Food trucks offer a great way to expand brand awareness. While the benefit is often associated with restaurants, Bill Bentz, the first Doc Popcorn franchisee, has proven that a food truck can be equally beneficial to popcorn shops. Bentz’s “PopTruck” brings the Doc Popcorn store’s line of gourmet popcorn to local businesses and special events throughout the Twin Cities.
“The PopTruck has no permanent location; that’s the beauty of it,” said Bentz, the owner of Doc Popcorn’s Mall of America franchise store. “We can roll it to wherever we’re welcomed. We’ve had several requests from local businesses for afternoon corporate/employee events, a wedding reception, civic celebrations and sports tournaments. We also look forward to ‘popping’ into some outdoor activities the Mall of America is hosting this summer. It should be a very busy year!”
The first franchisee
Bentz became the first Doc Popcorn franchise owner in 2010 after spending 30 years in the automotive and fleet industry in sales and management positions. His MOA popcorn store features whole grain kernels and proprietary flavor blends. He also offers fresh-popped specialty flavors of popcorn free of trans fat, MSG, artificial colors and preservatives.
Bentz came up with the PopTruck idea on his own. He envisioned the truck as a way to expand the Doc Popcorn brand’s presence.
“With my eldest daughter, Halley, taking over the day-to-day management of the MOA store, we wanted to find a way to expand the business and stay connected to our customers,” Bentz said. “The ‘PopTruck’ is a creative opportunity for us to spread happiness and smiles all over the Twin Cities community, and who knows, it could even become a nice semi-retirement opportunity.”
The truck comes together
Bentz found a 2006 Freightliner 16-foot step van – a retired fleet vehicle with a 12-kw Cummins/Onan diesel generator. He worked with Chameleon Concessions, a Minneapolis-based truck builder, to convert the van into a Doc Popcorn store on wheels. He got the necessary approval from the State Department of Agriculture.
The truck has a 32-ounce popcorn popper, a 4-foot popcorn staging cabinet, two Bunn Ultra II double tank frozen drink machines, a coffeemaker, several airpots, a full-size commercial refrigerator, a commercial hot water heater and sinks.
The PopTruck offers four rotating flavors of Doc Popcorn’s gourmet popcorn plus craft sodas. In the hot Twin Cities summer, it will offer frozen lemonade.
Key benefit: flexibility
Bentz did not wish to reveal sales figures. One of the benefits of having a truck in tandem with a retail store is the business has the flexibility to operate the truck when it sees fit.
“We want to use the PopTruck to cross-promote our MOA store,” Bentz said. “The PopTruck can drive people to MOA, and our MOA location can promote the PopTruck for events.”
“The truck can really be as busy as we would like it to be,” he added. “From craft breweries to county fairs, outdoor concert venues and movies in the park, the opportunities are endless. We just have to be smart and choose the events that provide the biggest pop.”
The PopTruck is available for local reservations such as corporate/employee events, customer/student appreciation days, civic celebrations/events, sports tournaments, graduations, weddings and other celebrations.
“At our Mall of America location, I never tire of seeing kids’ excitement over popcorn,” said Bentz.
Doc Popcorn, acquired by Dippin’ Dots in 2014, has more than 100 mobile carts, kiosks and stores around the world.