Posts tagged food trucks

Food Truck Start-up Costs - A Realistic Breakdown

At the Meetup on Monday, mobile vendors had the pleasure of speaking to Jerome Chang, owner of Cathcart & Reddy and the former DessertTruck. Chang gave us an exclusive interview last month, detailing the costs, trials, and tribulations of opening a food truck in New York City. Whether you’re purchasing a brand new food truck, hiring a t-shirt printing company to do custom apparel for your staff, or simply purchasing ingredients from local markets, it all carries a cost. Here, he provides us with a more detailed breakdown of the costs associated with the launch of a new food truck venture in the city of New York.

As some of you may know, Mobile Food Vending Unit Permits (i.e. food truck permits) have a government wait list that’s backed up by many years. While a legitimate two-year truck permit will only cost you $200, if you want to get your business started in this decade, it will cost you around $15,000 to purchase one from a secondary seller.

While it’s customary to start employee’s hourly salaries off at $12 at his brick and mortar location, the average rate for the truck was $16 due to the time it took for employees to obtain their mobile vending licenses and to consistently provide the manpower necessary to work the long hours on the truck itself.

A cost breakdown by Jerome Chang:

image

  • Truck — $50,000 (purchase cost plus basic retrofitting)
  • Mobile Food Vending Unit Permit (bought on the black market) — $15,000 (2-year permit)
  • Commissary — $500 (per month); $6,000 estimate per year
  • General Liability Insurance (for the business) — $3,500  (per year)
    • "You need general liability insurance to operate in a commercial kitchen."
  • Mobile Vendors License$103 ($53 for the class, $50 for a 2-year license)
  • Truck Insurance — $2,000-$3,000 (per year; $2,500 estimate per year)
  • Commercial Kitchen — $2,000-$5,000 (per month; $36,000 estimate per year)
  • Workers Comp — $7,000  (per year for 3 employees)
    • "You’re combining two things insurance companies hate - moving vehicles and hot food.
  • Accountant — $350 (per month; $4,200 estimate per year)
    • "Most business owners are doing a million things. Having an accountant look at your books objectively is highly recommended."
  • PR professional — $1,500 (for 3 months; $6,000 estimate per year)
  • Grand total food truck start-up costs for year 1:

             =  $130,303

Please note that the expense list does not include variable costs such as gas, vehicle repairs, food and paper products, marketing materials, and a host of other possible sundries. Budget for incidentals and miscellaneous expenses accordingly.

Off the Grid, San Francisco’s Food Truck Party (by bastablejc)

There is co-working for offices and now, thanks to FoodLab, there will be co-working for food truck proprietors in need of commercial kitchen space.

FoodLab plots: “Coworking for Food Trucks”

Food Trucks Bring Meals To Hungry Kids

With food trucks being “cool” these days, the city of New Haven, CT is using food trucks to get kids to come out for meals this summer. The end of the school year means the end of free and reduced-price lunches that fill the gap between kids’…

In France, there is still a widespread belief that the daily diet in the United States consists of grossly large servings of fast food. But in Paris, American food is suddenly being seen as more than just restauration rapide. Among young Parisians, there is currently no greater praise for cuisine than “très Brooklyn,” a term that signifies a particularly cool combination of informality, creativity and quality.

UpendED interview series: Lauren Loomis of Lulu’s Local Eatery

"The start up capital that you need for a food truck is a lot lower than a brick and mortar. To put a whole lot of money into a building that we would just be renting didn’t make a whole lot of sense for us."


Lauren Loomis, 26, is the proprietor of a unique brand of food truck — the kind with a garden on top! Lulu’s Local Eatery launched a month ago in St. Louis and specializes in locally sourced, organic cuisines. Loomis and business partner/ fiancé Robbie Tucker, 28, used a Kickstarter campaign to raise $2,786 to build the garden and resourcefulness to fund the rest. Here’s the story of how their young enterprise came to be. See the continuing story as tweeted daily from @lulusfoodtruck.

How did the concept of Lulu’s Local Eatery come together?

