Interview Sligro: Food brigade
Who: Laurens van Luin
What: Entrepreneur and founder of ManicOrganic
Number of food trucks: 2
Many entrepreneurs are still interested in the food truck, but it is seriously hard work to make money with it. You then also have a completely sustainable concept. How do you ensure sufficient income?
'With the food truck, we are 60 percent at public events and for the rest we are hired, which gives me security in terms of income. At public events, such as festivals, it is every time an adventure to get out of the costs. The most important aspects to prepare for this are watching the weather forecast and then adjusting your purchasing and staffing accordingly. If I am at an event on Friday, I look at the weather forecast on Wednesday and based on that I determine my purchasing and occupation. When the sun shines, we sell twice as much. In the Netherlands it is a kind of Russian roulette with the weather. To be sure of your income, you need to have enough bought-out events, otherwise you can't take the risk of attending public events. '
What is sustainability for you?
'Sustainability is about awareness for me. You must be aware that all processes and steps you take as a company have an impact on your environment and the world. You can see all facets of sustainability in our dishes, production and operations. These are choices you make when purchasing products, but also when it comes to corporate clothing and hiring staff. I have chosen to also hire people who find it difficult to find work elsewhere. '
Is it possible to do business entirely sustainably?
'When starting ManicOrganic, I only wanted to sell organic products and serve organic meat dishes. However, I soon found out that I could not get this everywhere and so it was not a viable option. I started to study substitute products, but at that time I also learned more about the food chain and decided to only sell vegetarian food. So if you really want to do business sustainably, you sometimes have to look for alternatives. '
Your target audience at a festival is smaller for a vegetarian concept. How do you deal with this?
'I don't necessarily have a vegetarian food truck concept, but I sell healthy, healthy and above all tasty food. When I started five years ago, what I did was special. Now guests expect you to do business responsibly and that your products are of good origin. In addition, I am cheaper than all competitors who sell meat products - my selling price is between 6 and 6.5 euros - and I make sure that I have good prices, which makes the barrier to buy something low. I serve four different dishes and two kinds of drinks, never again. People don't want to queue for long. This is important for every food truck concept. '
Which no-food washing methods do you use?
'I never throw anything away. You can make soups, sauces, dressings, syrups and salads from all fresh products, which I can use again later. Food that is left goes to neighborhoods in Rotterdam and The Hague, where people can use it well. There is always a destination for leftover food, but your goal should not be to reuse everything yourself. A tight schedule and a correct estimate of what you are going to sell is therefore very important. '
You work together with a number of partners who all do sustainable business. What does this collaboration entail?
'Because we all have the same goal, we give each other a lot. I use Earth Water as the basis of my virgin cocktail and Tony's Chocolonely as a melting chocolate for the pancakes. You see this reciprocal service because they then hire me again or help me with products. The most important thing is that we all do business with a lot of energy to make the world a more beautiful place. '
Because a food truck travels all over the country, you become known and it can be a nice stepping stone to a fixed concept. Is this also an ambition of yours?
'A food truck is of course an ideal way to discover what guests are looking for and which dishes work well. I have always said that I want to keep challenging myself and eventually put down the green M (McDonald's). And this is going to happen in the next five years! When I was sixteen I went to America for a year, in Phoenix Arizona, where I was inspired to develop my own franchise one day. Well one that fits in modern times! '
How concrete are your plans?
'If I open the first store in the Netherlands, it will be in Rotterdam. This is the city to open my business because a lot is happening here. It is the most cosmopolitan city in the Netherlands, you feel a bit of the same vibe as in New York. Furthermore, I cannot really go into the details yet, but the business model is starting to take shape: where should the building be located, different earnings moments, partnerships that I want to enter into with the Foodoras and Deliveroos of this world. I previously worked as an employee as a branch manager for a healthy and sustainable franchise formula, but there is a place and a time for things: the market was not ready at the time. Supply and demand determine what can be achieved for you as an entrepreneur. The positive news: the market is now ready. I am just still looking for investors and the right team to take this step with. '
Who is your role model in the hospitality industry when it comes to sustainability?
'There is no one in the market who does what I do, which is why I am somewhat of my own role model. But there are a number of companies that I really like, such as Earth Water. They are very transparent in their business operations and respond to the basic necessities of life. Very clever how they have put this brand on the market sustainably. '
Together with a number of energy parties you are looking at solar panels for your food trucks. Does this make them completely self-sufficient?
'No, unfortunately, that is not yet possible with current technology. Everything you use as a heat source needs so much energy that I cannot get it from a number of solar panels. In addition, you can hardly store solar energy, so you have to use it immediately. Our sales moments are usually a bit later in the day, at sunset, or in the evening, so this is not feasible. '
That seems like a costly investment to me for the small amount of energy you can get out of it?
'Not if you take a smart approach and enter into a partnership with energy parties. My investment is that I go to all festivals and be seen there. '
What do you have to learn to properly apply sustainability in your catering concept?
'It has to be a mindset, otherwise it will quickly become a marketing tool that guests feel. Ask yourself what your role is and how you want to make this world a more beautiful place and what you can contribute to it. '
ManicOrganic is the winner of the 24Kitchen foodtruck Awards 2016 (Best Veggie Foodtruck) and of the MKB Den Haag Sustainability Award 2016.