Interview: Randy Wolken of Gandolfo’s New York Deli Truck

by Stephanie Hawkes | DFW Food Truck Foodie

One of the things I have enjoyed most about the food trucks is meeting people, not only the other customers but those who are bringing the trucks to life each day. These men and women are incredibly passionate about what they are doing and the food they are serving. I was also noticing that they all had a story of how their truck came about and how their life evolved into being a part of one of the fastest growing small business concepts, not only in Dallas-Fort Worth but in the U.S.

First up, Randy Wolken, owner of Wolken Restaurant Group, LLC with Gandolfo’s New York Deli Truck.

DFW Food Truck Foodie What did you do before you were a food truck owner?

Wolken: First half of my life, I was a restaurant manager, bar manager, and owner of a high-end catering service. The last 20 years, I was a financial analyst for several global investment firms.

How did you come up with the name for your business?

Gandolfo’s is a franchise operation that has been around for 20 years. The name was easy; I developed the whole food truck operation for Dallas, which was the first in the nation for Gandolfo’s. I am a bit of a maverick in that I run my truck like a mom and pop, but as the master franchiser for DFW, I use a franchise system to run the financials and operations. I also use my truck as a branding tool for the brand and also to locate future bricks and mortar locations.

What made you decide to have a food truck rather than a bricks and mortar restaurant?

First of all, I am an adrenaline junkie, and a new way to operate a restaurant appealed to me on every level. As I said above, the truck is also a tool for divining new locations for bricks and mortars for myself.

What is your favorite menu item?

I am a traditionalist when it comes to delis and love a great pastrami on rye with either our spicy mustard or homemade Russian dressing.

What has been the biggest reward of having a food truck?

Being face to face with our guests!

What has been the biggest challenge of having a food truck?

We are writing the book on food trucks. Operations are a constant exercise in discovery.

Most marketing for food trucks is through social media. Do you see that as a benefit or challenge to you and why?

Most is the key word, but not all of the marketing is social media. Understand that and you have won half of the battle. Anything too easy sends warning signs up to me. Thinking that social media is easy is a big mistake. It is a time consuming exercise done correctly. I don’t see it as a challenge, unless you don’t give it the attention that it deserves. Running a food truck is harder than a bricks and mortar, make no mistake!

You spent most days of this summer on a food truck. Where can we find you when you aren’t on a truck?

When I am not on a food truck, I am marketing the food truck. Otherwise, I am looking for adrenaline challenges to keep my interest. I participate in Highland Games competitions now and lift weights. I have a bucket list a mile long, which lists items like mountain climbing, backpacking, fly fishing, flying planes, diving underwater caves, and pursuing the best bourbon and cigars on the planet!

If you could only cook one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

That is not possible for me. I am a huge lover of food and would never want to burn myself out on anything. But given some choice, it would be simple … grilled rare steak, served with our sour cream potato salad from Gandolfo’s!

What would you like to see in the DFW food truck scene in the next two years?

More private business owners willing to let food trucks invade their parking lots and bring more customers/attention to their businesses. A partnership that actually works for both parties. No contracts or fees, just good old effective business tactics that are a win/win/win for the business, truck owner, and consumer.