In the early days of Torchy’s Tacos, founder Michael Rypka took to his red Vespa scooter and traversed the streets of Austin, handing out chips and salsa to draw customers to his fledgling food trailer. Now the succesful taco vendor is hitting the road once more, this time with a decked-out Taco Truck that is available for private events in Austin.
For Torchy’s — which operates more than 50 locations in Texas, Colorado and Oklahoma — the truck hearkens back to its humble beginnings when most of its business was done on wheels. But it’s also a valuable asset for the company as it looks to capitalize on significant demand for catering. The company has mostly held off on private bookings as it focused on expanding brick-and-mortar operations.
“There’s a big demand for it,” Rypka said. “We’ve shied away from them to some degree, mainly because our stores are so busy. We really wanted to make sure we take care of the people in our four walls first.”
The July 1 announcement that the truck is now available for private bookings marked the end of a nearly three-year process. The company partnered with Cruising Kitchens LLC, a San Antonio-based fabricator of custom food trucks, to design a truck that meets the restaurant’s specifications. Completed in June 2016, the truck is 30 feet long and features the standard kitchen elements, plus two 42-inch televisions and the familiar “Torchy” red devil mascot at the head of the truck.
The company has spent the past year testing and tweaking the Taco Truck on a limited basis, showing up last June at the X Games in Austin and traveling around Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado. Rypka said they wanted to make sure the truck had been tested thoroughly before being made available for private events. He estimates the truck can serve 400 to 500 walk-up customers, and even more if is is used purely as a kitchen while another service area is set up elsewhere at the venue.
Rypka said requests to book the original Torchy’s trailer, which operates in a trailer park on South First Street, were hard to fulfill, mainly because that meant uprooting the trailer and leaving patrons who travelled to that location out of luck.
“It’s something we’ve wanted to do for even longer than the last two or three years, but you also have to pick and choose your battles,” Rypka said. “I’d rather say no to somebody than say yes and then have to back out.”
For now, the Taco Truck will mainly focus on private bookings. But larger events could also be added to the mix.
“It’ll do some festivals,” Rypka said. “The main focus for it is going to be private, corporate events. But we’ll definitely cherry-pick some festivals that we want to be a part of.”
The Taco Truck is currently only available in Austin, but Rypka said it could also travel to Dallas or Houston if demand continues to grow. More vehicles are also a possibility down the line.