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Many people have experienced FOMO, the fear of missing out, but one Cedar Rapids business is capitalizing on the feeling.
Anthony Leonard, Robert Bolden and Mr. Leonard’s mother Naomi Leonard purchased a food truck in July 2022 and launched the FOMO Food Truck in October 2022. Usually based at 855 Vernon Valley Drive SE in Cedar Rapids, the truck has a rotating menu with varying items.
“Our menu goes along with our name, and we like to switch it up,” Mr. Leonard said. “We want that exclusivity, and people come and are sometimes sad that they missed one menu and plan to come back when it returns. We just want to provide something fun and approachable for everyone here in the Midwest, but we’re slowly introducing more options and more menus.”
The food truck also caters private events, something that Mr. Leonard said keeps them quite busy.
“It’s our bread and butter,” he said. “We leave it up to the person we’re catering for to choose what they want us to make. They can choose from our two menus, but the nice thing is that we’re chef-driven so we can make anything happen upon request.”
This was the first full summer season for FOMO. Within a year of opening the business, FOMO Food Truck has garnered more than 1,000 followers on Instagram and is currently revamping its website.
The beginning of the business
The COVID-19 pandemic hit the restaurant industry hard.
The National Restaurant Association reported in 2022 that businesses were still seeing the effects of variants, inflation and supply shortages while operators and consumers evolved to meet demands as best as possible.
At the time, Mr. Leonard was living in Chicago and saw how high-end dining — the world he’d worked in for years — was falling apart.
“That was when I kind of just realized that maybe fine dining wasn’t really what I wanted to do,” he said. “COVID helped me realize that when I saw everyone around me was out of jobs in the restaurant industry.”
While he has been cooking for a decade of his life, the 23-year-old never expected to open a food truck or go into business with his mom.
“I was living in Chicago and was opening a restaurant and we were going for a Michelin star,” he said. “And my check ended up bouncing and I knew Chicago was quite expensive. I thought I should move home, but I didn’t want to go back to my old kitchen job here. Some of my investors talked to me and offered to buy the truck for us, so we just decided to really go for it.”
He said the food truck community is growing in Cedar Rapids and Eastern Iowa as a whole, something he is excited about.
Mr. Leonard has not interacted much with the other local food trucks, but he said he is excited for future partnerships with several local restaurants, including hopefully building a food truck community.
“We plan on doing some collaborations and pop ups with some restaurants that we have good camaraderie with sometime soon,” he said. “And we’re excited to offer the community something new.”
A long time coming
Mr. Leonard and Mr. Bolden met working at the Cedar Rapids Country Club in their teenage years.
“Robert is my co-chef and we worked together at my very first job, we’ve been friends forever,” Mr. Leonard said. “He quit his car dealership job and he’s with us now.”
Ms. Leonard is more of the behind-the-scenes part of the trio, Mr. Leonard said. She focuses on balancing books and marketing, but occasionally surprises her son and Mr. Bolden with her ideas for entrees and her creativity.
“We work really well together,” he said. “FOMO gives her a place to put her creativity towards and it’s been great so far.”
After working for the club and Cobble Hill, Mr. Leonard did multiple stints in Chicago, bouncing between Illinois and Iowa.
Mr. Leonard said he and FOMO Food Truck are here to stay, though, and wants to begin working to expand FOMO, its selection of menus and its truckload.
“What I’ve realized this far is that I don’t think a brick and mortar spot is where we’ll thrive,” he said. “I think you might see us with a couple more food trucks at some point and moving around to provide the best food to our customers.”