Video: How Food Trucks Can Survive With COVID-19 and Economic Downturn

Bryan McNeil-Walker

Recently our CTO Omari Sanders sat down with Twana James to discuss his thoughts on the current state of the economy and some advice that he would give to food truck owners dealing with the current economic conditions.

Video: How Food Trucks Can Survive With COVID-19 and Economic Downturn

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Recently our CTO Omari Sanders sat down with Twana James to discuss his thoughts on the current state of the economy.  He reflects on how he got started in tech, why Uncord and Gopheed.me were developed, and some advice that he would give to food truck owners dealing with the current economic conditions.

 

Transcript

Twana James (00:10):

Hi, I’m Twana James and I’m here with Omari Sanders. Omari is a managing partner with Sanventure and the chief technology officer of Uncord Technologies. Today we’re discussing Uncord’s flagship product, GoPheed.me. GoPheed.me was developed for food trucks to increase their revenue, eliminate wait times, and retain customers.

Welcome, Omari. How are you and how is your family staying safe in these strange and difficult times we’re in?

Omari Sanders (00:38):

We’re great. We’re just adapting to the new reality. Definitely practicing social distancing, and washing our hands probably more than we ever thought we would in a day.

But really just trying to stay healthy, stay focused and keeping, I’d say, a positive attitude towards everything that’s coming towards us during this pandemic.

Twana James (00:58):

I understand that you studied economics in college. How did you transition to software development?

 

Omari Sanders (01:06):

Software development and I would say more in the sense of IT, has kind of been a part of me since 1984. So, my father brought an IBM XT computer, which is a very old computer by today’s standards.

He brought that home and I’d definitely say it changed my life. And I’ve been in computers ever since. So, growing up, we’ll say, late ’80s, bulletin board systems, I was definitely involved in tinkering with those types of things.

I ended up, in high school, taking an economics class and that changed my perspective with understanding business and capitalism, so I decided I wanted to get a degree in economics.

 

Omari Sanders (01:48):

At the same time, I was still in computers, I was still taking computer science classes in high school. Went to college, got a degree in economics. Came out during the dot com era, which is now we consider a bubble. But at that time it was this time of opulence. People would drive it around and Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s and if felt like money was just flowing out of the heavens.

And I was working for an association and I was the youngest person there.

And so, they were like, “Hey, we need somebody to take over the website,” because the other person had left for another job. And so, I was the youngest person and they just threw me into it. So that was kind of the way I kind of fell back into IT in a professional realm.

 

Omari Sanders (02:35):

Dotcom falls out. I was doing a lot of website, web mastering type work. And I decided that if I wanted to stay in this business I needed to get a little bit deeper into it. So, that’s where I kind of really got deeper into software development. And so, that’s where I’ve been ever since.

 

Twana James (02:54):

What is GoPheed.me, and how did the business come about?

 

Omari Sanders (02:58):

Sure. My partner Bryan McNeil-Walker and I, we started a company called Uncord Technologies a couple years ago. And our goal was to really work with small businesses, in particular restaurants, and helping them get the orders to the kitchen.

We were shocked to find that some restaurants were still using fax machines, and we felt as though that we could eliminate that bottleneck by providing SIM card-based technology.

And the SIM card’s, basically the chip that’s in your phone. So, we provide printers with that technology, and we put those into kitchens, and we direct the orders directly to it through our platform. So, GoPheed.me really came out of that.

 

Omari Sanders (03:38):

We had some success with that with our restaurants, and so what we’ve determined is that we could provide that solution for the niche market of food trucks. And so, we kind of studied the market and we were able to determine that we could build a full suite solution to tackle some of the pain points that food truck operators have.

 

Twana James (03:59):

You’ve been in the business for a while, and I’m sure you’ve experienced economic downturns in the past. How did you manage to survive?

 

Omari Sanders (04:09):

Really, I’d say the two biggest things, one big thing is understanding your customer. A lot of the work that I’ve done with my different businesses is really, what they consider, backend work. It’s not sexy. The type of work we do is not always consumer-focused, or consumer-based. It’s really the nuts and bolts of a company.

We’re behind-the-scenes, we’re helping a company become more efficient, helping with their processes, building technology to meet those needs. And one of the mottoes I have is that if we can help a company stay in business, it helps us stay in business.

So, if you help them through the tough economic times, the ebbs and flows, what you’ll realize is that you’ll come along for the ride.

 

Twana James (05:02):

From an economist’s perspective, give us a description of the business landscape in our country right now.

 

Omari Sanders (05:09):

It is definitely challenging for a lot of businesses. I mean, as we see, certain industries they’re taking a hit. But, in the same respect, certain industries, for example, video conferencing, distribution of TV across the internet, like Netflix these things are taking off.

We were already using these products, but now we’re kind of dependent upon them. So, the thing about capitalism is that there is winners and losers in all aspects.

