Food Trucks R Coming! Conversation with James DiSabatino, Roxy Gourmet Grilled Cheese

08/21/2011

"Amazing bread does great things for the world. Great bread is inspiring." - James DiSabation

Food truck_james and truck

James DiSabatino has a love affair with bread and cheese. It makes total sense when you find out that he's the owner of the Boston based food truck Roxy Gourmet Grilled Cheese

Barely 3-months out of the gate, Roxy was a contestant (and eventually a finalist) in the Food Network Great Food Truck Race.

James kindly agreed to juggle his packed days to judge Diva Marketing's marketing tips contest re: food trucks (sponsored by MSN Business On Main). The winner is highlighted below. Toss of a pink boa to Dorothea Bozicolona-Volpe for the intro to James.

Last week James chatted with me about Roxy's back story, his philosophy on the food truck biz and of course using social media as a marketing tactic. We discovered that in addition to sharing a love of food and food trucks, we are also Emerson College alums .. and the world continues to spin smaller!

Diva Marketing/Toby: Roxy was so new why did you apply for a competition that put you up against more seasoned food truck owners?

James  DiSabatino: We didn't .. they recruited us. We thought it was a joke until we got the casting email. They were searching online and we kept coming up in their searches. Guess they liked the Boston focus and brothers from Boston who grilled cheese sandwiches and were in a rock band. 

Diva Marketing/Toby: So it seems that social media networks works. Twitter, Facebook not only pulled Roxy up in the search rankings but created an image the producers thought would make good TV.

I found it interesting that the Roxy guys were the only team wearing t-shirts that promoted their city not their brand. James told me although he pushed hard to wear Roxy t-shirts, the Food Network insisted the guys wear "Boston" shirts. They never really found out why. Who knows how producers' minds work?

Diva Marketing/Toby: What's the story behind the name Roxy?

James  DiSabatino: A tribute to someone in my life that I want to keep a mystery. People would come up to us and not ask who Roxy was but say things like .. so is Roxy a fill in the blank. They were making assumptions. I thought it would be a good idea to leave it up to their imaginations. Roxy could be anyone they wanted her to be.

Diva Marketing/Toby: Quite naturally grilled cheese lends itself to nostalgia positioning. Roxy's fun branding reflects what I'd call -- retro with an edge.

The Icon/Logo: An innocent young girl, wearing 1950's style pigtails, happily munches on a grilled cheese sandwich. But look closer and you'll find a skull and cross bones tatoo on her arm. The tat pays homage to Blood For Blood a favorite Roxy Boston band.

James was cautioned not to add the tat. Some people thought it could be risky. However, as James said to me, "We don't do safe."

Nope .. they sure don't. Not in their logo design nor in their food. As it turned out the icon fits perfectly with the positioning of a retro feel with contemporary flavorsFood Truck _Roxy twitter
So who are Roxy's clients? They run from college students to grandparents who bring their grandchildren along. Grilled cheese, even gourmet grilled cheese, crosses generations, "It's not a hard sell," James assured me.  

Diva Marketing/Toby: So James, what's your marketing deal? 

James DiSabatino: We never planned to spend any money on advertising and we never will. We wanted the experience to create awareness through our community and using social media. 

We take time to interact with our customers to help create an experience for them. It’s more than getting the food out the window. Our #1 priority is getting to know our customers one person at a time.

Our wait line is longer than most food trucks. It takes 3.5 minutes per side to grill the sandwich .. it’s just part of the experience. Customers hang out with each out and engage with each other .. creating community. I engage with people on line. I respond to tweets. I ask questions and sometimes get flavor ideas. We’re building culture online and offline. 

Diva Marketing/Toby:  Perhaps one day we'll find a Roxy grilled cheese sandwich named for a Twitter @! 

