ORANGE COUNTY, CA - It was an early morning on the West Coast when I first spoke with Chef Piaggio. The fog hanging over the road was slowing giving way to the California sun.
“I live for my business,” Chef Piaggio told me, as he drove his award-winning food truck through Orange County. “I’m really into what I do. For me, it’s fun. I like what I do, like meeting people, and I like taking care of them.”
While Piaggio has been taking care of people with his uniquely crafted Argentine cuisine for nearly three decades, the manner by which his empanadas, tacos, chimichurri and other gourmet dishes are served has changed dramatically in recent years.
“Just before I entered the food truck business, I had a restaurant for seven years,” he said. “It was right downtown, full bar with 44 employees. We did really well from 2003-07, but then the economy started going down.
Finally, in 2009, I had to make one of the toughest decisions of my life. On November 8, I decided to close my restaurant. Then, by November 21, I started my food truck.”
The vision born was Piaggio Gourmet on Wheels—Orange County, California’s first and only Argentine Food Truck. It would soon become one of the most successful food trucks in the United States.
“The main reason we had to close the restaurant was the overhead”, he explained. “We had $12,000 per month in rent, and with the volume we were doing, I couldn’t carry that cost any longer.
I entered the Food Truck Industry without knowing anything about it, but I was fortunate to meet with some friends who helped me figure things out quickly.”
Despite the challenges involved with the decision to close his restaurant, Piaggio says that he would not go back and change a thing even if he could.
“It’s been almost four years since we started and now I own two trucks. It’s probably been the most rewarding enterprise I’ve ever been involved with in all these years.
Operating my Food Truck allows me to do what I like, what I love, and what I know, with a much smaller team than I used to have. It’s less people for me to manage, and more of an opportunity to focus on my work in the kitchen.”
As opposed to the 44-person staff that Chef Piaggio was responsible for at his restaurant, for example, his team on-board the food truck now includes only a handful of people.
“I usually work with one or two cooks on a daily basis,” he explained. “My wife is running one of the trucks and I am running the other one. So I have a couple cooks on each truck, as well as a team of people who help at special events with large volume. On a regular day, though, we’re capable of doing a lot of work, a lot of orders, between the cooks and myself.”
Piaggio Gourmet on Wheels has developed a vibrant social media following as a result of their efforts over the years as well. Their Twitter Account, for example, @PiaggioOnWheels, has over four thousand followers.
“That is my wife on our Twitter,” he added. “She handles the marketing of the truck, the social media, tweeting out our schedule, letting people know where we will be on a given day. I do some of the Facebook posts, but she is the one who does the Tweeting.”
This article was written by Brendan Bowers
Find out more about Piaggio on Wheels and why they switched from Square to EMS+ <here>