Robbie Tucker, my partner, fiancé, and co-owner of Lulu’s, have been together for six years. He and I were living together in Chicago, decided we wanted to start our own business, but weren’t really sure what that would look like. Then we got into sustainability and wanting to learn how to grow our own foods. We packed up and went to New Zealand and Australia for about a year, traveled our way WWOOFing: staying with farmers in exchange for free food and accommodation, learning skills and the meaning behind caring for your meal, understanding farm to plate and how your meal gets to your plate. It was really meaningful for us.

When we got back to the states, we had a culture shock about there not being a whole lot of fresh food in the States, it being hard to get fresh foods at an affordable price. I have a passion for cooking and I’ve been creating my own recipes since I was a teenager. I really wanted to do a farm-fresh food on-the-go concept. We talked about opening a café at one point. We moved to St. Louis because the cost of living is so low and it’s such a great, vibrant city and the food truck scene was really getting started. There’s now about 31 trucks here. It’s really robust and the community is really great. So that’s what we did. Now we have Lulu’s. Lulu’s Local Eatery is about four weeks old.

Before you decided to go traveling, what were you both doing professionally?

I was working for a corporation in human resources and Robbie was a jazz drummer. He still is, but he was more like a full-time freelance drummer.

Regarding the truck, why did you decide on a food truck rather than a brick and mortar establishment?

The start up capital that you need for a food truck is a lot lower than a brick and mortar. To put a whole lot of money into a building that we would just be renting didn’t make a whole lot of sense for us.

What were your start up costs?

I’d say probably around $40,000 to $50,000.

For the truck itself?

Our truck was $30,000 and it got retrofitted and everything.

So that bumped it up to $40,000?

Yeah. With our starting inventory with the materials and equipment and everything,

Was there any resource that you consulted or any specific people that you asked to help you learn how to run a food truck?

Essentially, a food truck is a restaurant on wheels, so we consulted a lot of our restaurant friends, people who work in restaurants and friends who own restaurants. We sat down with them and picked their brains about what their monthly expenses, how to get in touch with distributors, all of those questions. We basically utilized friends and people in the community. We started sending out emails to people in the community, letting them know what we wanted to do and asking them to meet with us. We sat down with farmers, vendors, café owners. We utilized the St. Louis Food Truck Association, sat down with the president of the association, and talked to him about what the climate was like, and what the typical day in the life of a food truck owner was like.

I recommend for someone interested in starting a food truck to sit down with someone from their local food truck association or go to one of their meetings. Start making friends everywhere you go. Tell people what you’re doing and start making friends. People want to help you. You don’t realize it, but they do.

Where there any online resources that you used?

Not a whole lot, honestly. I guess we read articles, but they’re not a whole lot of resources available.

Did you have any issues with sourcing materials or ingredients?

Not really. Missouri has an incredible local food movement, especially in the greater St. Louis area. There are food coops and restaurants that offer great local food. There were a lot of resources for us. Because we’re local and that’s our thing, people really wanted to support us because it’s a passion project. They were like, “Oh, cool. You’re part of the movement!” So we just ended up being really fortunate on that. But obviously we’re in the Midwest and we get a decent winter here, so it’s a seasonal business from that standpoint. We can only do so much locally in the cooler months. So that’s a barrier. That’s a challenge.

Have either of you worked in food service before?

We both have worked in restaurants before. I don’t have any formal culinary training or anything.

Did having worked in a restaurant help you at all?

Oh gosh, yes. Absolutely. I think before you get into the food business, you gotta go work in a restaurant just to get a feel for it. It’s a whole different kind of work. It’s physical. It’s kind of emotional, too, ‘cause you’re putting your energy into the food and all that stuff. It’s good for a lot of people, but it’s not good for everybody.

How was the truck funded?

We had private investors and we ended up getting a loan as well, a small business loan.

Did you get a loan through a regular bank?

It was through the Missouri Department of Economic Development. Through the economic stimulus plan, they have a federal pool of money, and I think they dispersed it among the 50 states. I know the money is available in Missouri, but I don’t know about other states. But I know that it is from a federal economic stimulus program and the goal is to help small businesses. We went though a really intense, lengthy application process, but ended up getting approved. That was fantastic.

