Pictures courtesy of Wild Garden Foods and The Slide Ride.
When Nida Rodriguez left a career in finance to launch a food truck serving sliders and fries targeting a variety of ethnic flavors - The Slide Ride - she was fortunate to have a family friend in the food business.
Nera Ziyad, who worked in his family's Mediterranean food import business, Ziyad Brothers Importing, helped Rodriguez find a wrap for her used step van and wrap the truck for her.
Since that auspicious start six years ago, Rodriguez has added a brick-and-mortar restaurant and a catering business in Chicago and is now returning Ziyad's favor by helping him market his company's new line of Mediterranean foods – Wild Garden Foods – with her food truck. She is also a fan of the Wild Garden marinades and has named one of her sliders – Wild Garden Slider – after them.
A food truck tour
Ziyad is using Rodriguez's truck to launch Ziyad Brothers' first food truck tour, something he hopes to repeat nationwide. The four-day tour, May 15-18, will stop at popular destinations and places in need. Rodriguez will manage the logistics, cooking and serving for the tour.
"We're doing a one-week takeover of her truck," Ziyad said. "She's helping out with this before we dive deep into a food truck, which I think is so fun and exciting."
Ziyad's company created Wild Garden Foods to bring Middle Eastern flavors mainstream, such as Wild Garden hummus enclosed in a tetra pack, which provides hummus without any refrigeration.
"We decided we wanted to share our flavors with the masses," Ziyad said. "Naturally, the idea of the food truck came up, and it was really exciting for us. The food truck was a win-win. This way we can keep the integrity of the product and show off at the same time.”
Ziyad was going to rent a truck and get the permits himself when Rodriguez suggested he simply borrow her truck for a week.
The Chevrolet step van has all the kitchen equipment Ziyad needs for preparing Wild Garden products. The truck has warmers, ovens and fryers.
Partnership pays off
Rodriguez, for her part, is more than happy to help.
"He's kind of like a big brother," Rodriguez said of Ziyad.
Ziyad, who prepared a Wild Foods vinyl overlay for the tour, said three employees will staff the truck and a few others will work the crowds in order to get feedback on the food.
"This is the first time outside the traditional (marketing) channel," such as a food show, Ziyad said. "This is absolutely a promotional activity for us."
While he can't technically calculate ROI of the tour, getting the product to consumers is worth it.
"We love to see the reaction of somebody when they taste our food," he said. "These conversations are really important and a lot of fun for us."
"The beauty of the Wild Garden Foods retail product that we sell is that it can be prepared numerous ways. With our marinades, you can add them to your meats, chicken, fish… and you can bake it, pan fry it, grill it, smoke it… you can do whatever you want."
Chicago is the first stop on what Ziyad would like to see a nationwide tour.
He said he hasn't given a lot of thought to having a food truck business.
"This is our maiden voyage," he said. "A lot of questions will be answered."