Jump-starting a food truck biz has its challenges

  • The trailer has yet to arrive, but when it does, they’ll sell many egg roll varieties, incluing “The Concord.” Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 5/24/2020 6:47:43 PM

Inga Weakly has plenty of childhood memories of her mother, who lived in Vietnam for most of her life, cooking in their kitchen when Weakly was growing up Swampscott, Mass.

The memory, and food, that Weakly most often returns to are her mother’s egg rolls.

“They’ve always been a big hit at family events and parties we go to,” said Weakly, 38, who now lives in Bow. “So, it was always in the back of my mind to start something with them, and then my husband was like, ‘Let’s just do it and see what happens, let’s go for it, let’s try a food truck.’”

That push has helped turn Weakly’s memories and back-of-mind musings into a reality. They ended up with a food trailer instead of a food truck (a food trailer needs to be hauled by a separate vehicle while a food truck hauls itself), but Weakly and her husband, Andrew, are now the owners of a food service vehicle they have dubbed, “Wander Roll.”

Wander Roll was built by M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks, Inc., in Florida. Concord designer Tigerlily by Rachel created the trailer’s exterior stylings and designed badges for menu items. And the Weaklys are ready to start selling egg rolls in New Hampshire, but a couple of roadblocks are standing in their way.

First, the trailer is still in Florida.

“We had planned to drive down and pick it up when it was completed in April, which would have allowed us to do all the design up here. With the closing of borders and stay-at-home orders, we haven’t been able to drive down,” Andrew said. “So, we shifted a little bit and used that time to wrap the truck (in Tigerlily by Rachel’s design) and get it as ready to go as possible. Now that travel is loosening up, we’re working on getting it transported.”

Second, they need to get all of the necessary inspections, licenses and permits for the trailer and their business. Some of that can’t happen until the truck is physically in New Hampshire. Some of it can happen before then but navigating the bureaucracy to actually do it has been tricky.

“It’s still a little bit TBD on how challenging it’s going to be,” Andrew said. “It hasn’t been super easy, and the biggest challenge so far has really been finding the right people to talk to. Once we do find the right people, I suspect it will be relatively straightforward. … Our plans have been reviewed and approved by the state, and the next step is really to get the inspection. Once we have the truck here we think the dominoes will start falling in terms of getting our health inspection and our licensing to be on public property.”

After they get the truck to New Hampshire and get all the necessary permissions and permits and from the city and state, the Weaklys plan to operate on the weekends since they both have full-time jobs (Inga is a nurse, Andrew works in marketing) and a 2-year-old daughter. They think festivals and fairs will be the crux of their business and they were hoping to debut their goods at Concord’s Market Days before the annual street festival was moved from June to August due to the coronavirus pandemic. But the Weaklys still plan on selling egg rolls on the streets of Concord from around noon to 6 p.m. on weekends as soon as they can.

“Our goal is to be in Concord and then in the immediate neighboring towns, and we’ll probably go south to Manchester,” Andrew said. “We’ll go where we need to go given the current environment, but our goal is to be as close as possible to Concord and become a presence in Concord.”

Once Wander Roll hits the streets, customers will find four flavors of savory egg rolls. It starts with the Can Tho, a classic pork egg roll named after Inga’s mother’s hometown in southern Vietnam. Then there’s the buffalo chicken Brighton roll, which Inga made for Andrew when they were first dating and living in Brighton, Mass. And there are two vegetarian options – the Bristol, which is made with sweet potato and named after Bristol, N.H., which is where Andrew’s vegetarian sister, Anne Weakly, used to live, and the Concord, a sweet and spicy option that’s made with honey ginger tofu.

They will also be serving two dessert egg rolls – cake pop and funfetti. These weren’t part of the original plan, but the Weaklys developed them during the last two months as they’ve been stuck at home like everyone else. And the dessert offerings won’t be their only egg roll innovation.

“If we dream up something the night before, we may whip up 100 of them and see how they go. We have that flexibility,” Andrew said. “I mean, fundamentally we’ve got a full-service kitchen in the trailer.”

Wander Roll will also be selling two beverages – limeade and Vietnamese iced coffee, which is made using a Phin filter, sweetened condensed milk and, in some cases, beans from Vietnam.

“We’re working with a place in New York that imports and roasts actual Vietnamese coffee, which is pretty exciting and has a little bit of a different flavor profile than the beans you get from Latin America,” Andrew said.

Egg rolls are great for mobile food service because much of the prep work can be done ahead of time. The Weaklys plan on preparing their egg rolls during the week around their work and parenting schedules, but they will fry them to order on site in the trailer.

“A lot of it we can make ahead of time, but our goal is to be as fresh as possible,” Andrew said. “So, we’ll make everything in the same week that we’re going out live and then we’ll be frying them right on the truck. We looked at some other business models, but ultimately an egg roll is most delicious when it’s fresh.”

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20)

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