When it comes to opening a new business in Wichita Falls, some ventures are pioneering in their field. A brewery, for example, has recently opened here, Wichita Falls’ first. The food truck industry may not be a new concept in Houston, Austin, or DFW, but it is still relatively young here. Tagan and Chris Couch have gone through the process of bringing it to our city.
Both being corporate chefs for more than 15 years each, they were looking to start a business for themselves. But without a ton of money to start a brick and mortar restaurant they pondered the idea of traveling around to festivals and large events running a concession stand, and started noticing the food trucks showing up and serving the attendees, and soon decided to try that.
When Chris got deployed to Afghanistan with the National Guard it gave Tagan the opportunity to work on their new plan. So in 2012 they bought an old trailer and fixed it up as best they could, and thus began their new venture. They operated it in Austin for about a year, and Tagan, a Rider High School graduate, wanted to bring the food truck idea back home. But it was not as easy as hitching up the trailer and off we go. They quickly learned that in order to run a food truck legally in Wichita Falls you must have a brick and mortar kitchen to base the business out of. So they opened up the Gypsy Kit Café downtown to comply. Not expecting to do a booming business in the café, they just needed it to be able to operate the truck. They figured maybe 30 customers a day could keep it open, and they would run the truck in the evenings. But much to their surprise they served 150 customers the very first day, and for the first year they barely took the truck out.
As the business grew they obtained a great staff of people to run the café, which freed them up to take the truck out more, and they began looking for a place to park the truck in between large events. They found a cute little house at 3115 Kemp Blvd and Chris remodeled it. In January of 2016 they opened up what is now Gypsy Uncorked.
In addition to festivals and concerts, they have had the Gypsy Kit Food Truck entered into food truck competitions. They won top honors at the Graham Food Truck Challenge in 2015, and when they were invited to the same event earlier this year, Chris says that he was just expecting to be there as a representative of past challenge winners. But when they started announcing winners (out of the 43 trucks entered) it was a huge surprise to find out they were the grand prize winners again. Food was just one category of judging, and others include topics like best social media plan, best truck theme, best truck spirit.
Last year Wichita Falls held its first food truck challenge. While Gypsy Kit Food Truck didn’t take home the grand prize, they did win top honors in best Mexican dish. Which, to Chris, was a bit of a surprise because some of it is not really Mexican food. For example, their tacos will be made with chicken fried steak.
In Austin, they did a couple of events where ten food trucks line up and serve about 5000 people, and the turnaround time from payment to order ready was 60 seconds or less. They continue to meet this goal today. “We shoot for 60 seconds. We don’t want people to have to wait longer than that,” Tagan says. “It is more beneficial to the events, to the Truck, and to the people because they won’t be spending time waiting in line. People will come back if they know that their wait time will be short.” Chris notes that there is a lobster specialty truck in Houston that may have an hour to an hour and a half wait to get your order. Tagan does say, however, that the wait may be a bit longer at a food truck challenge, but that would only be two to three minutes.
Both Tagan and Chris are quick to point out that their staff on the truck and in their kitchens, are what has helped them make the Gypsy restaurants succeed. Chef Robert Rodriguez has been working with them since nearly day one. With no previous food truck experience, in the past four years he has become one of their most valued employees. As is with Lily Nunez Infante, the manager of Gypsy Uncorked for about four years. With a low turnover rate totaling 14 employees, Chris says, “We have the best employees in Wichita Falls.”
The Gypsy Kit Food Truck is parked at Gypsy Uncorked at 3115 Kemp Blvd. It remains parked there unless it is out at an event. And if you may be driving by and the truck is gone, you may still stop in to eat. As long as the truck is gone they offer free food, like a taco bar. But don’t be looking for it there on October 14 because it will be downtown at Wichita Falls’ second Food Truck Challenge.
So be sure to make your way downtown and get you some fine food from a two-time grand champion winner, the Gypsy Kit Food Truck.