After 6 months of preparation we opened Boom Town Food Services on Feb. 22, 2014 in Karnes County TX, the hottest region of the booming oil business, known as the Eagle Ford Shale Play. Our launch was from a single, beautifully wrapped & well designed food truck.
The plan was to connect with major oil service providers & oil companies to meet their needs for quality food cooked & served on site. We’d then add several food trucks as demand grew, until we could establish the Boom Town brand, expand service offerings to food service contracts serving 3 meals per day, then into the Permian Basin. Long term we’d convert the business into a franchising opportunity–especially for chef’s & employees who wanted to run their own food truck business.
By the end of May we served a few oil rigs & catered a big lunch for Marathon Oil. Still, we lost money for the 4th straight month.
By June we were picking up steam, by the end of the month we were running close to capacity. 5 months in & I was really feeling the weight of growing a business in a region that had virtually no access to any required resources (additional staffing, wholesale food, truck mechanic’s(!), auto parts, kitchen equipment, even getting propane was a challenge, etc.).
We drove 1.5-to-2 hours each way to San Antonio to buy supplies from Restaurant Depot. But there was no solution for my fridge, freezer and dry goods storage shortage. Rural regions boasting 5-10 people per square mile had a few small restaurants & bars, but no extra storage room for rent.
The busier we got the more renting/living in a FEMA trailer among 50lb sacks of potatoes, boxes of cups & lids, a freezer stuffed with ground beef & steak, was wearing thin on my son, who managed the operation, designed the website, & built & managed all social media during the launch. He promised 4 months & gave me 6–he left before July (with a street dog we adopted named Moxie… “Best thing that came out of Texas” he says with a smile).
Throughout July & August, as the thermometer reach 110 we served ~9 rigs/week, storing inventory in fridges/freezers of empty trailers at our friend’s trailer park! With storage needs out of control, by late-July I found & purchased a used 26′ Concession Trailer with fridges, freezers & a lot of storage space, and rented a plot w/ electricity.
We were running hard and it was beginning to pay off.
Word of mouth was great and the number of rigs increased weekly. Our social media strategy was going great: as we drove customers to Facebook, interactions were up & we were getting the absolute best reviews imaginable.
Things were going so well my good friend actually called 2 Angel investor friends of his to meet with me. And after hearing the story and seeing the profit opportunity for each truck they were ready to throw some money my way to quickly put 3 new trucks on the road. But–for the 1st time in my life–I actually stopped them. (I couldn’t believe the words were coming out of my mouth.)
I felt it was too soon. I didn’t like our revenue mix–too large a percentage was coming from 2 customers. I also thought 2 months of solid performance was not proof enough to begin to expand. Plus, I knew we didn’t have all of our back-end procedures and systems locked down well enough to allow us to have 4 trucks on the road without hurting our growing customer base. Better to stay with 1 truck for the next few months, solidify our position, start evaluating new chefs & team members, and make sure our back-end systems could support the growth.
As it turned out, it was a good thing I stopped them.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Danny Gallo, The Small Business Lifer