We recently explored some things about running a food truck that you may not have known. Well, there’s more where that came from! We have some new things to share that some former food truck owners told us. Let’s continue.
Food Trucks Can Sometimes Explode
Think about all the combustible products you will find inside food trucks – propane, gasoline, cooking oil, Sriracha, and the like. It’s almost like you own a Boeing 747 super-jet, only just a little bit smaller. If food truck operators seem a little paranoid about all that flammable stuff, they have a good reason. In 2016, a food truck in Philadelphia exploded due to a propane leak sparked by the grill. A similar explosion occurred in New York. And in Denver. It seems as though a pattern is emerging here.
Restaurants don’t have to search for gas leaks every five minutes. But the food truck operator must closely inspect the truck before driving. If anything isn’t clean or something is out of place, they run the risk of starting the engine and re-creating a scene from Platoon, or whatever your favorite Vietnam War movie is located.
More than 99 percent of food truck owners meticulously check every possible issue, with a fervor that borders on religious. Even so, there’s always the chance you might see one truck that has a messy kitchen or a rusty propane line. If you encounter such a truck, you might want to run away from it in slow motion, then jump at the last second before the explosion. Make it good, so Oliver Stone will be proud.
You May Have to Literally Fight for a Spot
A lot of truck owners think because they have parked in the same place three days in a row they should be entitled to the spot for all eternity, reports an LA food trucker. There are some places with a lot of cops or security, where confrontations are rare. You usually just get that classic death stare from drivers who didn’t get there first. But outside office complexes or construction sites? Be prepared for at least a shouting match.
Trucks pitching the same style of edible wares are the ones most likely to descend into actual fisticuffs. Variety is one thing, but if you’re selling Mexican food and two other taco trucks pull in next to you, in theory, they’ve just slashed your business by 66 percent. If a customer can get a taco by walking five steps, they won’t wait behind three people waiting at your truck.
In New York, things can get much uglier much more quickly. There’s less space and a lot more competition for spots. One NYC food trucker recalls an incident in Hanover Square in the Financial District. A truck owner pulled up next to a parked truck and demanded the parked truck go elsewhere. The parked truck said no. This went on for several days in a row. Finally, the people got out and attacked the vendors in the parked truck. Other food trucks got involved. This gets personal because if you are physically forced out of your spot, you get no revenue that day and that can kill a business. Eventually, the cops came and sent everyone away, making everyone a loser on that day.
Food Trucks are a Test-Run for Restaurants
You know those corporate jobs that people take only because they believe it will lead to a higher-ranking, better-paying job? Food trucks can serve the same purpose. An aspiring chef or restaurant owner may buy a food truck as one step toward their ultimate goal. They use the food truck as both a mobile testing lab and a viral marketing campaign.
Generally speaking, half of all new restaurants don’t make it past the second year. One of the biggest culprits is opening in a bad location. Starting off with a food truck is a good way to know in advance if a location has the traffic and population you need to succeed. You can also discover if the area is haunted by a pesky old man pretending to be a ghost in order to drive real estate prices down.
The problem is that food trucks usually only bring in enough money to (barely) pay the bills. Josh Gatewood was only able to get started with his New York City food truck after winning on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. Lawrence Fama had to exit the food truck business after two years in LA because he was barely breaking even. He went back to working in other people’s food trucks.
You have to strike a delicate balance between making good, unique food that draws people in, but not being crazy enough to scare them away.
If you’re an average Joe or Jane walking down the street, you probably view food trucks as a slightly cheaper and more convenient alternative to sitting down in a restaurant. But to the people who run them, they’re a very big gamble. The food truck could be a lottery ticket that leads to a hit restaurant. It could be a money pit that destroys their credit rating for eternity. It could even destroy half a city block when it hits a pothole that knocks the propane line loose and emits gas into the path of the blunt the stoner behind the truck just lit up because he wants to, “get in the empanada zone.” Stay safe out there, people!