Newark’s I Don’t Give a Fork! Food Truck Feeds the Masses at Firefly
The brainchild of University of Delaware alumna Leigh Ann Tona, I Don’t Give a Fork! takes on 65,000 concert-goers in its first year of business.
Move over cupcakes and truffle oil. Food trucks are the fastest-growing food trend on four wheels, and the most in-demand to boot. For example, Leigh Ann Tona’s I Don’t Give a Fork! food truck wasn’t even officially open for business in June 2012 when Redfrog Events contacted her with a request to feed the masses at the inaugural Firefly Music Festival the following week.
“I told them I would definitely do it the following year,” Tona says. “I still had to get my health permits and everything, but I was so excited when February 2013 rolled around and they contacted me again.”
Circa September 2012 and still within its first year of operation, Tona’s truck is typically found at 616 S. College Ave. in Newark, serving as a grab-and-go sandwich spot for hungry football fans, Newark residents and University of Delaware students throughout the year. Tona was a member of the university’s class of 2012 majoring in senior management with minors in entrepreneurial studies and international business when she pitched her idea for I Don’t Give a Fork! for the first-ever UD Idea Pitch competition, which grants winning entrepreneurs $1,500 to develop the idea into an actual business, as well as automatic admission to the Venture Development Center as a student licensee. “I’ve worked in the food service industry for years, and my initial though was ‘Why not start a restaurant?’ But I wanted to do something different, and in terms of money, it was a little more realistic to price out and create a business plan around a truck rather than a brick-and-mortar operation,” Tona says.
And while she admits that she doesn’t have any formal culinary training, her menu capitalizes on convenience, fresh ingredients and unique combinations. Ever used mac and cheese instead of provolone or Whiz on a cheesesteak? Tona does. Apple slaw to punch up a pulled pork sandwich? IDGAF! has it. And that’s just a slice of lunch – IDGAF! does breakfast as well. And while local distributors provide bread and meat for sandwiches, Tona relies on local produce hub Newark Farmer’s Market for fresh veggies.
Fast-forward to June 2013, where Tona and her truck have set up shop within The Hub, Firefly’s food and vendor satellite campus within the Speedway parking lot. How exactly did Tona plan to manage the crush of 65,000 music fans with the munchies? “I have a ton of Excel spreadsheets,” she says. “My partner and I used them to develop a plan to figure out what the maximum and minimum hourly production rates could be to keep up with inventory. I’ve never done anything like this before, so even with the spreadsheets, it’s a huge guessing game, really.”
Relying on egg-heavy breakfast offerings and narrowing the lunch menu down to four options helps: The crowd-favorite Mac & Cheesesteak, zesty Vermonter (with ham, Vermont cheddar and apple slaw), vegetarian-friendly ‘Zella and vegan Green sandwiches provide an option for just about every taste or lifestyle, of which there were many at this year’s festival. “I know that at these types of events, there are more vegetarians and vegans, so I wanted to have a unique option for everyone,” Tona says.
The cart was still alive and thriving by Sunday, clearly having avoided Tona’s worst-case scenario (“Selling out of everything on Friday would be it.”), and local festival-goers who snagged a taste of IDGAF! can revisit the truck in Newark soon enough, hopefully after Tona has taken a day or two off. As for next year’s festival, time and inventory will tell if the truck revisits Dover, but one truth remains: It’s hard enough for most businesses to survive their first year in business, let alone their first East Coast music festival. If Firefly is any indication, we’ll be seeing I Don’t Give a Fork! well past its anniversary.