Food Truck Tuesday: A Little Pizza Heaven
While some of Winnipeg’s fair weather food truckers may be hiding from the whipping wind and dark gray clouds on a drizzly day in late August, Edgar Rascon is staying warm by serving up steaming slices of pizza.
Rascon has been manning A Little Pizza Heaven’s food truck – an extension of the company’s popular brick and mortar pizzeria located at 120 Osborne St. – since May of this year, and it’s not very often that weather will keep him off the streets.
“Rain or shine, Monday through Friday, I’m out here pretty much every day,” says Rascon over the rumbling generator powering the truck.
The mobile pizzeria, which opened earlier this summer, began as a way for co-owners Matt Stevenson, Dave Fox and Donavan Robinson to build on the growing momentum of the Osborne Village pizzeria of the same name.
“The owners were looking for another location and decided this would be a good way to get around to the festivals and grow the business,” Rascon says, adding that the owners still plan on opening a second brick and mortar location in the near future.
Rascon says the food truck also serves as a mobile marketing tool, “like a traveling billboard.”
Indeed, the bright red truck with crisp white lettering – designed by co-owner Robinson, who also runs a local printing company – is hard to miss, especially with its steady line of customers standing on the sidewalk.
Between the existing location, the growing food truck scene in Winnipeg and the low operating costs, Rascon says a mobile version of the popular pizzeria was a no-brainer.
“You save money on the rent, the property tax, the utility bills, less staff. It’s just a lot cheaper to operate.”
And given the fact that the company already had an existing business model and menu, as well as a loyal following of customers, Rascon says the transition was essentially seamless. In fact, other than a few issues with the city’s parking patrol early on (“They make us buy one parking ticket at a time, and sometimes you’re busy and can’t leave…”), there have been no major challenges.
While A Little Pizza Heaven has only been on the streets of Winnipeg for several months, Rascon says the truck is already exceeding expectations. On a typical lunch rush, Rascon will sell about 100 slices of za.
One of the reasons for the truck’s early success, Rascon believes, is the simplicity of pizza. With an ever-growing number of ethnic food trucks lining the curbs on Broadway, pizza has more universal appeal and less risk.
“People are familiar with pizza, while they may not be familiar with some of the more ethnic stuff,” says Rascon, who used to own La Bamba, a Mexican restaurant in Osborne Village. “Most of us grew up with it, and people know what they’re gonna get.”
Even with the emergence of Fired Up and The Red Ember, a pair of wood-fired pizza trucks regularly parked on Broadway, A Little Pizza Heaven hasn’t seen a decline in sales. Rascon believes it’s because each truck offers something a little bit different.
One difference is that the other pizza trucks only sell entire pies, while A Little Pizza Heaven sells it by the slice. Another, Rascon says, is the price point.
“They’re also a bit more expensive than us. By offering slices, we’re able to stay a little more inexpensive.”
Unlike the other two trucks, A Little Pizza Heaven also serves things other than pizza – namely Caesar salad and chicken wings.
The bulk of their sales, however, come from their Two-slice Combo, which includes two slices and a drink for $6.19. In addition to their best selling tomato feta, the truck offers up pepperoni, ham and pineapple, pineapple feta and double cheese.
Rascon says another reason for A Little Pizza Heaven’s consistently steady sales is its location – the block between Edmonton and Kennedy Streets. It’s a spot they actually came across by chance.
“We started off the year at Old Market Square, but in July we decided to look somewhere else because we weren’t part of the Fringe Festival,” he says. “When we came here, our sales got a lot better and we didn’t see any point going back.”
And while Rascon plans to remain on Broadway for the rest of summer, his hours aren’t limited to lunch rushes.
Since opening in May, the truck has appeared at the Super-Spike volleyball tournament, the Winnipeg Jazz Festival, Canada Day at The Forks, the Folklorama kick-off, and about a dozen private parties. Later this summer, it will compete for the first time in ManyFest’s Food Truck Wars.
Based on what he’s seen so far, Rascon likes his truck’s chances.
“The fact that we have lineups every day tells us that people like pizza,” he says. “And the fact that they keep coming back tells us that they like our pizza.”
— RYAN BOWMAN, MyToba.ca