Ron Sarni, who grew up in Melrose, owns the Grilled Cheese Nation food trucks with his business partner, Todd Saunders. Sarni, 57, also founded the Boston Area Food Truck Association and leases food trucks to entrepreneurs through his other enterprise, Food Truck Nation. Sarni spoke with Patch about bringing smoked Gouda and melted Brie sandwiches to the streets of Boston, how he plans to prepare “Cheese Force One” and “Minnie” for use in cold weather and where a food truck might set up shop in the suburbs.
Patch: Over the past year, you’ve helped persuade Boston’s elected officials that food trucks would benefit the city. Were there any advantages to Boston embracing food trucks much later than New York, Los Angeles or Portland, OR did?
Sarni: The nice thing about being last to the party here was that we got to see all the bad stuff and all the good stuff and design a program that was very democratic and allowed entrepreneurs to flourish.
Patch: Now that food trucks have proven to be popular downtown, the question is: can Grilled Cheese Nation and other vendors stay open through the winter?
Sarni: We are certainly going to give it a shot; we may reduce the fleet to one truck. There’s a group of operators that are going to get together this Sunday to talk about how we are going to get through this winter. It’s all unknown, but we’re optimistic that there are going to be some locations and special events.
Patch: Do you worry that business will suffer during the winter because people won’t want to stand in the cold waiting for a sandwich, even if it comes served with a shot of hot tomato soup?
Sarni: Yes. There’s certainly going to be some people who succeed and some people who don’t. Those who do succeed have to be persistent and willing to take on these new challenges. Other people are going to say this is too difficult and walk away from it. But from the people I’ve talked to, they’re really hell-bent on making it work.
Patch: Once food truck vendors establish themselves in Boston, do you think they’ll expand outside the city?
Sarni: Oh, absolutely. We think Boston is kind of the prototype and other cities will follow. That’s why we’re the Boston Area Food Truck Association. We think this is going to proliferate. There could be one or two that end up on on Sunday—you never know. As people watch the industry grow, they want to be part of it.