LUZERNE — Phil Delzeit has spent over half of his life working in the food-service industry and is using this experience to open a food truck from which he will offer a treat he created, called the Panana.
The Original Panana is a peanut-butter and banana sandwich deep-fried in funnel cake batter and sprinkled with powdered sugar. He also offers four other varieties. With this new venture it is evident that he is trying to carve out his own niche.
“Since I am going to stay in the food business, I didn’t want to be ordinary” Delzeit, 52, of Luzerne, said.
The food truck trend has been invading highly populated areas for a few years now. The success of the Kogi truck in Los Angeles, which opened in November of 2008, is generally considered to have incited the explosion of this industry.
Now food trucks can be seen on the streets of major cities across the country. It has taken a little longer for this trend to come to Northeastern Pennsylvania, but it has finally arrived. Delzeit’s PananaMan truck joins the Magic Bus, What the Fork and other food trucks that have made the rounds on the thoroughfares of Wilkes-Barre and Scranton.
Food trucks are thriving in part because of their convenience and unique menu options. The lower start-up costs lead many people to open a food truck as opposed to a brick-and-mortar restaurant.
Delzeit designed and constructed the PananaMan truck from scratch, with the help of his daughter Sara. After gutting the interior, he built the entire kitchen by himself.
Prior to the completion of the PananaMan truck, Delzeit set up a tent at fairs and festivals to sell his products. By using the truck he doesn’t need to unload equipment at every venue. He is also not as restricted by inclement weather.
The food truck business is not without its downsides. Many restaurant owners oppose them because they fear losing business. Cooks and servers also have to adapt to the confined space inside the trucks. Because of the cold seasons, Delzeit is open only for about half of the year.
Since food trucks often move around, owners have to effectively advertise their location, usually with social media. It is important to stand out and build a loyal following. This aspect of the business is one that Delzeit is having fun with. He has implemented many unique “gimmicks” to draw people to his truck.
Patrons can opt to sing for their Panana rather than paying. Also, anyone wearing a PananaMan t-shirt gets free candy apple cider. When not playing the PananaMan jingle from the loudspeakers, Delzeit plans on showcasing music from local artists.
These unconventional ideas exemplify how food truck owners are trying to differentiate themselves both from traditional restaurants and other food trucks.