Were your other private investors friends and family?

Yeah.

Did you put up any of the money yourself at all?

Yes.

From the time you decided to launch until you got going, how long was the fundraising process minus the Kickstarter campaign?

I guess the time frame would be up to a year minus the actual launch; developing a business plan and then helping people understand what they’re investing in.

When going to friends and family for private investing, what did you find that they wanted to hear from you or see the most before they committed to investing anything? Did they want to see your business plan? Did they want to hear that you were going to give them something in return?

I don’t know, it would depend on the person I suppose. It definitely helped us to develop the business plan just to organize our thoughts. We sat down and were like, what’s our mission? What’s our vision, what do we actually want? What do we want our perfect day to look like? Once we figured out what what we really wanted and could see ourselves doing this for a long time, then we came to the table with the inspiration and the passion that we needed to convince friends and family. Friends and family, they love you. They want to support you, but they want to make sure that it’s the right thing. In the beginning we had a lot of ideas. But it wasn’t until we sat down and had these meetings and brainstorming sessions that we were able to develop the business plan around that inspiration and passion.  According to our financial projections (aka as long as everything goes according to plan), Lulu’s will make a profit within year one.

How long did it take you to develop the business plan?

Start to finish, I’d say probably two months. We had other part-time jobs we were doing, so it’s not like we were doing it day and night for two months. It was kind of like a working document for two months.

When did your Kickstarter campaign run?

It was in April. It ended mid-April. We achieved our goal and built the garden the next week. April 25th was our first day of running Lulu’s.

Did you mainly use Kickstarter for publicity, or did you really need the money to build the garden?

 We really needed the money. We couldn’t have done it without the Kickstarter.

How did you even decide to put a garden on top of the food truck? Had you heard of that being done before?

 I read an article online about Busroots when I was in Australia, and I was like, “Oh, God. That’s so inspiring!” It was really creative. I just love people who think outside the box come up with creative solutions, especially for sustainability. I was really interested in that work. When we started talking about a food truck it just popped into my head that it would be awesome if we could take that concept of Busroots and put it on a food truck. We’re local and how much more local can you get than getting food from on top of your truck?

Did the money from Kickstarter cover the entire build-out process of the garden?

Yeah.

What are your plans for the garden?

We’re going to extend it. So, right now, it’s just on the front of the truck. We’re going to extend it to the middle section. I don’t know how many square feet that is, but it’s  a pretty big area that’s going to be garden. We’ve already harvested some of it and we use it in our recipes and everything. That’s the plan, to just use it as we have been and get people excited about it. Just seeing people’s reactions as we’re driving down the street and when they walk up to the truck is just great.

What are you growing on it right now?

We have about 15 different kinds of herbs and we have greens and lettuces and a strawberry plant up there. With the second garden, I think we’re going to do even more greens this time. Probably a lot of kale and a lot of Swiss chard and arugula.

Did the publicity from Kickstarter help a lot in the launch of the truck?

Yeah. To be honest, most of the people who saw our Kickstarter were people we knew. But it ended up that a friend of a friend of a friend posted it and then it was passed on to a local news station and then they did a news story about the gardens and the truck and everything, so that ended up being a really great publicity opportunity for us.

So was Kickstarter a good experience for you in general?

My gosh, yes. I would really recommend it, especially for passion projects.

What’s a normal day like for you on the truck?

We’re required by law to work out of a commissary kitchen. We went to the commissary about 9 o’clock and then we had to load all of our stuff from our kitchen into the truck. We got to the spot around 10, and then we prepped ‘til about 11 and opened for lunch at 11.  We stayed open until about 2. Then we came back and had to clean the truck, do all of the dishes and everything and get it ready for the next day, and then we came home and did a bunch of administrative stuff, and now (at about 7:30) we’re about ready to go back to the kitchen and prep for tomorrow. We prep at night so that we don’t have to worry about it in the morning.

So you’re running roughly a 12-hour day right now?

Yes.

And is it just the two working on the truck now?

We usually have an employee. His name is Mike and he works with us on the lunch shift and sometimes during events.

Does St. Louis have a lot of problems with legal restrictions when it comes to vendors?

