Marti Lieberman (left) outstide of the Mac Mart Truck
By Kelcey Zacarese '14
Some like it homemade, and some like it from a box. Some like it elbow-shaped, and some like it with those funny cartoon characters. Some opt for it as their entire entrée while others prefer it as a side dish. However you like it, one thing that most of us all have in common is our absolute love for this classic comfort food: macaroni and cheese.
Drexel graduate Marti Lieberman '12 grabbed this culinary craze by the horns and ran with it. She is now the CEO of Philadelphia's first and only mac 'n cheese food truck: the Mac Mart Truck.
Lieberman hasn't always been a mac 'n cheese aficionado, and didn't even major in hospitality management at Drexel. She came to the City of Brotherly Love in order to pursue her dreams of working in the fashion industry, as a publicist or personal stylist.
"I just wanted to work with clothes and help build peoples' closets," Lieberman said.
Lieberman decided to major in communications with a concentration in public relations in order to help reach her dream. She always had an innate interest in styling and the fashion industry, so she assumed that the job she attained after graduation, working at a high-end retail store, would be the perfect start to launching her career. However, Lieberman was shocked by how little this position lived up to her expectations. She quickly came to the realization that the corporate life of working for someone else was not something she could do any longer.
"Long story short, working in a high-end retail store was not what I thought it would be like," she said.
She eventually talked to her mom about leaving her job. Lieberman's mom was hesitant and said that she should only quit her current job at the retail store if she had a plan B lined up. It was then that the idea to operate a food truck was born.
"I always cooked for friends and family at parties and I started to see that this was a no-brainer," Lieberman said.
She recognized that practically every steakhouse or American pub dinner menu had macaroni and cheese as either a main or side dish. Since macaroni and cheese is something that has been an American classic for generations, she knew that the love for this gooey bowl of cheese and pasta wasn't going away anytime soon.
"You need to find a concept that people will want forever, and to do your research on the amount of work it will take to make it successful," Lieberman advised.
Lieberman says that although her mom and grandfather were skeptical about the idea at first, they quickly became her strongest support group.
"My grandfather is probably my biggest fan," she said. "He asks me about the truck and business practically every day."
With her plan B in place, Lieberman immediately got to work, researching the cost of parking, licensing and permits for the truck. With the food truck scene booming right now, she realized that in addition to the cuisine, she needed her truck to stand out in another way. Therefore, instead of settling with a white or black exterior, Lieberman decided on the vibrant color that would match the truck's personality perfectly: hot pink.
"I came up with the 'Mac Mart Girl' who I envisioned being like that All-American woman and who reminded me of the movie Pleasantville," she explained. "I wanted her to be modern yet retro, and have that 50's feel of a mom cooking in the kitchen."
The Mac Mart Truck excitingly launched in the fall of 2012 and now a year later business is booming. The truck offers a variety of macaroni and cheese dishes with the choice of assorted toppings, mix-in's, and sides. Customers are transported back to their childhood days when dipping their forks into a bowl of this customized cheesy creation.
"Our customer favorite is definitely BBQ in a Bowl," Lieberman said. This dish consists of her original mac with BBQ chicken chunks, a BBQ drizzle, and topped with a cornbread crumble and potato chip crisps.
"We save our heavier macs for the winter like the Smokey Brisket Mac or the Little Italy. Those are heartier and they definitely warm the belly in the cold months!"
A former public relations major, Lieberman said that one of the most important things she learned throughout her recent experiences is to always network. She said that the importance of making connections with people – even other competing food trucks – really helps business thrive and expand exponentially.
"Before the truck, I think I tweeted once in my life," she said. "Now, I really see the importance of social media, especially Twitter, when advertising a business."
As for the Mac Mart's future plans, Lieberman isn't looking to expand with a store-front. Rather, her main plan is to focus on franchising to other college campuses in the area, and even consulting with other food trucks about their business plans. The summer months allow her to travel more to events and festivals throughout Philadelphia, but now that fall has hit, she plans to steadily park at her Drexel location of 33rd and Arch Street.
If you haven't tried one of Lieberman's delectable creations yet, follow the truck on Twitter or search them on Facebook to see its updated locations.