Food Trucks - love 'em or leave 'em, it's hard to ignore
the fact that these small-op, mobile restaurants are trending in
popularity, especially in hip cities like NYC, Chicago, Portland,
Houston, and our own Louisville. Whether you're outfitting your own
truck, buying second-hand, or having one customized by a company
like C.R.A.F.T. or
Trucks, a food truck offers the opportunity to be your own boss and
share your passion for great food literally at street level. Like any
dream, however, running a food truck is a lot of work and it is
important to head in with eyes wide open. To help give some
perspective, we recently interacted with Vic Cardenas, a chef from Salt
Lake City and former operator of Como Lomo Peruvian food truck, as he shared some of his
reflections on the mobile movement, noting the challenges and
opportunities for those looking into starting a food
Prima - Some people have looked down their noses at the food
truck movement as a flash in the pan. Is this a fad?
Chef Vic - Yes, it is a fad! But if you know what you're
doing, there is longevity in this business. Very few people do know
what they're doing in this business and will not find longevity. In my
area, sushi and pho restaurants are a pretty big fad. Sure, sushi and
pho will always have a demand but I highly doubt 70% of these new sushi
or pho places are going to be open 5 years from now.
Prima - What niche do you think food trucks fill? Is it about
delivering awesome gourmet tastes or merely offering cheap prices?
Chef Vic - Most food trucks are missing the point. Street
food should be cheap and awesome. Most of the food trucks in my area
are in the same category... in that they miss the point. When I was
doing my food truck,
I was making food that was
extremely flavorful, looked great and was a lower price point than my
rivals. The reception I had for my truck was extraordinary. I was
busier than the most popular and well known food truck here most of the
time (when I was right next to them) and people were giving me great
feedback. I was blowing their minds! It was like Salt Lake City finally
had a great food truck and everybody was "getting it". I'm sad that I
have had to leave my customers. I really don't think there is another
food truck here that could fill my shoes.
Prima - You have an obvious love for the Peruvian cuisine you
prepared. I guess that is part of the appeal of running your own truck,
your passion and getting to
see the effect on your customers?
Vic - It's all about Peruvian cuisine! The food is
INSANELY good. It's become my specialty. You should have seen the look
on my customers faces outside the food truck! People would be waving
their arms up in the air and their eyes rolling back into their eye
sockets... LOL ... I've never really seen that before in any of the
other places I've cooked.
Prima - A lot of our readers like the idea of having their
own gig and pursuing their culinary passions; but break down the
numbers. Is there enough money in a food truck to make it financially
Chef Vic - The money was working for me. I was just doing
lunches for the most part. I started to do a few dinner hours and
"after" hours but it was never solid for me. A typical lunch for me was
doing between $500-$700 gross. I was working with my wife so
effectively (in a way) we had no labor. My food costs ran usually only
around 20-25%. I was only spending about $70 a month on propane! That
stuff is cheap! My first commissary was only $170 a month. No
utilities. Although I had a few problems with my first commissary and
moved to one that charged $400 a month after that. The $400/month place
had a closed garage bay and a security gate and a great kitchen so it
was well worth the move. The cheaper place I was parking outside and I
had constant problems with electricity and refrigeration needs and no
kitchen to use.
A few hours of prep in the morning and a
2 hour lunch (always busy) was all the hours I was putting in. I was
working 4 days a week and working on filling in 1 or 2 other days with
solid spots and looking into getting solid spots for dinner. The money
worked for me and I am confident that if other things didn't get in the
way, I'd still be doing it and making good money and I'm sure I'd be
the most popular food truck in SLC at this point... Leagues above the
Prima - So, follow up on that. What size team could a food
truck support? Two? Three?
Chef Vic - 3 guys can't make a living in this business. 2
however, is a more realistic option.
Prima - Did you have one permanent place you would park your
truck or did you follow the mobile model and park your truck at
different sweet spots?
Chef Vic - I had considered finding a permanent location.
I think it would have worked better for me... I was moving around to
all the "popular spots". I was following your typical "gourmet" food
truck business model that we have here in SLC. Office buildings, mobile
food courts, and a few popular venues and private parties.
Prima - You mentioned "other things" getting in the way. Why
did you decide to sell your truck?
Chef Vic - It didn't work out due to family issues and the
logistics of it. In other words, it was complicated.
Prima - Fair enough. Thanks for sharing your perspective with
Do you have experience operating a food truck? If so, do you agree
with Chef Cardenas's assessments? We'd love to hear some feedback from
around the country!
If you are outfitting a truck, Prima has the equipment you need with
unbeatable prices and excellent service! Check out our refrigerated
prep tables, reach-ins,
you need help finding anything or have questions, call, email, or chat
us and our professional customer service team will be happy to assist