Startup Interview: Alphabetical Soups and Salads Spills the ‘BETS
Alphabetical Foods – “Go-To Dudes” For Your Fresh, Convenient Foods!While traveling to Columbus, Ohio recently, we had a special opportunity to catch up with a fresh entrepreneur that has put everything on the table (hopefully yours) to bring you a fresh, convenient lunchtime alternative.
Alphabetical Foods currently operates the eye-catching, attention-commanding food truck proudly wrapped with the nameAlphabetical Soups & Salads and a massive cartoon embodiment of owner / operator Jordan Lamatrice.
Before meeting up with Mr. Lamatrice to get our own ladle full of insight, we read a fascinating article from about their behind-the-scenes ride-along. We loved the startup story and knew we had to meet with him personally.
We needed to pick his brain for aspiring entrepreneurs who might lack the background to do what their heart is telling them, but want to jump in cannonball-style anyway.
Understatement: “Jordan Took A Risk.”
In the article it was noted that Lamatrice had virtually no kitchen experience as he entered into a saturated segment — food trucks. Jordan stated confidently, “… I think that’s what you’re supposed to do: give something a chance.” It’s been seven months now and his dream has become a reality. He is definitely glad he gave his business venture a chance. It became clear during our discussion that he wouldn’t have it any other way.
We gained great insights for aspiring entrepreneurs that feel like they might not have the background or experience needed to launch a startup. Day-by-day he is making it happen, learning on the fly, and living life on his own terms. Jordan’s passion for food is rivaled by his appreciation of his patrons and his desire to inspire others to experience what he is experiencing.
Read his words of wisdom, check out our teasers, and read the rest of the interview to learn all you can about his startup story. Then, go out and get some of their Alphabetical Soups & Salads. The word on the street is, they’re SOUP•R•GOOD and SOUP•R•FAST. #soupson
Words Of Wisdom And Appreciation
I would strongly advise anyone who is on the cusp and finds themselves thinking, ‘Is this something I really want to do? Is this something I should try?’ to just try it because the coolest thing in the world is just seeing your vision and ideas coming together. It was almost mind-blowing… – Jordan Lamatrice
My advice to new entrepreneurs: “Regardless of what business you’re in, it’s really great to have that part of your brain that’s 400 steps ahead. You’re already thinking about what it’s gonna be like when you’ve got this and that, and your paying someone to do something, and you’ve got some things worked out. That’s all great. That’s what makes you and entrepreneur; you’re a dreamer. But, the other 90% of the time, you need to just focus on what’s in front of you. Make that work the best you can, then move forward from there.”
This is a lesson I’ve learned that helped me cut my kitchen time in half. The first time we did bulk cooking in the kitchen, it was a nightmare. We were there for almost 14 hours. We made some mistakes that set us back and we just had to barrel through. The second time I focused all of my energy and time strictly on cooking that day and how to make it more efficient in the moment. Just by being completely focused we cut our kitchen time down to seven hours.
I would strongly advise anyone who is on the cusp and finds themselves thinking, “Is this something I really want to do? Is this something I should try?” to just try it because the coolest thing in the world is just seeing your vision and ideas coming together. It was almost mind-blowing, when I saw that truck parked in front of a building with people standing out in front of it. Everyone was smiling and having a good time, eating our food and waiving, and saying thanks. That was something that I had pictured in my head, that I knew was possible about seven months ago.
It took me seven months, but it’s here now. I am gonna do everything I can to make sure that it just keeps happening and gets bigger. To the aspiring entrepreneurs, I strongly advise you, “If you’re thinking about doing something like this, and you think if it’s worth it, then do it. Don’t waste your time, just do it.”
Jordan shared his appreciation, “I’m really excited that you guys are taking an interest in what I’m doing. I really appreciate the support that I’m getting. Some of it is coming from a place of a friendship and some from complete strangers really believing in what I’m doing. It makes me feel really good.”
Teasers From The Interview
Our discussion with Mr. Lamatrice was full of great insights. Here’s a peek at some of our favorite quotes.
- “When people ask ‘can you cook?’ I’m always like.. Yeah I dabble.”
- He’ll soon be getting some validation as his Tomato Soup Recipe is set to be featured in a cookbook.
