Designing for today’s rolling restaurants: A conversation with Simon Williams of “White Guy Cooks Thai”

Cecily Kellogg

We’ve all seen them. Today’s food trucks offer everything from breakfast burritos to gourmet cupcakes. But have you ever thought about what goes into successful design for a restaurant on wheels? We spoke with Simon Williams — owner and proprietor of “White Guy Cooks Thai,” a successful mobile dining enterprise in Australia — and got his perspective.

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Design by Luca Bellisario

– What elements did you consider when designing a scheme for your truck? In creating a design, Williams embraced the value in reflecting not only his product, but also the mood he wants to convey to his customers. “I was looking for a design that represented the fresh clean flavors that one associates with Asian street food,” he says, such as “lime, chili, coriander, mint.” His goal was to achieve a look that embodied the unique combination of flavors one finds in Thai cuisine — the hot and sour, the salty and the sweet. “I wanted a bright and fun looking design,” he says, “that could capture some of these themes.”

– How competitive is the mobile dining market in your area? Williams describes his local food truck operators as a “pretty friendly bunch” that emphasizes community over competition. “We all work together to increase awareness of the concept and grow the consumer base to the benefit of all traders,” he says. “We don’t directly compete as such as we all have different approaches and different products and consumers want to try different food all the time —and so do we!” Unlike in the U.S., where one might see several food trucks in a row offering the same style of cuisine, the community in which Williams works is more diverse and less competitive. “We all cook for each other,” he says.

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– How did you work with designers to bring your scheme to life? Williams says he created a mock-up of what he thought was a good logo design, but opened the job to a contest for designers to submit. He encouraged designers to experiment and to improve upon his original drawing. “I had heaps of great responses,” he says, “and worked with one or two of the designers to align their designs with my vision.”

Once he had approved a logo, he ran a second contest that would incorporate the winning logo into the overall design scheme for the truck. Williams says, “Once we had the logo, I ran another competition to create a wrap that would incorporate the logo design. Designer Luca Bellisario worked with the logo created by “The Gonz” and crafted a wrap that would fit the vehicle and integrate all the elements in their proper places. Williams says, “Luca also made the wrap fit the dimensions and made sure that the logo was not in the middle of doors and the like.”

– To what extent do you think your truck’s design influences potential customers? “People often comment on the name, the logo and the wrap design so I think that it has been a real positive for our brand recognition,” says Williams. “If your business looks clean and professional then customers can relax and focus on enjoying themselves and the experience of food truck dining.”

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– What do you think makes your truck’s design stand out from competitors? Williams cites “the combination of the colors, the brand itself and the way in which the designers brought the elements together.” He feels his original concept could have better captured “the fun of the name and the concept,” in the way the designers were able to do.

Williams notes that, “having access to a few different ideas was absolutely essential in getting this result.”

– What advice would you give to someone entering the mobile restaurant market? Williams advises, “Keep it simple and do it well—do only a few dishes, even just one—but make it the one all others are benchmarked against and you will be onto a winner!”

Check out 30 food truck designs for inspiration, or start your own food truck design contest today!

The author

Cecily Kellogg
Cecily Kellogg

Cecily Kellogg became an accidental designer when she worked at a short-handed non-profit and although she now prefers designing with words, the lessons she learned from doing graphic design make her work in content development more well-rounded. She writes about the intersection of family, technology, and social media for Babble Tech and runs her own web content business. She is also known for her raw tone and humor on various social media platforms including her own blog, Uppercase Woman. Cecily lives in the Philadelphia area, is happily married, is mom to a fierce and amazing daughter, and has occasionally been called a bad ass.

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