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Appetite for Food Truck Cuisine Trends Upward

To mark National Small Business Week, we spoke with the owners of Stingray Sushifusion, a Rochester, NY-based food truck, about their business and what makes it successful.

The start of Radhames Veras’ day will sound very familiar to most, waking up around 6:00 a.m. and going through a typical morning routine. Where things start to sound a little outside the norm is when Veras and his girlfriend, executive chef/catering director Kimberly Roth, feverishly make loads of fluffy white rice in his home kitchen by 8:00 a.m. before hitting the road in the couple’s Stingray Sushifusion food truck shortly thereafter.

Over the last three years, this has been Veras’ daily routine. He and Roth arrive at a predetermined destination for the day and begin prepping both the food and truck before the lunch rush hits. Veras’ Rochester-based food truck features a unique fusion of sushi and Latin cuisine – a nod to his sushi restaurant background and Latin roots – offering customers a variety of fresh-made rolls that they won’t find anywhere else in the city. Consumers will find sushi with a flare on Veras’ menu, which includes his top-selling Dominican Roll (panko beer batter shrimp, fried cheese, bacon, avocado, and ginger mayonnaise, topped with stingray sauce & sesame seeds).

Veras said the concept of offering a unique menu is critical to succeeding in the food truck business. “If you’re going to open a food truck, you have to be able to set yourself apart from the other trucks and traditional restaurants in the area. You need to make people want to try your food.”

When this is done successfully, food truck owners like Veras have the ability to attract new business and eventually build a loyal customer following. He said much of the marketing is done via word-of-mouth, while social media also plays a significant role in getting the word out about a food truck's menu and location for the day. He’s set up shop all over the city, including one of Paychex’s facilities at one point, testing the market’s demand for his food and determining the most profitable locations for his business.

While not a traditional small business in the brick and mortar sense, food trucks have become a booming industry. According to a 2015 IBISWorld survey, the food truck industry has enjoyed a 9.3 percent growth in revenue in each of the last five years. The same survey identified 4,000+ food truck businesses nationwide, which account for more than 14,000 employees. It’s a craze that even spawned a Food Network television show, The Great Food Truck Race, dedicated solely to the food truck business.

“The food truck industry has experienced a remarkable rise over the past five years, as consumers have increasingly favored unique, gourmet cuisine at budget-conscious prices,” noted the IBISWorld survey.

With his father as a backer and business partner, Veras opened Stingray Sushifusion in the midst of that five-year surge. Paychex is serving many clients who are enjoying a similar success in the food truck industry as well – Bigalora Wood Fired Cucina (Detroit, MI), Fork Lifter Food Truck (Sacramento, CA), PBandU (Philadelphia, PA), and the Red River Kitchen (Minneapolis, MN) just to name a few.

According to IBISWorld data, food trucks represent an $800 million industry. If trucks like Stingray Sushifusion and others are any indication, business remains on the uptick.

“Three years ago, I was calling event coordinators to offer my food truck services at their festivals,” said Veras. “Fast-forward three years and those same coordinators are now calling me to book their event.”

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