November 12, 2008

So what are we learning?

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This post is just the beginning of a string of posts about some of our learnings. After all, we’re running this truck for the purpose of developing the best fast food menu ever. So what are we learning and what do people think?

First, it’s been a great test environment. Many of our customers are students or researchers. There are also a fair number of administrators and office workers from nearby Kendall Square. And finally we’ve been getting consistent visits from the MIT grounds keepers, which is great.

FRIES

I’ll admit that I was a bit nervous about the fries. I’d had a lot of people tell me they were a terrible idea, unhealthy and all. I was stubborn. Turns out they are absolutely key to the menu. First, they are the best fries you can get anywhere. Prince Edward Island Potatoes, as fresh as they can get, cut 1/4″ minutes before dropping in the frier. They are great.

Second, and most importantly, they are acting as the “gateway drug” for Clover eating. As Rolando says, who cares how healthy it is if nobody is eating it. Remember those grounds keepers I mentioned? It’s the french fries that brought them in. Second day they tried the mulled cider, and loved it. Then I was selling black bean soup the next day. I got a fantastic quote: “more of that sour cream… I’m gradual on this vegetarian thing.” I’m happy because nobody is being told that this is vegetarian food, but it’s clearly part of the intrigue, and people are trying the food and liking it. Just fantastic.

UNUSUAL SANDWICHES ARE OK

Third, some sandwiches that I thought would be hard sells (e.g., Eggplant and Egg, Soy BLT, BBQ Wheat Protein) are big big sellers. I don’t know if it’s because people are seeing others with the sandwiches, or they are just adventurous, but we’re selling a lot of non-traditional sandwiches.

JUST CUT AND LOCAL = DELICIOUS

Fourth, people are really, really responding to the whole concept. The food tastes great because it is great, our ingredients are fantastic, and the time from cutting to eating is about as short as any fast food has ever been. Our soups are made fresh. Our fries are cut fresh. Our chickpea fritters (falafel) are dropped to order. And people are really really responding to the quality. It’s great to see. I didn’t expect as much, certainly without a lot of marketing talking about what we are doing.

OPERATIONS

Fifth, I wont go into the details, but we’re learning a lot operationally about how to make this all happen. Certain changes to recipes have been made to speed things up without compromising the taste. We’re getting a great feel for the operational issues alongside the development of tasty food.

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