- Life on the truck is hectic. “It’s almost like a rolling jigsaw puzzle.”
- “As a whole this has been the biggest challenge of my life.”
- “I don’t wanna work for anyone else any more. That seems like a really sucky idea.”
Get All The Juicy Details
Expand each question below for exclusive insights:
It was pretty cool and got us some nice exposure from a business standpoint. It has been excellent support. John painted a pretty fair picture. He followed up for a few weeks and we’re gonna continue with articles. It’ll be nice to be able to look back on it later. There a few other articles coming out soon to keep an eye out for as the business continues to gain traction. Stock and Barrel plans to have another article out in June or July, according to Lamatrice. We also learned that there’s a to check out.
When people ask ‘can you cook?’ I’m always like.. Yeah I dabble.
We asked where else we might find more about his business and learned that his Tomato Soup Recipe will be featured in a cookbook soon.
We couldn’t get enough of this guy’s personality and got Jordan to joke around a bit. He asked, “Does that make you legit, if you’re in a cookbook?” I replied, “I think it does.” Jordan recalled, “When people ask ‘can you cook?’ I’m always like.. ‘Yeah I dabble.'” Looking forward, he continued, “But, if you’re in a cookbook, you’re in an f’ing cookbook.”
When we met with Jordan we had a chance to do a walk through at . We found that it seemed to be a very convenient environment to work some culinary magic.
Jordan noted that there’s a lot that goes in to small businesses. The Commissary is it takes a way a little bit of the headaches for him; it has what they need. He shared that he has enjoyed spending time around other food trucks and they’ve been quite helpful. “They’ve been pretty cool and cooperative about sharing little tips and tricks.” Some people are new there so he’s been able to sort of share in their struggles, while others have been around the block for a while. Both perspectives have been helpful as he learns and grows.
The launch party at The Commissary went pretty well. There was a decent turnout of about 35 guests. They were prepared for, and expected, about 90 people. “You kind of set an expectation in your head.” Recently, he’s been working on balancing proper expectations. He’s learning how to deal with things go much better than expected and things don’t go nearly as well as expected. He made it clear that, while it wasn’t nearly what he expected, he was really excited about those who came out to support him. The crowd consisted of his close friends and family, some friends of friends (via word of mouth), and some people he’s supported locally.
With us it’s just simple down home cooking recipes with good, fast, and friendly service. We have an excellent product, fast service, and are relatively inexpensive. For what’s next Jordan shared, “I have a vision. The plan is to one day have multiple trucks that will serve different foods. Right now we operate one food truck. We basically specialize in your standard lunch rush with our variety of soups and fresh salad. Soon we’re going to be essentially reinventing the ingredients and making a statement in the late night scene. We have some night gigs coming up and I’m pretty excited about that. We’re gonna offer some pretty cool, unique items. I would love to say that the next step is going to be another truck and starting catering, but those are definitely in the plans for later.”
Even other food truck people are like man, your truck is just so cool looking.
So far, the public reaction has been pretty cool. A lot of people seem to have responded really well to the product. People are raving about our chicken tortilla soup; I can’t seem to make enough of it, which is great. People are starting to dig the concept and are enjoying the food. Especially with the ‘BETS, the deep fried alphabets, they’re asking for them. I’m really glad people are starting to like them. We’re trying to think of new ways we could package, use, and sell them to make them a heavier trade mark. That’s pretty much what I wanted it to be, a trade mark. When people see deep fried alphabets on top of a soup, I want them to say something like, “Oh, man the alphabetical truck’s here, that’s sweet.” That’s the end game, and I think one day we will get there.
As for the truck, it was a well put together package and idea. I’m a marketing kid, so I knew how to do that pretty decently. Instead of just having a food truck with a quirky name, I wanted a food truck with a quirky name and a quirky graphic. I wanted wild colors, I wanted it to be big, and I wanted it to be bold. It had to be very cartoony so people notice it. Is it working? Yeah, “Even other food truck people are like man, your truck is just so cool looking.” That really warms my hear, because I put a lot of work, thought, and time in to that. I’m glad it’s paying off.
“It’s Hectic. It’s almost like a rolling jigsaw puzzle.”