In addition to building community with and among Roxy's customers, James has a strong focus to support and give back to the communities that host the Roxy truck. Watch for the Roxy team to soon be involved with offline events. These events provide opportunities to earn money which will be donated to local causes. One of Jame's favorite causes is early childhood education. 

Diva Markting/Toby: What would you tell people who have not tried food truck food?

James DiSabatino: It's some of best food and the best food experience you'll have. No where else can you interact directly with the chef who is making your food.

Diva Marketing/Toby: Never thought about food trucks in quite that way. I might call food trucks a with the people food experience!

Drum beat please ... the moment we've been waiting ... for the winner of the marketing tips contest re: food trucks is Jane Genova! Jane $100 prize is sponsored by MSN Business On Main.

James DiSabatino's Food Truck Marketing Tips Response 

"As a food truck owner, and having spent years of research before opening, I never once asked myself "What should my marketing budget be?" While this may play an important role in restaurants, food trucks take on a different culinary role in the neighborhood.

Rather than wondering what you should be spending on marketing, a food truck owner should ask him or herself, "What do I need to fully engage my community?" If you're planning on opening a food truck, whether you're going to be the chef, the order taker, the expediter, you will be interacting with your customers directly. And to remain successful, you have to be an important part of the community you're serving in.

So based on my ideology, I choose number four, who suggests feeding the homeless. Rather than giving your money to someone else, you’re using your money to feed people in your community who can’t afford to eat themselves. It's all about community engagement, and bringing a community together is the number one priority a food truck should have if they want to stay in business. 

Runner up would be number two (Debra Gaynor), creating alliances to cater weddings. While 10 food trucks will split the money up quite a bit, two or three trucks offering catering services for weddings is an excellent idea. It gets a group of closely interconnected people (with large networks) excited about your business. This is a great grassroots marketing idea, because you have a public ready to spread the word, all while making money for the wedding!"

Jane genova
Jane Genova's Winning Food Truck Marketing Tip

TRUCK KITCHEN. One day a week for two hours, the truck distributes free servings in a neighborhood for the poor and homeless. But there’s more. Give a man a fish he eats for a day. Teach him how to fish and he eats for life.

The food truck owner can teach a poor or homeless person to blog about the experience at the local public library. That account could be aired on television. Also, a poor or homeless can be taught to use a video camera and record how it is to be homeless. That could be edited for a documentary.

Thanks to all who participated .. you all offered ideas that could help Food Trucks roll into success .. or something like that. 

Continue the conversation with James and the Roxy Team!

Roxy's Grilled Cheese on Twitter

James DiSabation on Twitter

Roxy's Gourmet Grilled Cheese Website

Food Network Great Food Truck Race

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Comments

You would think a marketing blog would be better at the editing process. His last name is DiSabatino not DiSabation.

Posted by: Cyn on Aug 22, 2011 9:43:05 AM

Cyn - a huge oops! and thanks for letting me know. the post has been corrected. Sorry James!

Posted by: Toby Bloomberg - @tobydiva on Aug 22, 2011 9:51:58 AM

Thanks for posting this Toby. Social events always need good food to bring people together and promote community building. The food truck phenomenon is a natural fit for social networking.

I watched the show this weekend and made my own gourmet grilled cheese after being inspired by the Roxy guys. Good cheese, good bread and a little butter seems to do the trick.

Posted by: Sean Wood on Aug 22, 2011 11:14:09 PM

The food truck idea is a cool one and a great way to connect with all people around us. Thanks for the share.

Online Business Virtual Assistant

Posted by: eBay Virtual Assistant on Aug 23, 2011 2:20:33 AM

I watch Food Network and their food truck program all the time. It's really amazing just how many food trucks are hitting the streets and what a huge following they're getting.

Food trucks and social media seem to just be natural partners. The fact that people can chat, via Twitter, with the Roxy folks and get answers back? Hey, that's super important. It's no wonder they're doing so well.

Posted by: Melissa Wright on Aug 29, 2011 3:06:36 PM

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