Since opening Lumpia World in June of 2006, Derick Ellis and his wife, Eleanor, have succeeded in the cutthroat restaurant industry in Federal Way by branching out in as many ways possible.
Lumpia World, a family-owned business based out of Federal Way, currently has two food trucks, a catering business, a store front in Browns Point and a store front in Federal Way off of Enchanted Parkway, which recently reopened to foot traffic after being closed for six months and used as its commissary base. Instead of providing seating, the Federal Way location is solely for take-out business.
Ellis said, with the cost of ingredients, labor and technology, he’s had to be creative to stay open.
“If we were just doing store-front business, we wouldn’t be here today,” Ellis said. “There’s just no way.”
In addition to store fronts, food trucks and catering, the company relies heavily on social media to reach customers.
“You either get left behind or you have to adapt to all these different methods,” Ellis said.
Social media is especially important when keeping in touch with customers because the Ellis’s have a son with special needs, whose care takes priority over opening the business each day. It also helps communicate with people in real time, letting them know when a Lumpia World food truck is stuck in traffic getting back from Seattle, where they are a regular during the daytime.
While Lumpia World currently has 5,798 Facebook followers, Ellis said some people avoid the social media route and prefer visiting the store fronts, which is why he and his wife reopened the tiny location to foot traffic.
The Federal Way location, 1610 S. 341st Place, is open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays and for dinner from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. On Saturdays, the Lumpia World food truck does fast-paced business in the Home Depot parking lot.
“So we’re kind of stretching the boundaries of the traditional restaurant, if you will,” Ellis said.
If the Ellises can’t keep their regular hours because of their son’s needs, they also use Facebook, other social media and texts to let customers know about off-hour events or times they will be serving.
To make dining more convenient to customers, Lumpia World recently signed a contract with Uber-Eats, where people can place an order that is delivered to them by an Uber driver. Ellis said people can download the Uber-Eats app, and it will show a range of restaurants in the area that contract with Uber.
Lumpia World serves a fusion of Filipino, Japanese and Saipanese-Chamorro food. Ellis’s wife, Eleanor Ellis is from Saipan, and Chamorro refers to the language and culture of a certain group of people there.
Their most popular item is the one they named their business after: lumpia, similar to a spring roll, in which savory or sometimes sweet ingredients are wrapped in a thin crepe-like pastry skin and then deep fried.
“Right now, we’re serving over 12,000 lumpias a week,” Ellis said.
The business also serves various Filipino, Japanese and Chamorro dishes, such as adobo, katsu, yellow curry and pancit, a noodle dish.
“We only focus on what we do really well,” Ellis said, adding that includes lumpia fillings.
Ellis said he and his wife are constantly trying new lumpia offerings to appeal to customers’ taste buds, rather than the traditional ground pork or shrimp. Instead, they offer seven fillings, including lemongrass chicken, ground steak, ginger pork, vegetarian, Thai coconut and banana.
“We want to be to lumpia what 31 Flavors is to ice cream,” Ellis said.
He said despite all the efforts to stay relevant and open through the years, everything he and his wife do is with the customer in mind. Their success to that end netted them the honor of being named the Best Food Truck in Western Washington in 2015.
“It all starts with the experience,” Ellis said. “We want the customer to feel special.”
To learn more about Lumpia World or to see its menu or schedule a catering event, visit its new website, www.lumpiaworld.com, or follow the business at lumpiaworld on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.