Tacolicious: From cloud kitchen to mobile restaurant
Serial entrepreneur Kit Gabriel Lavilla entertained the idea of entering the food business even before the pandemic hit. This business venture drew him back to the entrepreneurial world after two decades away from home.
He likes to call this new venture his “pandemic baby”, an idea hatched and bred during the worst of times, offering a way to manage the crisis by turning a disaster into an opportunity, especially for his crew and suppliers.
“We came up with the idea in 2020, but started in early 2021 to have our own first trailer. While we waited for the food truck to be ready, we tried one food concept after another. Thanks to our chef, who is a friend of a friend. He helped us perfect the taste and recipes we conceptualized,” said Lavilla.
“My dilemma before fleshing out the concept is how to offer generous portions at a price that doesn’t hurt the pocket, something the whole family will enjoy but within one’s budget,” he added.
Tacolicious Food Truck is a Mexican-inspired fusion quick-service mobile restaurant, affordably sumptuous at just the right portion and on-point prices.
There have been a few food truck concepts in the Philippines, but Tacolicious Food Truck has been the most consistent yet, making its way to select events, often during birthdays and weddings and even at bazaars. That’s when Tacolicous began to win the hearts… and stomachs of guests in the highlands.
Lavilla said all his concepts – from mobile eateries to Mexican fusion theme – are all reminiscent of his stay in the US. From where he lived and worked, Mexican food trucks were as ubiquitous as McDonald’s QSR.
The business started as a cloud kitchen and initially flourished through the support of family members, friends and the immediate community along the bypass highway in Tubuan II Silang, Cavite where the trailer is stationed.
Traditional Mexican food like tacos, burritos, chicken wings and quesadilla were the first few offerings served by the trailer. Lavilla experimented with various variants of tacos and burritos, as well as a few more variants of the chicken wings.
Party favorite tacos come in 7 variants – chicken, carnitas or pulled pork, fish, shrimp, steak, veggie and the newest addition is the birya. Burritos, on the other hand, are served as a vegetarian roll, carnitas, chicken and steak roll.
Before Tacolicious, Lavilla delved into a few real estate ventures after returning to the Philippines from living in the US for 20 years.
In his younger years, he also managed a family business of manufacturing and supplying socks as a subcontractor for an export firm located in a special economic zone in Rosario, Cavite.
Lavilla comes from a long line of entrepreneurs, so manning a business is something he grew up with, and the skill of having a sound business acumen came as a natural trait. The maternal side of his family, the Sandejas, established a name as one of the business stalwarts in Silang.
He noted that it takes more than diligence and perseverance to really venture into food business in the midst of a crisis.
While food is considered a basic human need, snacks take a back seat during hard times.
However, the challenge was not getting exposure or selling the rates. Maintaining an honest, diligent set of crew forced him to be more careful and judicious with his workers.
“I always tell them it’s a two-way street. We must dance to the same beat. The business provides sustenance for all of us, therefore we must protect what we cherish,” he said, hinting at a few cases of dishonesty and mismanagement that nearly tipped the business in the first few months of operations.
Since its inception in 2020, Tacolicous has been doing the rounds of events, parties, weddings, bazaars and even campaign tours during the recent elections.
One of Tacolicious’ active patrons is former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The trailer is a regular sight at parties and family events in the Quezon City home of the former president. Former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo is a big fan of Tacolicious Tacos.
As restrictions have been lifted, the trailer has become more hectic, providing opportunities for double bookings that cannot be met due to lack of resources.
From a virtual kitchen, Lavilla built a brick and mortar counter that allows for the curb to be taken out and eventually an al fresco dining area next to the counter.
Spending piled up as more capital was invested, but demand was also on the upswing. In fact, the trailer is booked until the first quarter of 2023.
While still far from building a food empire, Lavilla is itching to raise the bar by expanding into a more populated space where students, hospital and office workers abound, providing new growth opportunities for food truck startups.
The delivery of a second van is expected by early 2023. The new van will fill the demand for second bookings.
Tacolicious runs 2 promotions per week – the Taco Tuesday and Wingsday Wednesday – as a token of gratitude to loyal customers and a way to attract more customers to grab a bite and test the offerings. Lavilla attributed the growing number of loyal customers to his weekly promotions.
“We don’t earn much from these promotions, but we manage to offset potential loss with more orders. As for Taco Tuesday, it’s buy 1 get 1, so a customer gets 6 tacos for the price of 3 tacos per order. Wingsday Wednesday is unli-wings or wings-all-you-can. It’s a good buy,” he said.
One of its best sellers is the sampler pack consisting of burritos, tacos, quesadilla and fries. The sampler comes in two different sizes and a bundle promotion that includes drinks.
For customers on carb watch, the burrito bowl offers the same burrito goodness without the wrap. And for the sweet tooth, the traditional churros are the latest addition with dip choices of white chocolate, dark chocolate and salted caramel.
For the coming year, the food truck will unveil new items to add to the menu. “We keep innovating our offerings so people don’t get tired of Tacolicious. In the pipeline is a very good burger recipe and crispy chicken recipe. We are still doing R&D on this, but we are optimistic to have these new products on board in early 2023,” said Lavilla.