It’s definitely up in the air when it comes to St. Louis about what’s going to happen long term. We’re so new here, which is unique, I think. In other cities, it’s like food trucks have been there forever, but for St. Louis, it’s really within the last two years that they’ve popped up. They don’t have concrete laws put into place. There are separate permits for the city and the suburbs, so we currently only have a city permit. We can’t vend in a county in the suburbs. We’re forced to park 200 feet away from any brick and mortar restaurant or street vendor. We can’t park within 15 feet of a bus stop or a fire hydrant.

There are 31 trucks, so it limits the number of spots that you can park at. In St. Louis, there are lots of parking spots potentially, but it’s a lot different than New York. There’s a lot of unused space. There are empty lots and stuff that there are not any food trucks around, but you wouldn’t want to park there. It’s like the issue is now that there’s only a few select really good spots that food truck can vie for, so that’s why they developed the association. Everybody in the association posts their schedule in advance and then works together so that everybody kinda shares the business equally.

Tell me about your cuisine.

It’s basically a global, eclectic mix of dishes that focus on fresh, organic, local ingredients whenever possible. The most popular thing is the sweet potato falafel that we offer. We make everything from scratch, so it’s all really fresh and homemade.

How have you been marketing Lulu’s? What outlets have been the most helpful for you?

We’ve been utilizing social marketing a lot everyday. It is totally essential to this business. We’ve been tweeting our location, retweeting articles about urban agriculture and all that kinda stuff that’s important to us and our brand. People have been commenting about our food and Kickstarter. It’s been really wonderful. I can’t imagine doing this business without Twitter or Facebook.

How do you manage Twitter and Facebook when you’re working 12 hours a day?

I’m on my phone all the time.

What payment system are you using?

We use Square. I highly recommend it. We use it on our iPad, so we use it as an inventory system, like a register. You can charge sales tax and download reports. It’s really user-friendly.

Food truck operators to form nonprofit association

Some food-truck operators in New Orleans, who have long bemoaned hurdles for navigating the city’s protocol for getting up to code, say they plan to form a nonprofit association that will create a single point of contact as they work to persuade officials to ease some of the rules of the game, like increasing the number of permits issued annually, extending the time a truck can stay in one spot, and expanding hours of operation. The city’s licensing process for food trucks covers the gourmet food trucks that have sprung up in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina as well as a range of other mobile vendors, with wares from produce to snowballs. Food truck operators say that as the local industry has changed, the regulations have become outdated.

27mytruck_1024.jpgRachel Billow, whose La Cocinita food truck serves Latin American food, said she is working with several other mobile food operators to apply for a nonprofit association.

Adding to the frustrations, they also say there are sometimes gaps in how the city deals with the regulations; some food truck operators avoid the red tape altogether, defying the rules and hoping for the best.

Rachel Billow, whose La Cocinita food truck serves Latin American food, said she is working with several other mobile food operators to apply for a nonprofit association under 501(c)(6) status, a designation that is used for trade associations like the U. S. Chamber of Commerce. From there, the group plans to ask city officials “for an official interpretation of the laws” governing food trucks before moving forward and requesting meetings with city council members.

"Basically, then we can better address which laws are problematic," Billow said, adding that the group hopes cut through some of the confusion of the existing regulations to "clarify a few things.."

Andrew Legrand, a Metairie lawyer who has been helping Billow and others complete the nonprofit paperwork, said he believes the move will “get all the food trucks on the same page.”

"We’re at a time when New Orleans has more restaurants than ever before — I think there’s thousands — so why not have food trucks out there kind of contributing to that," said Legrand, who got involved after reading about their efforts online.

Though the movement to organize food trucks under one organization is still in its early stages in the city, mobile operators have banded together like this elsewhere across the country, said Matt Geller, who runs the Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association, which formed in early 2010 to help navigate Los Angeles County’s many regulating bodies, including four health departments.

"There was a lot of misinformation," said Geller, who had worked in restaurants and has a background in law. "Even the regulators didn’t know what was going on."

