food trucks are a community unto themselves and we love to hear when they’re supportive of each other’s successes.

When Cristal and Donna aren’t jamming to the 80s while concocting their luscious batters and whipping up icings, you can find them involved with their children’s busy schedule.  Outside of being business owners and mothers, they are committed to giving back to their communities.  Individually, they’ve always enjoyed giving back and together they make a point to regularly contribute to causes about which they’re passionate.

Not Just Icing tries to fit at least one charitable event/contribution every month.  They donate to many organizations, two events stand out in 2014.  The first being the Food Truck Rodeo for the Durham Rescue Mission Men’s Program where they participated with three other Raleigh food trucks – Gussy’s Greek, Stuft, and Chick-N-Que.  The second was Adopt-A-Thon for the Wake County Animal Shelter.

Donna and Cristal make this whole thing seem so easy…  Get an idea, on the road in a month and kick-ass while being their generous, creative selves.  We always ask if food truck owners have tips for aspiring owners.  They say, “food trucking is hard work.”  So, don’t kid yourself that this is kids’ play…

1) Do what you love!

2) Make customer service a priority.

3) Embrace social media.

And an unofficial #4 – learn how to drive an RV (or whatever your vehicle of choice).

Congratulations to Not Just Icing for winning Mobile Cuisine’s 2014 Dessert Food Truck of the Year!  Thank you Cristal and Donna for building “Joy” and sharing your creative and delicious cupcakes.  The Raleigh-Durham area is lucky to have your sweet treats!

giving tuesday logo

The Thanksgiving weekend is the official kick-off of the winter holidays and gift buying.  We’ve all overdosed on a combo of family, turkey, potatoes and desserts.  Before the dishes had even been cleared, the conversation turned to presents and shopping.

Giving Tuesday And The GiveNetwork

In an effort to shift the focus away from the commercialism of the holidays, the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation started Giving Tuesday in 2012.  So now the weekend that was synonymous with a Thursday feast, a Friday big box shopping binge, a Saturday small business focus (go food trucks!) and a Monday of online purchases got another day tacked on – a Tuesday to kick-off the giving side of the holiday season.  It’s a nice ending to the long weekend to put the holiday season in perspective.

In the last year, Mobile Cuisine partnered with the GiveNetwork and its mobile donation platform, give.mobi, to enable food trucks to become vehicles (pun intended) to gather donations from their customers with 100% of the proceeds benefitting Meals on Wheels and Convoy of Hope.

convoy of hope

These two incredible organizations are feeding and caring for our country’s hungry and suffering.  By registering your food truck (for a small annual fee of $45), your truck will receive a unique QR code to post outside your service window.

This mobile platform allows your customers to donate easily while waiting in line and may encourage repeat behavior – always a good thing for the receiving organizations and your food truck.  As a registered truck, you’ll get valuable customer information from the folks that donate.  Promoting the program is little to no cost to your food truck because your customers make the donations, not a portion of sales on a particular item from your truck.

This third year of #GivingTuesday should be the best yet.  We encourage food trucks, as small business members of the community, to give back in their own special way.  Whether it’s through the GiveNetwork or your favorite charity, giving back feels good and does wonders for those receiving your donations.

Happy #GivingTuesday!

Wandering Sheppard
Congratulations to Art Sheppard!  He and his blog are the winners of the 2014 Mobile Cuisine’s Local Food Truck Blog of the Year – Wandering Sheppard!

The more you learn about Art Sheppard, the more you’re likely to read his WanderingSheppard.com.  His enthusiastic palette and sense of adventure fuel his discoveries and keep you wanting and reading for more.

Sheppard is an accountant by day that was searching for a creative outlet.  He wasn’t necessarily a writer; only that he loved to travel.  He wrote about what he loved and his experiences.

When he started the blog, he originally hoped to travel the world on someone else’s dime allowing him to write about his global adventures.  Luckily, he found a new passion to fulfill sense of adventure – food trucks.

Food trucks were relatively new to the Triangle Area of Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  Knowing Sheppard’s love of food, his friends prompted him to check out the local food trucks.  His first experience – a beautiful summer night at the Doughman Banquet on Rigsbee Street – seemed to change him.

Wandering SheppardAs he walked the street “I remember being attracted to this blue trailer with graffiti art all over it… Like a blue light for a mosquito,” Sheppard recalls.  It was KoKyu; known for their TaKos and duck fat tots.

With the first bite, came amazement.  “No fancy tablecloths, fine china or anything to signify a ‘high quality’ experience other that the flavor pushing my boundaries on my enjoyment of a tofu taco.”  He was instantly a food truck fan.  How could he not be?

Wandering Sheppard began in April 2012 with its first food truck post in June.  The blog was still focused on travel, but he found himself becoming more involved in the food truck community and seeking out food trucks on his travels.  “Then one day the ratio of posts flipped to travel/food trucks to food trucks/travel.”

He continued writing about food trucks because he saw an impact.  The food trucks were responsive and appreciative.  Sheppard was motivated by the stories of these small business owners that took pride in serving their passion.  He wanted to share it as much as possible.

Wandering Sheppard

In the last six months, he’s noticed many new food trucks with a more diverse cuisine enter the market: Halal, Czech, Belgian, Israeli and Colombian.  He sees the food truck business model being used as a means of testing new cuisine before opening a brick’n mortar location.

