Peter Lombardi, Chef and Owner
Lombardi Pizza Co., Martinsville, NJ
I started my business in 2011 when I found an old moving truck on eBay. I had it all customized, with pretty
much an entire kitchen inside, including wood-fired oven,
refrigerators, freezers, sinks—the whole nine yards. That
took about five months. With an old truck, something
is always in need of repair. I like to pick one big thing
every couple months to take care of so that I’m not hit at
once with a ton of repairs. One rule: Always expect the
unexpected to break.
Our success is almost entirely driven by word-of-mouth.
I’m not really a fan of paying for ads, articles, etc. Anyone
can buy page space that says, “We’re the Best.” Personally,
those ads turn me off—I feel it cheapens your business. I
also think customers are smart; they can smell when an ad
was purchased vs. a legitimate good review. When some-
one tells me firsthand about how good a food truck or
restaurant is, that holds a lot of weight. Although it may
take longer to grow without paying for advertisement, I
feel a better sense of accomplishment when customers
hear about us from other happy customers.
But food trucks are difficult for a couple reasons. A
lot of laws are outdated when it comes to running a
food truck. Permits can tend to be a big headache. You
can’t just pull up on a corner and start selling food—I
wish it were that easy! You need permits and inspections
for everything, and those all cost money.
We’re not like most food trucks, in the sense that we
don’t normally “street vend.” We focus primarily on private parties, weddings, birthdays, bat mitzvahs, business
events, etc. This eliminates the risk for us. We’re paid to
cater a party for a given number of people, so whether one
or 100 people eat, we’re still paid for the agreed amount.
We also have a brick-and-mortar restaurant, which helps
eliminate waste. If we have extra ingredients left over from
a truck event, they’re put back into the restaurant.
Food trucks are also hard in New Jersey because you
have a big off season. I often tell people that if they’re
interested in getting a food truck, they should move to
warmer weather, somewhere you can run the truck at full
capacity year-round. Luckily, I have a restaurant that can
float me through the colder months.
“With an old truck, something is always in need of repair.
Always expect the unexpected to break.”
—PETER LOMBARDI, LOMBARDI PIZZA CO.
Some food truck operators, such as
Lombardi Pizza Co., also establish a
brick-and-mortar location to supplement
business during off seasons.