On a day with a dusting of snow on the ground and 19 degree temperatures in the air, customers are lining up at Chef's on the Go! Food Truck which is parked at a suburban office park.
It's a typical winter day for the crew of four that works on the food truck, which will mark two years in operation this summer. Siblings, Lou and Mary Beth Billittier, who own Chef's Restaurant at 291 Seneca St., debuted "Chef's on the Go!" in 2015 and it has since become a roving billboard for the restaurant, which dates back to 1923.
I had the chance to hop on Chef's food truck with manager Jamie Lozada to see what it's like to create spaghetti parmesan in a remote truck for cold, hungry customers on a winter day.
The Buffalo News: Is it a challenge to feed hungry customers out of a truck?
Lozada: It took a couple of years and now we have it down to a science. We know what works and what doesn't and how to transport things and how to stock things to have that speed of service. We bring the van along with paper products because this truck isn't as big as it looks.
Q: Which menu items are the best sellers?
A: Our spaghetti parm and chicken parm are definitely the most popular, hands down.
Q: Does it taste the same as in the restaurant?
A: It's exactly the same as the restaurant. The same sauce, the same meatballs, it's the same chicken, the same cheese, the same butter. Everything is the same. One of the big draws is that we will pack stuff up to go. People come to get orders to take home. We bag them just like we do in the restaurant so they can take dinner home to the family.
Q: So the only thing missing is the checkered tablecloth?
A: But we have the box that reminds you of the table cloth. Lou designed it. It's convenient for people to walk around and eat. They can put their thumb in the hole and wander and eat Chef's at the same time. It holds your food, drink, bread, silverware - everything is in there. It holds your whole lunch or dinner.
Q: You worked in the restaurant before managing the food truck. Was that a big change for you?
A: It wasn't much of an adjustment. It's the same concept. It's the same quality and quantity. It's just a little hotter during summer and a little colder during winter.
Q: You serve a lot of comfort food. Is it busier in the winter when people want a hot meal?
A: It's busy, but it's actually busier in summer. I don't know if that has to do with waiting in line in the cold. We do a lot of lunches. We are booked for lunch through October right now.
People like getting outside and they want to be outside on their lunch break. Maybe it's the box! They can sit down and eat lunch right there.
Q: People actually come and find you?
A: Yes! Our schedule is on the website. Everything we book, we put on the website. The whole schedule for the year is on there. We tweet and Facebook where we'll be for the day and we have quite a following. We do places consistently.
We also encourage them to put our flyers out and remind nearby businesses that we are coming. We also get surrounding businesses as customers so it's really great if they spread the word.
Q: Which locations bring out the biggest crowds?
A: We do major sales at hospitals like Kenmore Mercy, Millard Fillmore and ECMC - we're a big hit with them. And also at schools, we do really well.
Q: Do you take credit cards?
A: Yes. All major credit cards.
Q: Do you serve drinks too?
A: We have canned Coke products and bottled water to complete the package.
Q: But no wine like the restaurant?
A: You can put that in the suggestion box.
Q: What's the most common response you get from customers?
A: We hear a lot of thanks for coming or happy you're here or you made my day. It could be slow and someone says that and that's fantastic to hear and makes it all worthwhile.