I’m not completely unfamiliar with kitchens. Growing up in Steubenville, I was a bus boy. I never really cooked, but I was always around a kitchen. What I wasn’t really used to is, with a food truck, you have different needs for different times of the day. You don’t have space for everything you need all of the times you need it. It’s a constant moving game; there’s a lot of structure and planning involved. You have to be mentally aware of a lot, not just in the kitchen, but also things like truck maintenance. “Sometimes in the food game, it’s just cooking your ass off non-stop.” That’s essentially what our first couple of weeks were. I just couldn’t make enough volume and didn’t have scalability in mind when I first started the operation. I was working about 15 hours days.
… It takes time for these things to work.
I do the best that I can to stay motivated, sometimes that really is a struggle. That’s why it’s awesome to have Mark around. Mark is very level-headed. When I’m not doing so hot, when I’m freaking out, Mark is pretty good at just being able to absorb most of that. He doesn’t let it get to him too much and tries to turn it around a little bit. Other times, he just lets me blow off steam until we’re ready to move on. Mark has always been great about keeping a level head and perspective.
We’d had a string of bad days and I was just pacing around the truck upset. Mark said to me, “Man this stuff is gonna take time, you gotta chill. You can’t just expect to be blowing it out of the water. You’ve gotta give it some time; you’ve gotta let your brand develop. There’s nothing really wrong with what you’re doing… It takes time for these things to work.” When I need to be leveled out, he tries to keep me level. He lets me ride when I need to ride.
I don’t wanna work for anyone else any more. That seems like a really sucky idea.
I’m definitely glad I gave it a chance. I can’t imagine working this hard for anything else. “I think that kind of sums it up.” Right now, I’m still enjoying myself. It’s a blast and I think things are going to pick up. We’re getting more coverage, more friends, and more out in the public view. “I don’t want to work for anyone else any more. That seems like a really sucky idea.”
This is a pretty cool gig, but it’s hard. We’ve already hit some highs and some lows. But, we’re making it work; we’re pushing. We are doing the best we can and that’s all we can expect from ourselves for the time being. I don’t have that lingering feeling of ‘I’m going to get in trouble’. No one else really cares what I’m doing, but that can also be bad at times. There is so much that you need to know, remember, and keep track of and there is no one else holding you accountable if you forget. There is just so much to do all the time. Even the slowest day, within two phone calls, can turn in to one of the busiest days of the week. It’s a lot of fun, but man it’s a lot more work.
As a whole this has been the biggest challenge of my life…
Sometimes, it’s really hard. I would say, the first day of this job was mentally the most stressful day ever. I was pretty freaked out. From the day we did all the cooking, to actual serving on that Monday, I was just shaking. I was so nervous. I felt like I didn’t have enough time to walk anywhere so I was literally running around. It was absolutely absurd.
I calmed down after that first day. I had decided to talk to my very successful entrepreneur buddy, Hector. He helped ease my mind by sharing his stories and struggles from when he was starting out. He gave some advice that resonated with me: “At the end of the day I just didn’t want the 40 hour work week and have to listen to someone else. I’d much rather take the 100 hour work week and not listen to anybody.” I remember sitting back at the end of that week and thinking “man that was crazy.”
Pretty much everything about this has been a challenge. It’s something that I’m just not familiar with. Everything has had it’s own set of challenges. The overall operation of the business has been the biggest challenge. Even learning how to drive the vehicle and figuring out what kind of equipment I need was a challenge. What I’ve done to overcome the challenges along the way is just kept my head up the best I can and stayed very flexible. Staying flexible mentally, accepting defeats, and celebrating wins. “As a whole this has been the biggest challenge of my life, there’s been nothing in particular.” But, I realized the struggle has it’s own reward. I don’t want to struggle forever, no one does, but it feels really nice to be testing myself this way for a while.
Jordan offered this advice to aspiring food truck entrepreneurs, “Go with the flow and do your best to keep your head up no matter what. It’s a hard gig; there’s a lot that’s involved with it. You’re gonna work as hard as you possibly can. As lame, corny, and cliché as this sounds, ‘Expect the unexpected.’ There is so much that has happened so far … that I just never really anticipated. But, it’s worth it.”