People are flocking to “comfort foods” these days, lured by nostalgia and memories of a simpler time when things just seemed, well, better. The Southern, a popular bar in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago, was quick to capitalize on this trend, and one of the hottest items on its menu is gourmet macaroni and cheese, which it sells in a variety of meat and veggie versions. "Our Southern Mac & Cheese was such a hit that we wanted to take in on the road," says Evan Traub, partner and general manager of The Southern. "But there are challenges to doing that in a city like Chicago. The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter was just the solution we needed."
"We've had numerous brutal Chicago winter days, and the Sprinter performs flawlessly, despite living outside. It starts right up and handles great in snow and ice."
Tough rules, tough competition
Chicago regulates food trucks with a long list of rules and restrictions, including where and how they can park-;at least 200 feet from any food service establishment and always in a legal spot, for example. "There are a lot of food trucks in Chicago, so it’s a battle on a busy weekday," Traub says. "We have a real advantage because our Sprinter is taller, easier to maneuver, and its striking appearance sets it apart. Southern Mac & Cheese fans can always find us, and they're willing to walk a little farther to get to us."
Traub chose the 2011 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Model 2500 High-Roof Cargo Van with 144-inch wheelbase because of its ease of customization and the size and handling that make it easy to navigate Chicago's tight streets. "We're really tall guys, so the ability to stand up in the truck was a huge plus," he adds. The full graphics wrap is a perfect complement to Southern's social marketing campaign, which utilizes Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, and its own website to let customers know where the van will be each day. And their Mercedes-Benz dealer, Chicago's Fletcher Jones, hooked them up with a reliable company that did all the custom work.