With bubble temperatures and stifling humidity, the best way to freshen up this summer may be to get a decadent smoothie bowl from Buoy Bowls, the first Acai Triangle bowl food truck.
The most popular food truck item is the Brotella Bowl, an acai bowl filled with fruit, Nutella, granola and coconut flakes. The food truck also sells pitaya bowls and a wide range of smoothies.
After tasting an acai bowl for the first time in San Diego, owner Derek Sharpe decided to open an acai bowl food truck when he realized there was no place to take them to the Triangle and started brainstorming ideas for food truck aspects while worked at that corporate job.
“What you often hear is that people differ in inspiration or despair, and for me, it was a bit of both,” Sharpe said. “So I kept my corporate job, but at night, I’ll kind of have a game plan, like how to get this food truck and what to do, and that went on for months.”
Sharpe soon realized that his prior planning would not lead to success, and he quit his job to pursue his dream full-time.
“If you are going to be successful in anything, I believe you have to get everything inside,” Sharpe said. “You don’t have to have all the answers right away, but you understand them as you go.”
After building for six months, the food truck opened to the public for the first time in October 2016 with Sharpe driving the truck himself. With a beach theme in mind, Sharpe named the Buoy Bowls food truck after his dog, Buoy. Before the food truck opened, Sharpe began spreading the Buoy Bowls name using social media.
“It started very slowly,” Sharpe said. “It was just me for the first two months. I would take orders, melt them, add extras and give the bowl, and then just repeat it. The first day, we probably made a hundred dollars, but I was drawn. I just kept using social media. ”
After the first two months, with the weather getting colder, Sharpe thought the business would slow down and he would have a chance to get better acquainted with running the Buoy Bowls, especially due to his lack of experience. Instead, the opposite happened. During the year the Buoy Bowls gained so much popularity that customers would stand in line waiting for the food truck to arrive.
“It just started to catch the pull, and I continued to use social media and connect with our community,” Sharpe said. “I do not even think it took a year to get the second truck and we have added a new truck every year since then. So October 1 this year will be five years, and we are in the process of building our fifth truck now, and it will go to Wilmington. “
Most businesses these days have some sort of social media presence, and Buoy Bowls is no different. The food truck has regular posts and interactions with its customers on Facebook and Instagram.
After hearing entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk speak in Vegas and reading his book, The Economy Thank You, Sharpe realized the importance of putting customers first and emphasizing customer service and connection beyond anything else. Sharpe also stated the importance of self-promotion and communication with customers.
“We just kept posting pictures,” Sharpe said. “I mean, one: we have acai cups that are photogenic, right?” So people like to take pictures and tag themselves. We also use stories on Instagram; we try to take 10 to 15 pictures per truck of our customers and then put them in our stories, and our customers like to be in our stories and on our main Instagram page. “It’s just that connection and understanding with the community that we are in a digital age and that you can promote yourself.”
Sharpe attributes the Buoy Bowls popularity to the culture he has built among his food trucks.
“If you do not have cohesion among your team members, they are not excited to come to work, they are crawling and complaining and do not want to be there,” Sharpe said. “It will be difficult to get that legendary customer service for our employees. We have never hired anyone just to fill a position. It has to be an adjustment. You have to have that disorder and be calm in front of a crowd and be able to engage and have a conversation with every customer and that legendary customer service.
Part of this customer service involves spending an extra mile letting customers create their own unique cups.
“We have eight cups and now there are a thousand ways to make those eight cups because customers come up with ways to want them,” Sharpe said. “Not everyone will accommodate them and whatever you want to do, we will do it ready. Services is legendary customer service, ensuring that every customer leaves with a happier smile than when they showed up. ”
When it comes to future goals, Sharpe has been considering the franchise since 2019 with plans to release and offer franchises on the go. Over 50 people inside and outside North Carolina are already interested.
Sharpe’s top priority is to grow Buoy Bowls and shrink business.
“When you grow a business, you can no longer work in the business,” Sharpe said. “You have to work in business. What this means is that I have to get off those trucks. I have to go out day by day and add managers, assistant managers and shifts. I would like to get out of the daily work of trucks and focus on the exclusivity and opening of our trucks in other cities. “
After all, Sharpe dedicates the success of the Buoy Bowls to his team.
“I just set the wheel in motion and created a foundation and a culture of what I believe a team should do,” Sharpe said. “Our team is absolutely amazing and they are the reason we continue to win awards. It’s the whole team, and I definitely think they need recognition as well. ”