Hello, Kickstarter backers! It's been over a month since my last update, and I realize that many of you must be wondering what's been happening in the first month since 'Wich, Please officially opened. I have a lot that I want to tell you, so forgive me if this update reads a little like a stream-of-consciousness hodgepodge.
First of all, running a food truck is hard work, you guys. In fact, next to having handfuls of dead lobster thrown at me when I worked in a lobster processing plant at 14, or operating that railroad-driven wood chipper that one time, it's by far the most difficult and demanding job I've ever had, both emotionally and physically.
Thanks to the heat of the kitchen, the sporadic mealtimes, and the newfound physical exertion, I lost somewhere around 10 pounds in my first week at work. Thankfully, I've mitigated any further weight loss with a near-constant intake of roasted pork.
My hands have turned into something of a disaster, as well, as they transition from "holding a mouse and keyboard all day" to "being cut, soaking wet, and occasionally seared on the grill," and by "occasionally" I mean "constantly."
Right now, I am putting in somewhere around 60 hours per week, which is more time than I've ever logged doing anything, and isn't leaving a lot of room for much else, like blogging, recreational cooking, dining out, being a role model to my children, or (ahem) writing Kickstarter updates. My totally invaluable and completely awesome young helper, Nick, 'Wich, Please's first and only employee, is also doing somewhere between 40 and 50 hours per week. Running this truck extends far before and after our actual service times, with lots of time prepping ingredients, handling cleanup, and running around like crazy people sourcing ingredients and supplies.
And you know what? I wouldn't have it any other way.
Speaking of ingredients and supplies, you're probably wondering how the first week went. It was, to put it in the most generous terms possible, a bit of a disaster. Not just a disaster, but the kind of slow-rolling avalanche of disaster that imprisons groups of mountain climbers and forces them into reluctant acts of cannablism.
In those first weeks, our biggest problem was getting a handle on inventory and ordering. I simply had no idea how the scale of a business like this worked, and we found we were running out of stuff constantly and making emergency runs to the supermarket for last-minute supplies (and destroying our profit margins with retail pricing in the meantime).
Just what kinds of numbers are we talking about? As of this writing, our weekly food consumption is as follows: 75 pounds of pork belly. 35 pounds of chicken. 20 pounds of sliced bacon. 10 pounds of ground lamb. 10 pounds of ground chorizo. 10 pounds of beets. 20 pounds of tomatoes. 10 bunches of lettuce. 2 gallons of mayonnaise. Between 20-25 loaves of bread. And that doesn't even factor in specials, like our Friday night "Tacos in the Park" event, or the new "Burger Tuesday" special we've introduced.
It's a LOT of food, and learning to manage all of the ordering across multiple wholesale vendors (while still making quality and local sourcing a priority) is something that I confess, I am still struggling with.
We've been getting a ton of really positive feedback. Eater Maine called us one of the "Hottest Restaurants in Maine Right Now," and almost every day, someone tells us that our breakfast sandwich is one of the best in Maine, or that our fries are the best they've had in the Midcoast. (You can stay up to date with press items relating to 'Wich, Please on our official website.) This real-time praise and feedback, in direct response to a real thing that you've crafted with your actual carved-up, battered hands, is unlike anything I experienced sitting behind a desk, and I can see how it can be totally addictive.
In fact, that's one of the biggest pleasures of this work. I'm not pushing pixels around, creating banner ads that no one wants to see or ghostwriting marketing materials that no one wants to read, all of which will be destroyed with a keystroke in one moment and forgotten in the next. This is feeding people. And feeding people, particularly feeding people good things, matters to me.
There are definitely tough days. Sometimes, everything goes wrong all at once. Two dozen people will appear out of nowhere to order lunch at the same time, just as I realize I forgot to prep any tomato confit, and the lettuce has frozen because the refrigerator's thermostat has gone haywire. Just then, the grill will go stone cold, because the propane tank has been leaking for a week without (by what can only be some divine intervention) blowing the truck into a billion fiery pieces and sending Nick and I soaring into the depths of Rockland Harbor. Oh, and the delivery guy from Morse's needs you to sign for the 5 gallons of Sour Mustard pickles you ordered on credit, because "pickle debt" is something you incur now, and someone at the window wants to know why there's no corned beef in the vegetarian reuben.
Sometimes, those days feel like they get the better you, and I definitely don't sail home on the emotional high that I do on most other days.
Because when it's all clicking along the way it should? When you're cranking out 100 sandwiches a day, and they all look exactly the way you want them to, and customers approach the window with a big smile of anticipation, and then circle back after their meal to tell us how much they enjoyed something? There's no better feeling in the world.
This has been a big, scary thing to do. Going from making one sandwich a day in the comfort of my home kitchen, then obsessively lighting it and photographing it, or even the limited amount of cooking demonstrations and competing I have done, to a real, live kitchen environment, with lots of hungry customers who I could never bear to disappoint, has been a crazy transition. And it doesn't get less scary, as summer traffic winds up, and the production numbers go up, and we work on introducing our new menu for the new season.
I still have no idea what happens to 'Wich, Please at the end of October, when the water lines freeze and my lease is up in Buoy Park. I will find a way to keep it going, and to stay on this path. But in the meantime, I am incredibly proud of what we're doing right now, and so grateful to have the chance to do it.
Most of all, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, a million times, and from the bottom of my heart. I am still in awe of what this campaign accomplished, and it's due entirely to the support of people like you who believed in putting real, concrete dollars behind something that a lot of people would have thought was just another silly pipe dream. Thanks to you, we've built a real business, and one that I hope we can all continue to be proud of for many years to come.
Now, onto new business! This will likely be one of my last updates, within the Kickstarter ecosystem. Sooner or later, the campaign must come to an end, and the focus has to switch to the day-to-day management of the business you helped create. We are still behind on several of our reward tiers (though we have sent out more than 300), and so updates on this site will probably be limited to news about those items, as they continue to go out.
But you don't have to stop following us! We're posting every single day on the social media accounts for 'Wich, Please, including daily specials, photos of new ideas we're cooking up, and more. Check us out on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, even though I freely admit I still don't understand quite what the hell Twitter is for. I'll also be continuing to update From Away, our blog, though content will probably be a little more sparse than usual, until I figure out this whole work/life balance thing.
In the meantime, if you haven't been to visit us on the truck yet, be sure to stop by for lunch! I'm anxious to show you what we've got going, and to thank you again in person.