Schnitzel & Things Forced to Raise Prices
A few weeks ago I did a post detailing how, despite all the hype and PR, none of the new school vendors are really making any money. Need proof? Well, here it is. After an insane week that included winning the Rookie of the Year Vendy Award, followed by countless media appearances (including this one on CNBC), the Schnitzel & Things Truck has some very sad news to report. From the owner Oleg:
This is a letter to all of our loyal fans and customers. We are raising the prices of our schnitzel platters and sandwiches by $1. We understand how important our customers are to us, and feel that you deserve an explanation as to why this is necessary. Our main goal is to consistently provide the best quality product, and with the increased demand, we’ve had to incur some new expenses, such as a full commercial kitchen as well as new staff. Our menu is diverse and includes a wide variety of options, which are prepared fresh daily, and that requires a large amount of preparation, even down to the condiments we serve. Since we did hire new staff, it is our personal belief that they deserve a living wage, which in the restaurant business is rarely seen.
We certainly do not want to increase prices, but this is the only way we can maintain the quality you’ve come to expect from us. The rest of the prices on the menu will remain the same. We wanted to proactively approach this situation and reach out to our customers directly. We hope that you will continue to support us despite the $1 increase. We thank you for understanding and hope to see you soon.
Hmmm. It’d be pretty easy to jump all over these guys for raising their prices (and I usually do) but they are selling a high quality product. Their side dishes are stand outs, they use really good meat, and they give you a ton of food. The choice between paying $10 for a platter of their schnitzel and having the truck survive, or paying $9 and having them go out of business is no choice at all. Of course if things get more expensive than that, I’m out (nobody should have to spend more than $10 on lunch- especially from a truck! After all, isn’t the whole point of street food to offer an inexpensive alternative?)
Street vending is a high volume business. You need to sell a lot of food to make any kind of money, and if your food is more complex than chicken over rice, or hot dogs it’s hard to do serious volume working in such a limited space. So, in order to make enough of this kind of food- many new vendors have found that they need a commercial kitchen… which is essentially like paying rent. (It’s also why it’s easier for Rickshaw Dumpling to stay in business than it is for a new stand alone vendor. They have a restaurant on 23rd where they can make all the food for their truck.)
That being said, the food from the Schnitzel & Things Truck is great and I don’t want to see them go out of business. But let this be a lesson to all entrepreneurs out there who think there is money to be made by going mobile and selling a higher quality product than the standard street food fare. If your business plan shows you being profitable in a shorter amount of time than it would take opening a brick and mortar store, you probably need a new business plan. It is tough to make money selling food from the street, and all the publicity and awards in the world doesn’t change that.