Thiago Vasconcelos (38), Owner
Pedroso’s Pizza, Austin TX
Thiago Vasconcelos, Owner of Pedroso’s Pizza in Austin, Texas, has been named a Rising Star of the Pizza Industry 2023 by Pizza Today. Read a quick Q&A with Thiago.
What are the keys to your success as a permanently parked pizza trailer?
Austin Texas is a really friendly food truck/trailer city, here it’s not required to move your trailer/truck at the end of the day making your mobile business kind of a small brick and mortar. This allowed us to have regular customers that know exactly where we are and can locate us when they want, with that in mind, location was everything for us. We are parked next to a bar called ‘The Night Owl’ and it works like a partnership for us, we get some of their customers and they get some of ours, but most of our clientele comes from the neighborhood. Once a few locals tried our pizza, news spread like wildfire, local Austianiets absolutely love to support local/small business. We’re in a residential area that is growing like crazy and having our commissary kitchen located only 8 minutes away from us is a big plus as well. We produce everything from the commissary and transfer it in our van every morning before opening, it is quite the hussle moving a kitchen in and out of a trailer almost daily.
As a veteran pizza maker turned pizza business owner, what made the transition work for you?
A few different things happened at the right time. The idea was never to open a pizza trailer, we had some people that were going to back us financially and we were looking for a brick n’ mortar. Then one month before we were set to pull the trigger the pandemic started, no one had funds to invest anymore, everyone was saving money. I was frustrated by this but now I had to start my own thing from zero, I came across a company that made these really small trailers and knowing how friendly Austin Texas is to this business model I decided to dive in. My wife Alissa Gibson and I got what little money we had and bought this tiny 7’x12′ trailer, along with the cheapest equipment we could find and launched ‘Pedroso’s Pizza The Trailer’ in the middle of the pandemic. Everyone thought we were crazy, but at the time the idea of just coming to a window and getting your food with very little contact made a lot of sense for us. Experience was a main factor as well, knowing the product, how to get it done and how to get it done with cheap equipment was a test to everything I had learned in all my years of making pizza. This is also a totally ominous environment we’re working in, you never imagine yourself making pizza in monsoon rains and then two days later dealing with triple digit heat. The temperatures in Austin can go from 25 F to 105 F throughout the year, making it really difficult to work with something so delicate like pizza dough and our trailer at that time was two aluminium sheets of metal protecting us from all the elements. This was all very challenging for us but we were determined to succeed.
You upgraded your pizza trailer. What made you decide to invest in a new trailer and how has the new trailer allowed you to grow?
In that first trailer we managed to have everything we needed inside including a 30 qt mixer and storage for our small operation. My wife and I did everything out of that trailer for over a year, and we kind of really just let things happen, no marketing, very little social media, we knew we couldn’t handle too much volume at that time. We were fortunate enough to allow our business to grow organically and the immense support from our customers really propelled the progress of the business. At the time we had no idea if it was all going to work out or not, if we needed a bigger trailer or tried to find people to invest in the business and open a brick and mortar. We just got to the point that we were too busy for our size, with a wait time of over an hour and 30 minutes for a pie and in the end there were four people working in a space the size of a restroom. That’s when we decided to go the easiest and fastest route and it would allow us to grow instantaneously with less investment, so we bought a 8’x20′ trailer and doubled our capacity overnight. We added an extra oven and more refrigeration and now had the capacity of baking 8 pies at a time, that with all our prep and dough now being done out of our commissary kitchen made us grow over 200% in comparison to the previous year. It’s crazy to think that we sell more out of this trailer now than my uncle used to sell at his pizza place, but we’ve also pretty much hit a wall again. Next step, brick and mortar.