Ten years ago they barely existed. Now, food trucks are an enormous industry bringing in $2.7 billion in sales, according to the “Food Truck Nation” a study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. In honor of the brave and bold purveyors of flavor bringing their tasty food to the streets every day, we are highlighting five innovative, cool and above all delicious Food Trucks living their entrepreneurial dreams.
Today, meet Orlando’s Treehouse Truck, run by husband and wife team Vinnie and Sarah Olivieri. Known not only for their distinctive Treehouse look, but also their burgers, sandwiches and deep-fried Oreos, they’ve quickly become a traveling hotspot around Orlando. So, what drives them? Take a look:
How did you come up with the name?
We bought the business as a functioning business. When we purchased the business, the truck was white with a simple logo and didn’t really have an identity. We wanted to keep the name but change the design to be more consumer friendly. We thought a treehouse is a place where you’d hang out with your friends. We had the truck designed to look like a treehouse! When you walk up to the truck and order at the window, it looks like you are looking into the treehouse.
What does your average day look like?
There is no average day. We, unfortunately, don’t have set locations on any day of the week, so our schedule is always different. Most days we are up at 7 am and Vinnie is out of the house to go stock product, prep for service, and get the truck to where it needs to be. If we have a lunch that starts at 11 am, he needs to be on site no later than 10 am to get the equipment hot enough to start serving. After lunch, we clean and if we don’t have dinner, we shut down and head back to where we store the truck. If we have a dinner, it might be back to the store to grab more product, back to our location for a couple of hours or we might have to head straight to where our dinner service will be. For me, I respond to emails first thing in the morning, make sure the books are up to date, writing and sending catering contracts, booking lunches, dinners, and corporate events. Then I’ll head to wherever our lunch service is. Work lunch and back to the office to do more admin work. Back out to where the truck is for dinner. Most days are 15 hours days or longer. It’s a lot of running around.
What inspired you to get in the food truck business?
Combined, we have over 35 years experience in the restaurant industry. Vinnie started working in restaurants at a very young age. He has worked every position in a restaurant. He started at a pizza restaurant doing prep work, making the dough, sauces, etc. When he was 18, he started working at Flying Fish Cafe at Disney World. He worked both front and back of the house there. This is where he learned a lot about fine dining service and customer service. From there, he changed restaurants and started serving. After this time period, he took a working manager position, where he learned not only how to manage a restaurant and a staff, but he learned the hardships of having staff calling out, having to work on the grill if someone didn’t show up for a shift and stepping into multiple roles at once. After this job, he went back into serving which is where we met. We worked together for over 6 years at this restaurant and got married while we were still working there. We knew we wanted to branch out on our own and 6 months after we got married we took the plunge and bought the food truck. We had a lot of experience and we were at the right time in our lives to purchase a food truck.
How did you finance your start?
We knew eventually we would start our own food truck or restaurant so we had been saving for many years. We were able to purchase the food truck outright.
What’s the craziest thing that has happened to you or your business in your time in the Food Truck Business?
It is really hard to narrow this down! There is so much craziness in this industry. We’ve had tires blow out on us while driving on the highway. Brakes gave out on us. We’ve lost our hood once. We’ve gotten to a point where craziness is normal.
What’s the hardest part of the job and why?
The hardest part of the job is all the running around, especially in the summer. We are constantly on the go and the temp inside the truck on average is 130 degrees. It’s physically and mentally draining.
What gets you up in the morning?
Our dogs. Every morning, at the same time.
What’s your number one piece of advice for aspiring Food Truck owners?
Be prepared. You must have a very strong work ethic. You’ll be doing the job of multiple people and you must be a hands-on owner. Be prepared to have everything go wrong at the same time. Save some money for when everything does go wrong and needs to be replaced in the same week. It happens to all of us.