Ahmed Ali and his wife Hina Ahmed are the proud owners of the beloved juice bar known as Juicy Kik. What started as a “crazy idea” on the couple’s honeymoon, became a reality when they officially opened up their business in Portsmouth in 2014. Three years later, Juicy Kik has gone from hidden gem to popular hangout thanks to a unique menu, and its owner’s commitment to serving the freshest and best ingredients. Ahmed and Hina are undeniably dedicated to giving customers the most honest, and innovative food and beverage experience possible, and that approach is now being taken on the road in their new food truck.
1. Tell us about your background as it pertains to cooking, the food industry and food production. How did your past lead you to decide to open a food truck?
Hina: It’s a very interesting and funny thing that neither of us had any experience in the food industry founding opening Juicy Kik. While we both were enjoying a juice sitting on a beach, we joked about having our own juice bar one day. We bought a juicer and started experimenting with different fruits and vegetables. It was amazing to see how the amalgam of different food products could create such an amazing product. From the start of our journey, there has always been a passion to create and try new things. This lead to Juicy Kik.
2. When did your truck first open? Does it have a name? What are the specs of your truck and the kitchen? What’s special about your truck?
Hina: Our food truck recently launched in June 2017. Having a juice bar on the wheels was a totally new challenge for us. It was previously a chip truck, so we had to make changes according to our requirements. We had to change the water tanks to bigger size to accommodate cleaning a large number of blenders and equipment. We also added a freezer to store more of our frozen produce. Thu we have a fryer but we don’t utilize it for making chips, we use it to make our famous Deep fried Avocado tacos and falafels.
3. Regarding your business model, how do you connect with customers. Has this approach changed over time, and if so why? Finally, how does the bylaw restricting where you can setup shop affect your business?
Ahmed: As we are pretty new in food truck industry, so this year we are experimenting with different venues and events. Canada Day festivities, private parties, and concert catering have offered amazing experiences thus far. Presently, food trucks in Kingston are not allowed or given an opportunity to park down downtown where there is the greatest amount of tourist traffic. We really look forward to the day when food trucks in Kingston would be able to park downtown, and do business from the busiest location. Many other cities let the food trucks run their businesses in downtown: why can’t Kingston get this opportunity?
4. What type of cuisine do you specialize in? How many items are typically found on your menu, and how often do you change things up? Which offerings tend to sell out the fastest, and have you ever had to retire an unpopular dish?
Ahmed: Juicy Kik is all about healthy and unique food items. You will see that our menu differs from all the other food trucks in town. The menu also differs a bit from our Portsmouth location as we had to adjust to the limited resources in the food truck. Our smoothies and juices are always 100% organic and dairy free. Our best sellers and must try smoothies are the Tropical Kiss and everyone’s favourite super juice is Green Glory. Our rice bowls (budda bowl) and tacos (cheesy avocado) are also very popular because they have the right proportion of greens, proteins and carbs. We are very happy to get equally positive reviews regarding our food offerings. We tend to change our menu according to the seasonal availability of fruits and vegetables. Although the menu changes, the quality of the food remains consistent.
5. Kingston’s food truck scene is precarious in that traditional business models are increasingly shifting towards a heavy focus on catering. Based on your experience, what are the most significant challenges and changes you’ve faced as a food truck operator? In your opinion, what is the biggest misconception about owning and operating a food?
Hina: We personally feel that food truck catering is the new trend. Our summers are relatively shorter and food trucks can’t survive solely on summer events and festivals. Like i said before, we really hope that the city gives all food trucks a chance to operate in downtown Kingston. It will really help all food vendors with their financial security, and will also help new food trucks establish their name in the industry. What many do not seem to understand is that there are hidden costs associated with operating a moving food truck, such as our insurance and gasoline expenses. For a food truck to prosper, a good locations is key. That is why we hope the city of Kingston will make changes in there by laws to allow food trucks to operate downtown.
6. Looking towards the 2017 season, what surprises do you have in store for customers? Where will people find you and how do they get in touch for special catering?
Ahmed: You will be seeing us in a lot of events this year. Sheep dog trial and some other events are on the list. If you would like to contact us regarding your special events don’t hesitate to contact us by either emailing us or visiting us at our Portsmouth location which is 753 King St West.