Since Andrew Gruel has been seen on Food Network’s Eat St., he’s been plotting world domination, Dr. Evil style. His (not evil) food truck, Slapfish, became a restaurant and is now becoming a full fledged restaurant chain with the same group behind Qdoba and Five Guys Burgers And Fries. Soon, you’ll be able to buy “Clobster” everywhere in America and Dubai. Impressive!
When you worked at hotels, what was the strangest order request you had to abide by?
When I worked the overnight kitchen chef role at The Ritz Carlton, I would have to cook for people’s pets when they got back from the bars at 2 am. I cooked for a lot of poodles. They loved ground turkey with peas, carrots and saltines. Didn’t taste half bad.
A lot of people don’t know forming a food truck business is expensive. When you decided to have a food truck, how did you get finances, create a business plan and find an audience?
Personal credit score is an entrepreneur’s best friend. When you are first starting out, the only money you have is your own, and friends/family that are willing to lend with the chance of no return.
I maxed out all my credit cards within the first year of running the food truck. I was only able to secure that much credit because I had a reasonable credit score. My score, however, did drop significantly after this.
The audience was already there, and was primarily targeted through Facebook and Twitter.
What does Clobster taste like?
It tastes like a lobster roll making love to a crab cake. It combines the buttery, rich taste and texture of lobster with the sweet and more delicate flavor of crab.
It’s really exciting that we’ll probably see your Slapfish restaurants everywhere in America and the Middle East. What’s going on with this deal?
The only way to rapidly expand across a wide territory is to find partners who can act as your agents; opening locations with the same drive and love of the brand. This is what we are currently doing with our franchise program – finding like-minded partners to take on the daily task of owning and operating a Slapfish Restaurant by following our Slapfish Standard Operating Procedures.
How does someone maintain the original integrity when you have to think about managing chefs and waitstaff where you don’t live locally and adding preservatives into the food, or worse, learning the food now tastes different?
Our model is to keep the food simple. By doing this, we don’t have too much trouble manipulating the quality. It all starts and ends with high quality seafood.
What have you learned from your work experiences that applies to people seeking business success in general?
1. Customer service is more important than your product in many ways.
2. Social media is the most important asset for any business owner. You will not survive without embracing it.
3. Your internal customers (employees) are as important as your guests.