The southern California group started with 29 members. Now, it has around 140, and is considering expanding statewide. Geller said he has worked with local officials there to take another look at decades-old regulations that he says had hampered mobile food vending, and led discussions on how they can be configured to get up to speed. The group has also challenged some laws in court, including the proximity that an operator can be to a restaurant, a sticking point that operators in New Orleans would also like to change.

Members of the group pay $50 dues each month, which helps fund the group’s efforts to challenge unfavorable rules and has also been put toward renting lots where vendors can setup shop with one another a few nights a week, often timed in conjunction with special events nearby.

His advice for the burgeoning industry? “I would encourage all food trucks in an area to get together and try to speak in one voice,” he said. “We’re not going to be an underground industry and get overregulated. The trend is growing too fast to fly under the radar.”

Richard Thompson can be reached at rthompson@timespicayune.com or 504.826.3496.

In the Lower East Side, The Bistro Truck is about to make the same leap as DessertTruck. They’ve launched a crowdfunding project via Small Knot to solicit funds for the completion of their new brick and mortar establishment, Rustic Lower East Side.
Do you think that most trucks in NYC will ultimately phase out into actual restaurants?

In the Lower East Side, The Bistro Truck is about to make the same leap as DessertTruck. They’ve launched a crowdfunding project via Small Knot to solicit funds for the completion of their new brick and mortar establishment, Rustic Lower East Side.

Do you think that most trucks in NYC will ultimately phase out into actual restaurants?

The Leonard Lopate Show — Food on the Move: The Food Truck Handbook

Food trucks are expanding eating options all over New York. David Weber, founder and president of the New York City Food Truck Association (NYCFTA), Deborah Smith, owner of the Green Pirate Juice truck, and Jim Drew, owner of Phil’s Steaks truck, discuss the growing mobile food movement. Weber’s book The Food Truck Handbook: Start, Grow and Succeed in the Mobile Food Business looks at the ins and outs of navigating in the industry.

UpendED interview series: Jerome Chang of DessertTruck

"There’s nothing magical about a truck that’s going to make running it easier. It is not easier. The overhead is not necessarily lower."

In front of Cathcart & Reddy, all that remains of its mobile predecessor is an emblem of its likeness that juts out beneath the awning. Conspicuously dubbed, DessertTruck was a grandaddy in New York City’s gourmet food truck movement. Its 2007 debut came before the rise of the New York City Food Truck Association and a slew of sweet competitors. Two years later, a brick and mortar arm by the same name was introduced at 6 Clinton Street in the Lower East Side. In February 2012, the truck was retired for good, and DessertTruck’s storefront began rebranding under the name of Cathcart & Reddy. Jerome Chang, co-founder and executive chef of both enterprises, talks about the bittersweet business of running a food truck in New York City, and why parking the truck for good was one of the best decisions he could have made.

How did DessertTruck start?

My background is in fine dining. I’m 36 now. I started the truck over five years ago. I’m of a generation where we really don’t buy into pretension and status based on superficial things quite as much as the previous generation. I was working at white table cloth restaurants. I didn’t necessarily subscribe to that kind of lifestyle or culture.

My last job before I opened the truck was as a pastry sous chef at La Cirque. I just wanted to be able to bring high quality desserts to the masses in a very approachable, casual, and more affordable way. No one had done that before.

Didn’t you say that you had a law background, too?

I was a lawyer for a year.

It seems that a lot of people who have background in law end up doing food trucks.

You’ll find lawyers in every industry. Lawyers always dream about changing careers.

You said you wanted to be more connected with the food, but why via a truck specifically? Why not just start with a smaller restaurant?

If I had opened up a pastry café with the menu that we had for the truck, which consisted of a warm chocolate bread pudding with bacon creme anglaise or a molten chocolate cake with sea salt, olive oil, ganache and candied pistachios, or a milk chocolate mousse with a peanut butter cream center and caramel popcorn…if you walk into a coffee shop or café and then see that the primary menu is composed of these desserts, you would probably think it’s a little weird.

