When Colin Lear started his lunch truck business in 1979 he had no ambitions other than having a go at a one-man-van venture. Now close to 40 years later Lear services around 30,000 customers daily and operates a fleet of vans under the moniker Tasty Fresh Food Co.
These days food vans are a staple of most major cities, but when Lear started the business, convincing people to buy their lunch from a food truck was an innovation.
“Each morning I would put together some sandwiches and rolls, put them onto the lunch truck and go out and see what I could convince people to buy from the van. Buy their morning teas and lunches.”
Lear discovered early on that fresh and fast were key. Today he operates a number of industrial kitchens to service his vans’ 140 rounds of service with fresh tasty food each day.
“We prepare everything here at our production facility in Ferntree Gully for our Melbourne business. We have 80 vans out on the road and we cover the footprint of every industrial area in Melbourne, even out to Geelong. In New South Wales, in Newcastle, we have a kitchen where we produce all our sandwiches, rolls and we service our Sydney vehicles out of there. We have the same set up in Perth.”
Growing a business from zero to hero is no mean feat, and Lear attributes much of his success to people power and the support of his bank.
“The person in the van is the absolute highest point of success for our business. So, what we need to do is create a place where the people that operate our vans want to be part of the Tasty business,” he explains.
To do this, Lear come up with what he calls a “vanchise” model for the business, saying he built up Tasty Fesh brick-by-brick.
“We’ve never really tried to do it too quickly. So, what we’ve done is build our business on fresh daily, reliable service, friendly people that are out there every day seeing their customers. That’s really against what the lunch truck industry has been seen to be over all the years.
“It was outstandingly successful,” he tells KBB. “I would never compromise on the freshness aspect of our business. We hold that dearly to our heart, and I think the customers would know if we tried to cut corners on that. That’s a really core pillar of our success.”
As any small business owner would understand, there can be a lot of moving parts to keep a business on the go. Building up a successful ‘vanchise’ such as Tasty Fresh Food takes a lot of investment. Lear tells KBB he has been fortunate in having the support of his bank.
“With Tasty it’s a very capital-intensive business and it requires a lot of capital to continue to grow the business. Every vehicle has got a reasonable cost to it, and as I said we put those together ourselves. So what we’ve found has been fantastic with the NAB is that we use a leasing plan with them.
“All of our, some 160 vehicles that we have in our fleet now, are all on a leasing payment with NAB. They’ve even customised the way we use that leasing plan over a certain time that suits us to renewal, and a starting point of repayments. The NAB have been fantastic in the way they’ve worked with us to customise that plan.”
Watch the Tasty Truck story