The problem with the restaurant biz is that most restaurants are stationary. Folks have got to come to you to enjoy your food. But Zane Caplansky of Caplansky’s Delicatessen (356 College Street) has his wheels spinning in other directions with a bunch of new initiatives that take the restaurant to the customer.
Earlier this week, Caplansky’s did their very first bicycle-powered lunch delivery. The deli owner bought two large, sturdy bikes with sizeable baskets, and now customers within a downtown delivery area (Dupont to Queen, University to Ossington) can, for a $5 delivery fee, have their smoked meat sandwich delivered to their home or office. Caplansky points out that the bikes are a low-maintenance, high-capacity delivery apparatus – each bike can hold a minimum of 2 orders and with 2 bikes, he can send staff in different directions at the same time. It’s also a respite for his kitchen staff, who can take a break from bussing or dishwashing for a quick bike ride to make a delivery. And while Caplansky works with a local food delivery company to serve a wider geographic area, he points out that the bike system is more local and more personal. Not to mention more efficient in downtown traffic.
In a couple weeks, though, Caplansky’s presence on the road will be even bigger as he takes possession of his first custom-build food truck. The blue behemoth, with Caplansky’s face on the side, will be a mobile version of the existing restaurant. Inspired by the food trucks in NYC and various other US cities, Caplansky points out that it’s actually easier in many ways to use a kitted-out truck than a street cart, because the food truck is treated like a stationary restaurant in terms of food handling, health and safety inspections, etc.
Instead of fighting for a spot on the street, and potentially pissing off existing food truck or hot dog vendors, Caplansky is working with various businesses, such as parking lot companies, on deals to use their space. His plans include targeting the after-bar crowd, as well as various events such as ball games, concerts and local festivals. He also muses about setting up by the lake, or in an area with a number of factories where workers might want something more interesting for lunch.
“It will be a summer of experimentation,” he tells me, pointing out that the truck is already pre-booked for a variety of private events over the coming months, and that the vehicle will act almost as an ambassador for his restaurant. “The most difficult thing is to get people in the front door of a bricks and mortar restaurant. The advantage of the truck is that you go to them.”
And lest readers think that they have to drive around town at night looking for Caplansky’s truck to get a sandwich, the restaurant will also have extended hours throughout the summer. Starting June 3rd, Caplansky’s will stay open until 4am on Fridays and Saturdays. Also part of the summer of experimentation, if it works out, those hours may be extended into the fall.
Caplansky is already thinking about adding a second truck to his fleet, although he’s obviously waiting to see how things go with the first one. But he loves the idea of more food trucks on the road, taking over a parking lot and creating a truck corral for an impromptu food court, similar to what happens in Los Angeles. In the meantime, the big blue truck will be on its own, rolling through the city, spreading its love in the form of smoked meat sandwiches.
This article was originally published on TasteTO.