People still, even after we’ve opened this brick and mortar shop, and it’s been over two years, people still find it a little unusual or unique. There’s something about a truck that automatically breaks down barriers. There’s something about it that opens people’s minds. Not everyone’s open to trucks, but if you’re willing to walk up to a truck, your mind is already very open. It was easy to introduce this kind of gourmet menu at these prices through a truck. It’s not necessarily because it was cheaper. It was just more fun, the attitude of it and all that.

A lot of people have been telling me that costs for launching a truck were way higher than they ever expected. So, was it actually cheaper?

No, it wasn’t cheaper.

What were your startup costs for the truck?

Realistically, the truck itself was about 60 grand. But the startup costs, especially for our gourmet menu that requires a lot of components and probably more storage than the average truck, realistically were about $140,000.

Did you start with any staff?

It was just me and my business partner. This was back before the crash and a lot of that we were able to put on a credit card.

When did you launch it?

In 2007. It was retired in February 2012.

What came about with you deciding to transition away from the truck?

The cost of it, the headaches. This is in New York City, though. Every city is different. Running a truck is going to be different from city to city to city because every city has its own ordinances regulating trucks. But New York City is one of the worst, I think, based on what I’ve heard.

What were some of the trials and tribulations you had over that period? You had a pretty good run.

It was a great run. Trials and tribulations…again, not (being) rich, so $140,000 was already way over budget. That’s number 1. Number 2, we were using a used truck which was unreliable, so it had a lot of breakdowns. That was a big headache. And it wasn’t just the truck. You have generator issues, too, always. If you’re going to have a generator running a lot of your power, you’re constantly going to have problems.

And why is that?

Generators are not built to be running 16 hours a day or 12 hours a day, seven days a week. At least the size that we’re talking about.

So how often were you having to take the truck off the road for repairs?

I don’t know exactly, but a lot. Anybody who followed our truck definitely knows that we were out of commission on a regular basis. And then also the weather. Once the weather’s bad, we thought, okay, let’s try it the first few months. If it’s raining we’d go out and see, because we didn’t know if people would come out or not. But people are just too scared. They just don’t come out. We made very few sales (in the rain).

Did it help at all, dealing with legal problems in the city, to be a part of the New York Food Truck Association?

That came much later. That food truck association didn’t start until, I think, three years in.

As far as having the place now, what is better about having a brick and mortar establishment versus a truck?

Predictability. When you have a problem with a food truck, you don’t have a lot of service providers out there to fix the problem quickly and efficiently. So if there’s something wrong with your generator, you’re going to have to find a way to either unmount it from the truck and drive it over to a repair guy, or if you’re lucky enough — and I don’t know anybody like this — find a guy who’s going to come out to your truck wherever it’s parked to fix it, or you have to drive the truck itself to a repair guy. So that’s one tiny little example of the issues you have to deal with for a repair. But if you have a restaurant or a café and you have an oven problem, you have a gazillion different service guys competing for your business who will come out. Yeah, they’re not cheap, but still it’s going to get done probably within 24 hours.

Is it that the market hasn’t evolved yet to deal with the problems within the industry?

The market will probably never evolve because there will probably never be enough trucks to have a service provider that will make house calls for a generator issue, for example. A lot of trucks are very unique in the way they’re built out. You have to have someone who kind of knows what they’re doing with your truck.

Do you see the issues involving truck licensing regulations in the city getting any better since you started?

A lot of the licensing regulations here don’t make sense. It seems like it’s getting worse. That’s just my opinion, but I have never really been able to keep up with every single change that has been happening with food trucks. I almost feel like an outsider now. It’s worse partly because it’s so many out there. A lot of people who are not foodies who don’t read Eater every day or don’t read the food blogs every day, they’re just going to say, ‘They’re a heck of a lot of trucks now. So cool, but it’s hard to distinguish between the two. And, oh, by the way, I remember the city was really trying to crack down on them.’ It’s just a really mixed bag of public perception which is not all that great, I don’t think.

Do you think having the truck helped with marketing and getting the brand out there?

Oh yeah. Totally.

What did you think of participating in fairs and popups like Madison Square Eats and other food markets around the city?

