Food truck spotlight: Chiddy’s CheeseSteaks
In 2015, restaurant sales surpassed supermarket sales for the first time in almost 20 years. This trend is causing shopping center owners to shift their tenant mix to include more one-of-a-kind dining experiences for shoppers with constantly changing tastes, which includes food trucks. Food trucks represent an estimated $2.7 billion industry. With a wide array of concepts, each with their own unique themes, food trucks can be viewed as a vehicle for enhancing the customer experience and driving traffic to nearby apparel and service tenants.
Take Kimco’s Market at Bay Shore in Bay Shore, New York, for example. Long Islanders don’t have to trek all the way to Philadelphia to get an award-winning cheesesteak. They can roll up to Chiddy’s CheeseSteaks food truck during a shopping break for a quick bite of delicious food.
We spoke with Mike Chidester, owner of Chiddy’s CheeseSteaks, about what it’s like to own a food truck and his experience at Market at Bay Shore.
How did Chiddy’s CheeseSteaks begin?
Mike Chidester: Over a beer at a bar! My friend and I were discussing my idea of Chiddy’s CheeseSteaks knowing that there seemed to be a void on Long Island for an authentic Philly cheesesteak. My friend does a lot of business on the West Coast and frequents the food trucks out there for lunch. He suggested taking the Chiddy’s CheeseSteaks idea and putting it in a food truck. The rest is history!
How long have you been at Market at Bay Shore?
Chidester: This is our third year at Market at Bay Shore. We opened in April of 2014.
Do you participate in any food truck events?
Chidester: Yes. We travel all over Long Island for festivals, street fairs, and do catering for just about any occasion.
Congratulations on being named a best place to get a Philly cheesesteak on Long Island by Newsday! What is your secret?
Chidester: It’s all about the bread and the steak! We use the Amoroso roll, which we get brought up from Philly, and we use a rib-eye steak. After that, it’s all about the TLC.
What are some of your specialty food items?
Chidester: We have many — The Chipotle Chicken, The Buffalo Chicken, The Squealin Philly, The Chiddy Dog, Steak & Eggs, empanadas, cheesesteak tacos, The Very Veggie (for our vegan friends), and fresh-cut fries.
What is your favorite dish to make?
Chidester: Huevos ‘n Potatoes! We put a cheesesteak on top of a bed of fresh cut fries and top it off with two eggs over easy, cheese, and chipotle aioli.
Who is your typical shopper and what are your busiest hours?
Chidester: We have a very diverse customer base – from contractors to public services, to our local neighbors, and of course our social media clientele that follow us from all over Long Island. We also work with the local breweries, like Destination Unknown Beer Company and the Great South Bay Brewery.
How do you market Chiddy’s CheeseSteaks? Do you use social media or have signage in the local area?
What have been the advantages of being located at Market at Bay Shore?
Chidester: We are in a high traffic area with great neighboring tenants. We have plenty of parking so our customers feel comfortable stopping in for lunch.
What advice do you have for people interested in starting their own food truck?
Chidester: It can be a lot of fun as long as you are up for the hard work! I think many people love the idea of the mobile eatery, but are not tuned into all that goes on to get rolling in the morning and closed up for the day.
Have a hankering for a good cheesesteak? Check out Chiddy’s Cheesesteaks at Market Bay Shore or check out their Instagram for photos sure to make you salivate!
This has been an installment of StoreFront, an interview series with leaders of successful retail businesses. For more interviews, visit the StoreFront page. To learn how you can be featured, email us. We’d love to hear from you.