How a New Zealand food truck made catering in Austin as easy as ordering takeout
Not that there aren't harder things in life, but ordering catering can be needlessly intimidating. So is applying for a green card, but a former food truck owner from New Zealand has solved both. After winning the green card lottery, Peter Stewart mobilized and expanded his no-fuss, DIY catering business out of Auckland for the first time — to Austin, of all places.
Cater Station, a kit that easily scales from home to corporate use, landed in the Lone Star State about a month ago. According to the business' marketing specialist, Adam McDonald, it's like Uber Eats in that it only takes a few clicks and comes straight to the customer's door. Once it's handed off, the cardboard set-up means there's no serving or cleanup staff, and the whole thing can be recycled after use.
"In Austin, a lot of ... our competition still [uses] the big silver platters and people are serving you," says McDonald. "We're very different ... If you want something that's a bit nicer than ordering pizzas or fast food, come to us."
It all started in the Roaming Dive, Stewart's truck in Auckland, New Zealand (that now only exists as a tattoo on his leg). It was well-known for its American-inspired foods — enough that Stewart started feeling pressure to be everywhere at once. Instead of opening a second truck, he skipped straight to a large-scale solution: A catering business could hand-deliver the truck's hits and feed hundreds of people at once.
But it didn't skip the middle ground. The ordering is tiered by a number of people, starting at 10-15, scaling up to 20-25, and eventually breaking past 100. From browsing the options to pressing the checkout button, feeding 100 people takes eight clicks. It is exactly as simple as a to-go order for one.
The business blew up in New Zealand, and customers started to praise a benefit the team didn't even mean to deliver. Because a bánh mì — one of the most popular offerings — obviously tastes better made fresh, the ingredients come separated into smaller trays. Not only do the customers get to customize their sandwiches by building them themselves, McDonald also found it's a great chance to connect with others at the event.
"One of our customers described it to us as the 'water cooler moment,'" says McDonald. "[Corporate clients] like getting Cater Station because it gets their team all together in one place, away from their desks, and they're chatting and bonding. People use us for that, specifically."
One customer review on Google brings the focus back to the food, as brilliant as the business is: "We used these guys to feed our team of 65. It was absolutely delicious! The team’s feedback is that it’s the best food we’ve had for lunch so far[.] (I’ve been there for nearly 4 years)."
Luckily for the company's broad customer base, it puts together boxes for all kinds of needs from a simple taco lunch, to a kid's party (a sundae-making station), to a wedding (a bundle with sliders, tacos, hot dogs, and desserts). One of the site's FAQ's reads, "We're going on a boat!" So, it seems there really is something for any occasion.
So far there are no New Zealand specialties on the menu, but Cater Station does serve one very regional meal. Since it's so hot in December when Kiwis celebrate Christmas, they often have a second holiday dinner in the colder months of July and August, when they can really get in the wintery spirit.
"Our Christmas kit is really popular," says McDonald, laughing.
More information and links to order are available at caterstation.com.