In our first year and a half, we used to do that all the time and we used to be really excited about it and it was a lot of fun to go to these different events, whether it was a fundraiser or a booth at a fair or a truck fair. In the end, it just seemed like more work than it was worth looking back on it. It didn’t seem to strengthen our brand and…I don’t know what it was. It just didn’t seem worth it. We definitely didn’t seem to be making any money from it, or a lot.

You’re rebranding the restaurant as Cathcart & Reddy. Just curious, but what is that about? Why the name change?

Because we don’t have a truck anymore. And again, even recently, just doing a catering event under our old name, people got us confused with other trucks. You can blame our name. That’s fine. I understand. Partly we started with a not very strong brand name, but people still get confused despite all the press that we’ve gotten. [Side note: Cathcart & Reddy are the surnames of Susanna Cathcart-Garcia, Chang’s business partner, and Sandesh Reddy, a pastry chef and supporter of the enterprise.]

Do you think it’s hard to break into the industry, especially in New York City, as far as competition goes and maybe cliques and getting a good space? 

No, but we were lucky. We were on the front end and we were able to find a really busy corner that no one had claimed. And our business was always at night. We were very different from a lot of other trucks in that 85% of our revenue came around dinner or afterwards. It’s not lunch. We were never trying to fight for Midtown, although we tried Midtown occasionally. We never really had to fight for spots or wanted to fight for spots.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to open a truck? Honest advice.

The honest advice is really, everything that a business mentor, or the SBA, or the SBDC tells you about what you need to think about when opening any business, you gotta think about it and apply it to your truck business, too. The same principles apply. Ultimately, at the end of the day, it is running a business. There’s nothing magical about a truck that’s going to make it easier. Especially in New York City, it is counterintuitive. It is not easier. The overhead is not necessarily lower.

You can find a way, but it’s going to take a lot of legwork, a lot of research, and a lot of hard work, thinking, sitting down, and managing what your day is going to be like every single day. Please, please, please, if you haven’t been in the food business before, volunteer or something for at least six months just to see what it’s like. That’s one thing that helped us, I think. I’d been trained as a chef, worked in restaurants for a long time. That helped a lot in dealing with a lot of the nuances of running any hospitality business. Know your city’s rules and regulations and don’t assume that because you’re a truck you can get away without paying taxes.

I remember when we first started, we got an angry e-mail because we’d been getting a lot of press, and I guess this was a business owner pissed as hell at us: ‘We don’t like you because you don’t have to pay taxes, blah, blah, blah.’ I’m like, dude, we collect sales tax. I don’t know why you think we don’t have to collect sales tax. There are a lot of weird ideas and myths about trucks out there. Please don’t think it’s easy, at all.

Would you expect someone who’s just starting a new, small operation to be in the red in the beginning way more often than they’re in the black?

Oh yeah. Again, a lot of the same business principles apply. Expect to be in the red. You might get lucky, but don’t rely on luck. You’ve got to rely on preparation. If you’re lucky, that’s icing on the cake. We were lucky. Take it from me. We took for granted the kind of success that we had. We’ve been doing it for over five years. It’s been in people’s consciousness for over five years now, so don’t expect to automatically get a lot of press anymore, anywhere I think.

Are there good resources that people can use to find out what to do and where to source, or is it really about networking?

I’m one of the worst people to ask about that. When I started, there were no other gourmet food trucks out there. I just did a lot of embarrassing question asking, pounding the pavement, asking street vendors who were mostly reluctant to say anything to me. It was a lot of luck and a lot of asking embarrassing questions for me and a lot of it was also experience from restaurants. I knew who the vendors were, too, just based on the restaurants where I’d worked.

Did your law background help at all?

 Not really.

Where do you see this restaurant going?

I want to see if we can do more catering and retail.

Would you ever go back to a truck later?

Only if someone else ran it and they had a crapload of money, and it was just sort of a side project or hobby for them, and they just wanted to have their kicks for shits and giggles.

You mean, you’d franchise it out for someone else to run?

Yeah, something like that, or just have me consult. I would never want to do day-to-day management of a truck again. No way.

BADASS BUILDOUTS - 12 Stylistically Awesome Pizzerias

BADASS BUILDOUTS - 12 Stylistically Awesome Pizzerias

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