That’s still good news for Sheppard.  He’s added a section to the site that covers those once only rolling restaurants to now cover their brick’n mortar ventures in Wheels And Mortar.

When Sheppard isn’t crunching numbers by day, you may find him on his bike, in his kitchen or traveling to a new place.  He’s never far from food trucks.  He seeks them out wherever he lands, always excited to meet the owners and try their food.

Mobile Cuisine met him in San Antonio at the ROAM Conference over dinner at a local food truck park.  What a better place to meet with other food truck industry professionals!  Sheppard thought the conference brought “great value” and was another excursion and excuse to meet new truck owners and try their food.

You’ll want to keep an eye on Art and his blog, Wandering Sheppard.  His activity in the local food truck community is where he’ll concentrate his efforts, becoming the “go to” spot for both fans and owners.

We can’t wait to see how the Wandering Sheppard grows.  Mobile Cuisine congratulates Art and his award winning blog!  We are always happy to talk about other food truck enthusiasts.  Art always asks, “R U Wandering?”  Well, we hope he never stops!

roam conference

The second annual ROAM Conference came to life in San Antonio over the weekend, November 8-9.  The ROAM Conference is THE place for food truck industry professionals, those that plan to start their own food truck and those that supply the industry.  Everyone came together to learn, exchange ideas and grow the industry overall.

2014 Roam Wide

There were concurrent sessions of the Food Truck Academy (FTA) for people interested in starting a food truck and those already in the business looking for best practices.  The FTA covered many topics from developing your menu concept to franchising your existing business.

2014 Roam 2Session speakers included marketing guru Barb Upchurch and City of Madison representative Warren Hansen.  Food truck/cart owners Matt Breslow of the Grilled Cheese Grill in Portland, OR and Brian Reed of Mojo Tago in Columbus, Ohio accompanied them.  Other speakers included Mobile Cuisine’s Richard Myrick and FoodTrucksIn owner Eric Weiner.  There were a lot of brains to pick!

General session speakers included familiar face Matt Geller, CEO of the SoCal MVFA and on the Board of Directors of the National Food Truck Association, local San Antonio Food Truck Association Co-Founder Sameer Siddiqui, and Brett Burmeister, the owner of Food Carts Portland.  Their insights and experience in association planning, organizing and knowing when to challenge the “system” are still very relevant.

2014 Roam 1The exhibitor space, which had doubled since 2013, was a great cross-section of industry service providers.  Fledgling food truck owners could speak to marketing, insurance, food service, POS, and truck builder professionals.  It was a comprehensive one-stop-shop for industry knowledge and networking opportunities.

The dates for the 2015 ROAM Conference are October 25-26, 2015 in Orlando, Florida.  We’re excited to continue our association with ROAM and think the 2015 Conference will be even more exciting and informative.  It will only get bigger!  Mark your calendars now and check into ROAMConference.com for updates and information.

All roads lead to ROAM.

Grilled Cheese Truck Give Mobi

We’ve all heard of THE Grilled Cheese Truck of Los Angeles.  It’s been everywhere in the media over the years.  It’s one of those success stories that America loves to hear – “Local guy makes good.”

Well, “makes good” is an understatement for sure.  Dave Danhi started The Grilled Cheese Truck in 2009.  Danhi is a professional chef that just wanted his life back.  He created the truck’s signature sandwich, the Cheesy Mac ‘N Rib, and a new chapter to his story began.

In this new chapter of his life, he’s done something he never dreamed of — creating a new American iconic brand.  The Grilled Cheese Truck is the only verified food truck on Twitter (that little blue check mark) and is the most followed food truck on Facebook.

Not wanting to stop the momentum, Danhi added more trucks to his fleet in Southern California and expanded into Arizona. Wanting to do “more,” Danhi’s expansion plan includes reaching out to returning U.S. veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.  Danhi is thrilled to be working with General Wesley Clark on this endeavor.

Despite his amazing success, Danhi has always kept an eye out to give back to his community.  He recently teamed up with the Orange County Rescue Mission to assist veterans.  Most recently he’s joined the food truck initiative Fighting Hunger In America.

Mobile Cuisine has partnered with the GiveNetwork to promote the food truck initiative Fighting Hunger In America.  This initiative allows trucks to facilitate donations by their customers.  While using their smartphones, customers scan unique QR codes posted on trucks that will allow them to easily donate.  The proceeds are split between two great non-profit organizations, Meals On Wheels Association of America and Convoy Of Hope.

At the close of every month, food trucks will receive by email a list of the donors that scanned their QR code.  We believe this is a great way to speak directly to those customers that have shown deeper brand engagement.  Danhi and The Grilled Cheese Truck are in the process of creating a customer loyalty program and will single out donors with special offers.  He mentioned a “get out of line pass,” but nothing has been confirmed.  Special offers to donors are a great tool to encourage repeat donations AND purchases.

Trucks that register by May 31 are entered to win a $500 gas card.  What truck couldn’t use that?

We are thrilled that Dave Danhi and The Grilled Cheese Truck are Fighting Hunger In America.  Welcome aboard and we can’t wait to hear more about your future successes.

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