Gandolfo's Attempts Franchising Magic Trick with Deli Sandwiches

A new food truck is en route to Dallas. The mobile food vendor in question, Gandolfo's New York Delicatessen, is part of an ambitious plan by owner Pool's Restaurant Group for large-scale franchising of food trucks, and in the case of Randy Wolken, master franchiser for DFW, a way to build a brand locally before opening a physical store. His goal is to have three Gandolfo's trucks roving our streets by year's end, with a projected 10 more trucks in the next five years. A bricks-and-mortar location is planned for the first quarter of 2012. Wolken will use his trucks as scouts while searching for the best spot for a store. His development agreement is for 40 stores (including trucks) throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Wolken and Georgia-based Pool's aren't the first to test these waters. Food and beverage manufacturers like Heinz and Familia Camarena Tequila have made forays into the food truck business for marketing purposes. Wolken won't be the first truck operator to open a storefront either. Franklin BBQ, a popular Austin food trailer owned by Aaron Franklin, opened a bricks-and-mortar shop last month.

Pool's, however, has the most chutzpah. The Dallas truck is the first of a nationwide convoy of Gandolfo's trucks. "The number of franchised trucks is exceeding the number of franchised stores," said Wolken, who was passing Mobile, Alabama, on Interstate 10 while we spoke, having picked up the vehicle in Miami. A truck will even vend the company's signature sandwiches in Idaho Falls, a modest-size city in southeast Idaho, a town in which I once lived as a child.

This shouldn't come as a surprise. The food-truck boom exhibits no indication of slowing and its Kool-Aid-sipping typhoon has already come to town.

Michael Siegel, owner of Green House Truck in the Park Cities, has always had the goal of expansion. "A fleet of trucks in Dallas was part of the plan from the beginning," he said. In Fort Worth, the Yum-Yum Truck is one of three of its kind in Texas. It has siblings in Houston and Weatherford. Yes, Weatherford. "There are obstacles, but they're not insurmountable when you're serious," said Wolken, regarding Dallas regulations. "Dallas is a great food city. Trucks and trailers are a natural fit."

If the city council votes this week to amend the codes that stymie the presence of food trucks and trailers in the Arts District and Lower Greenville Avenue, with, hopefully, the rest of Dallas to follow, Yum-Yum Truck could roll into town for more than special events like Earth Day Dallas last weekend. It wouldn't be alone. More out-of-town concerns would have mobile outlets in Dallas, giving further credence to Dallas' reputation as a chain-store wonderland.

In the meantime, expect Wolken to be serving about 35-40 gourmet iterations of deli sandwiches (approximately half of the normal selection) in Dallas this weekend, with the remainder of the menu available by the first of next year.

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José Ralat Maldonado