Part Three~Part One was published on April 6 and Part Two on April 8.
It all comes down to this.
Questioning the Food Truck Myths…
“Everything comes to you as they are supposed to be,” a wise man said to me once in the Caribbean. And, so goes the Food Truck business. These articles are finishing with a recap of Chef Scott Andres Business plan. I have been learning about the Food Truck business for the past few months as he told me of how he plans to develop his business. He is now under the gun of his own self-imposed timeline. A timeline that is constantly being replaced with another unfolding opening date.
Now that gas prices have increased so dramatically, his bottom line has shrunk without serving even the first hand-held morsel. Here are a few things that have come up to keep the wheels spinning in his head but, not on the pavement.
What is the Name of your food truck concept?
Chef Andres is waiting for that A-ha moment. A spark that will generate the right name, one that encompasses and represents the entire concept and defines his menu accurately.
“I actually have multiple pages of names written down but, I want to fall in love with the name of my food truck concept,” say Chef Scott.
“Right now, none of the names really excite me. I don’t like cliffhanger endings, I’m more of a closure kind of guy. So believe me, when I know, you’ll know. Sorry, you’ll have to patiently stay tuned for now.”
What will Core Menu and Specialties be?
“Smoked meats that are served both hot and cold will be the mainstays additionally, the entire menu will be established around using the liveliest of ingredients with key notes prepared using whole foods,” says the Chef.
Why did you decide to start a food truck concept?
“I began my quest in culinary school at Florida Culinary Institute in West Palm Beach, Florida. My idea was that one day I would take everything that I learned, and apply it in my own business, leaving a legacy for my children,” says Chef Andres.
“Well, here I am, I have finally arrived at that very important place in creating my gourmet food truck concept and, I couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity.”
Troubles and Challenges?
“Relying upon others to help make needed modifications.” Chef Andres relies upon many different people to get his business going. Just finding someone to work on the step-van truck was another problem. When he has to repair his mobile kitchen, he has a hard time getting the proper parts.
His truck is a converted food delivery truck. He found that the person who owned the truck before used parts from other varieties of step-vans. Step-vans are also on the road for decades. The companies that build these vans built themselves out of business. So getting parts can be hard because some of these step-van builders are gone. Custom repairs seem to be the only answer.”
Work Flow and Placement…
“Fitting your equipment into your new Food Truck could be as difficult as using a shoe horn to get an elephant’s foot into a stiletto. The equipment has to be set up to be removable if the menu changes and placed into the van so your steps to accomplish a dish are streamlined. The equipment has to be convertible. Meaning that a flat-top refrigerator should always be bought because they need to be used for a working surfaces.”
Truck Approved for Full-on Production
“The Health Department can be your best friend or, cost you more than you planned. They lay down the rules about where and how you plan to prepare food. The Health Department watchdogs can examine your food preparation kitchen (that is usually in your home) and approve it or, insist that you have to conduct your business through in an approved commercial kitchen.”
Increase Customer Flow….
“To increase customer turnover and get them through the ordering and cashing-out process has to be streamlined as well. “No one wants to wait, but they will if they see the lines are moving at a steady pace, they will wait to order,” says chef Scott.
“For me meats such as beef, pork, turkey are going to be the culinary stars. The Accompaniments are going to be the supporting Cast members. My sauces and condiments will be paired with the main ingredients to create an interactive culinary experience for the customer. The scope of accompaniments will give people the opportunity to play with their food while mixing and matching to their preference.
The Chef Highlights:
“Smoked rare roast beef piled high on a soft roll, with a fresh grated horseradish sauce and my own special home-made ketchup will be the sauce that might be my main forte. Then the sides of a SouthWestern slaw and crisp chili-dusted potatoes will the side available to add to the hand-held masterpiece.”
“Cross-utilization is not only going to be a money savings process for my business, because I will offer so many alternative choices it is also going to be a time saving device for me while providing variety for the customer. If am going to serve something with cabbage, this condiment will also have alternative uses. The cabbage will of course be offered as an old fashion slaw but, it will also be the ingredients in a dispenser so the customer can add a South-Western soiree slaw. This slaw will be available for a Bajan Fish Taco as an alternative to the Asian-style slaw that I created for the taco.”
Twists that were Not Expected?
Propane gas instead of natural? As the Chef details all these little things, some questions come up such as how are you going to cook the food? The gas available to fuel the equipment is commonly overlooked. “Natural gas of course burns hotter and heats more efficiently, but the availability and ease of obtaining propane gas is a no-brainer.”
How did you Work through the Down Times?
“We always have small events being booked. I started this business with a small smoker trailer. The smoker trailer gives me the availability to do smaller events that are peppered throughout the year to sustain us during down time where we have been waiting for business approvals and custom truck renovations.”
“My staff is only on-call right now. We still have no full time commitments except for family members. It is just extra money for my on-call staff. For now, my calls to work are just a little unexpected something extra.”
What Food Truck Groups did You Hook-up with?
“Tampa Bay Food Trucks. It is a small group of about ten Food Trucks. Small groups make it better for everyone involved right now during the first year of these Food Truck rallies. The customer base is relatively plentiful so there are sufficient business to be divided among vendors.
“Another cost that Food Truck Vendors do not realize ahead of time is the Pay for Play – to be involved with these rallies. A surcharge is levied upon the Vendors to pay for city permits and lot rentals that the organizers have to pay the city. Sometimes, this a pre-event cost, other times an Event Managers might just take a cut of your sales. So plan for both, yet remember this is just one more thing you have to build into the cost of selling your products.”
Is it Important to be Involved with the other Vendors at these Rallies?
“The learning early on from another vendor might be the most important thing you can obtain ahead of time. Go to some local Rallies and ask questions. I find, the more trucks involved in a rally, the better. It makes the event more popular, drawing more customers. They will likely have extra customer-friendly activities to draw even more customers.”
“$100,000 estimated sales for my first year, providing me a small gross profit and the out-right purchasing of my used Step-van Truck was better to free up operational cash reserves for the long run. The way we built this from the ground up, I save at least $100K in cost of buying a pre-Fab Food Truck. It was a decision of time vs. the amount of start-up money. I had a lot more time than money to get this business going.”
In Five Years…
“I will have my second or third truck on the road so, I can cover more events.”
Your Traveling Range and Days Off…
“I plan on doing rallies from Orlando to Sarasota. My weekend events are going to be my most important. Thursdays through Sundays are going to be my bread and butter. Monday through Wednesday will be my days for preparing for these events.”
About Michael Bennett:
Michael’s status as a chef and author has been highlighted in publications that include; the New York Times, Ocean Drive magazine, Cooking Light magazine, Travel and Leisure magazine and National Culinary Review as well as his cookbooks being highly placed on Amazon’s cookbook list. He has appeared on television cooking segments and has been featured as one of South Florida’s pivotal figures in the Florida’s exotic tropical fusion cooking. Michael Bennett is a well-known,award winning chef – as Chef of the Year – whose clients are a Who’s Who of Media and Sports personalities. He earned critical culinary kudos as the Executive chef for the 26 year, culinary tour d’ force – Left Bank restaurant. Under his auspices he brought the restaurant its first ever Best of -Zagat Survey, Four Stars – AAA and Four Diamonds -Mobil. He is affiliated with several culinary and food-related organizations.
You can find out more: http://www.foodbrats.com