So certain businesses, if they are built to, let’s say, capitalize on the current situation they’ll rise to the top while others, unfortunately, will have a harder time adapting, as well as surviving. So, that’s the unfortunate part of the current situation.

 

Twana James (06:07):

Well, getting back to GoPheed.me, tell us why is this product so important right now?

 

Omari Sanders (06:15):

A lot of our norms are now different. You’re starting to hear the word like the new norm or the new normal. One of the things that we’re facing is that, for example, businesses that are mobile are able to take advantage of this new reality.

So, for GoPheed.me it fits that narrative. A lot of these food trucks, they have the ability to go and meet their customer.

 

They’re not dependent upon their customer coming to them.  And that, in our current situation, of lockdowns and shutdowns that’s becoming more prevalent. So, for a food truck, this is the prime opportunity being a mobile-based business to, basically, go to where the customer is at instead of the customer coming to them.

 

Twana James (07:03):

So, if I’m a food truck owner and I’m feeling like maybe I should give up, or there’s no hope for continuing my business, what advice do you have for me?

 

Omari Sanders (07:12):

I would definitely say don’t give up. You have a competitive advantage just by being mobile and being able to move gives you that ability to kind of, like I said earlier, go to where the customer is. I firmly believe that we’re going to come into a time, in the not too distant future, where customers will expect business to come to them instead of us going to where the business is located.

We have to come to grips with that new reality. And certain businesses will be able to take advantage of that, and I definitely feel as though food trucks will be at the forefront of that.

 

Twana James (07:53):

GoPheed.me has an online resource center, tell us a little bit about that.

 

Omari Sanders (07:58):

Sure. We launched a resource center called savethefoodtrucks.com, and what we’ve done is we’ve kind of curated a bunch of information to kind of help these businesses survive and thrive.

Right now, a lot of businesses are in a survival mode and we want to be able to help them with resources, access to some of the government programs, some programs that we’ve actually, ourselves internally as a startup, we’ve kind of come up with to kind of help these food trucks survive as well as thrive on the other side of this.

So, I’d definitely say it’s kind of like a project that we’ve kind of taken on to kind of help the food truck industry.

 

Omari Sanders (08:37):

One of the things we’ve noticed is that it’s a culture. Food trucks they’re part of a close-knit community. I’ve spent quite a few days on food trucks actually talking to food truck owners, getting to know them. And one of the things you realize it’s kind of like a brotherhood.

It’s a close-knit community and we kind of want to do our part to kind of help them through this difficult moment, as well as helping them on the other side so that we all can win.

 

Twana James (09:10):

That is excellent. What does the future look like for GoPheed.me?

 

Omari Sanders (09:15):

Sure. The future I believe is great, even in the midst of the storm I definitely see the opportunity. We’ve built a product that we’ve kind of tested, like I said, for the last 18 months with food trucks, talking to them, getting their feedback, tweaking it, working with them to kind of answer the mail for their needs.

I feel as though the opportunity is really large in a sense that a lot of brick and mortar businesses or brick mortar restaurants will be looking at the food truck industry as a new opportunity.

And I feel as though food trucks that are already in business will be able to grow and increase their customer size. And I definitely feel as though our product will be able to help them achieve that.

 

Twana James (10:07):

What advice do you have for small businesses, in general, right now who are just trying to survive?

 

Omari Sanders (10:14):

The biggest advice I have is two things is, make sure that your relationship with your customer or your customer base is secure. They’re going through pain and you’re feeling it too, but communicating directly with them, keeping them abreast of the changes in your own business, as well as how you can help.

The other thing I would definitely say is burn rate, look at your burn rate as a company.

See what services that you’re paying for, evaluate them on a daily, if now weekly basis, to determine if you really need them. And then, just really look at the return of investment on those services and see are they helping your bottom line?

 

Twana James (10:54):

How can food trucks sign up for GoPheed.me?

 

Omari Sanders (10:57):

Sure. The quickest way is simply go to growmyfoodtruck.com. Go to the site and you’ll see a button that says, Get In Touch With a Rep, fill out the form, and that starts the process.

 

Twana James (11:09):

Thank you so much for your time, Omari.

 

Omari Sanders (11:11):

Thank you.

 

Twana James (11:12):

I’m Twana James and we’ll see you guys again soon.

 

Outtake

Twana James (11:16):

How can food trucks sign up for GoPheed.me?

 

Omari Sanders (11:19):

Sure. The simplest and quickest way is just simply go to growmyfoodtruck.com. You go on the site, you’ll see a button that says … what does the button say? [laughter]. I was doing so great.

 

Twana James (11:29):

[inaudible 00:11:36].

 

Omari Sanders (11:29):

I know.

 

Twana James (11:29):

This should be easy.

 

Omari Sanders (11:29):

Bear with me one moment.

 

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