CBSNewYork is paying homage to New York City food trucks this week by spotlighting five of our favorites: The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck, Korilla BBQ, Wafels & Dinges, Kelvin Natural Slush Co. and Schnitzel & Things. Check back each day for a new feature.
By Siobhan Wallace
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – When Thomas DeGeest left his position as an IBM executive to hit the streets with a food truck in October 2007, it was one of the notable beginnings of the truck craze in New York.
When the Wafels & Dinges truck launched, the venture was met with some confusion.
“New Yorkers were absolutely not familiar with the idea [of gourmet food trucks],” DeGeest told CBSNewYork.
Their first day on the streets, the truck was parked at a spot on Broadway between Prince and Spring, and DeGeest recalls a point in the day where he didn’t sell anything for two hours. But being a pioneer in the industry, he wasn’t sure who to turn to for advice.
“There was no community of ‘gourmet vendors’ at the time to tap into with questions,” he said.
Seeing the positive reactions and receiving encouragement from the fans who did try the truck’s food were enough to keep him going, however.
“[It] became the fuel to keep me going day after day,” he said.
Eventually, recognition from foodies and the press did come. In 2009, Wafels & Dinges won the Vendy Award for Best Dessert. The success put the negative experiences, including run-ins with other street vendors, behind him.
DeGeest continued to work on the brand and expanding his fleet of trucks and carts.
Days on the truck haven’t changed much in the four years Wafels & Dinges has existed. Except now, “it’s a well oiled machine – with a fantastic team of people.”
The first of the two shifts start in the early morning hours, where the cleaned and stocked trucks are picked up from the Brooklyn commissary and sent out for the day. Fresh dough and batter are made throughout the day in order for the employees to create what DeGeest calls, “the best moment in our customer’s day.”
“My oldest spot is Seventh Avenue and Carroll Street in Park Slope. That’s a spot with so much history – it has to be my favorite one. We go there on Saturdays – people are relaxed. We are really part of their weekend routine.”
While DeGeest hopes to keep Wafels & Dinges a 100% mobile business, they are starting to consider following other successful food trucks in opening a brick and mortar store.
For inspiration, Thomas actually looks towards what the West Coast burger chain, In-N-Out.
“I really admire what [they've] done in terms of remaining family owned and steadily growing their business in an organic manner. Their brand power is unparallelled.”
He still wants to “produce an experience that people love and that inspires people.”
If the first Wafels & Dinges location succeeds, he plans on basing his business plan with In-N-Out in mind.
Regardless of the outcome, it’s clear there are many New Yorkers who are already inspired – and thankful for delicious, streetside waffles.
Siobhan Wallace is the co-founder of BlondieandBrownie.com.