Jun 20, 2016 - News

Why Roots sold off its food trucks and pivoted

Roots was one of Charlotte’s original food trucks, back before they were en vogue.

The Roots brand gained a significant following and expanded over the years to include three trucks serving locally sourced gourmet food. That class of food trucks remains among Charlotte’s highest regarded today — Papi Queso, Roaming Fork, TIN Kitchen, etc.

Photo by Roots via Facebook

Photo by Roots via Facebook

You might have noticed they haven’t been making the rounds at food truck rallies in the last few months.


They had been regulars Uptown and Innovation Park on Wednesdays and at Sycamore Brewing, particularly for Saturday breakfast. In previous years, you’d find them at Food Truck Friday as well.

That came to a halt this spring, founder Craig Barbour said.

That’s on purpose: Roots has pivoted away from food trucks and toward catering.

roots catering

Now they’re only available for private events — like weddings, for example — and are trying to get deeper into corporate wellness programs and catered healthy lunch events at big companies.

It was a below-the-radar change, Barbour said. “We were just not there one day,” he said. They went radio silent for a few weeks, then sent out an email blast that they were discontinuing the roaming trucks.

They put together a new website and a new logo and they started booking more events.

They sold two of their three food trucks in March.

One went to a barbecue food truck company in Rock Hill. The other went to Raleigh.

The last remaining food truck is still in use for catering events. Sometimes weddings will use the truck as “food station,” or a backyard event will have the truck pull around to serve food.

Why? Less risk. More reward.

With three trucks and very perishable food, the margins were becoming way too slim. Most of Roots food is prepared fresh that day. If Roots makes a bunch of food, sends out three trucks, and it rains — they lose a ton of money.

Photo courtesy of Roots.

“You spend your entire week, or even month, getting back to zero,” Barbour said.

With catering, you’re much better able to calculate out all the revenue and costs. And while having a food truck was instrumental in building a brand, dropping the trucks at this point helps them to go more upscale in their reputation for catering.

They’ve been able to hire more staff.

Overall full-time employees have gone from five to eight, and they’re world-class. The director of sales for example has a background with Quail Hollow Club and Foundation for the Carolinas.

Photo courtesy of Roots.

This is a natural evolution for a five-year-old food truck business.

And look for more long-running food trucks to go this route. It’s a hard road trying to run a successful food truck business. After half a decade or so, many companies will seek a new business model. Sometimes that’s a brick and mortar location. Sometimes it’s catering.

“If you’re not totally burned out, you’re seriously devising yourself an exit strategy that will put you on a new successful path,” Barbour said.


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