I recently asked 7 Los Angeles food truck operators at LA Street Food Fest and out in the field, What was the biggest challenge in opening your first food truck?. Read their responses:
Alvin Cailan (Egg Slut LA)
Staying consistent and arriving on time.
Roy Choi (Kogi BBQ)
I wasn’t in that state of mind when we opened the truck. It wasn’t a challenge. We went out from our soul. We went to the market and bought food and just started slangin’ tacos. It wasn’t about the thought or the challenge, it was following your heart and your spirit.
Dave Danhi (The Grilled Cheese Truck)
To be honest with you, it was a fairly smooth opening, with the exception of opening day. We were all set, we had a line of about 150 people – I’ll never forget this for the rest of my life – we had everything going, fire’s on and all that, and the next thing we know, he put his hands down on the griddle and it wasn’t hot. The flame had been going for two hours while we set up, and there was something wrong with the regulator. We had 150, up to 200 at that point, people just about ready to lynch us. We got a mechanic down, got it fixed, and from that point, we were off and running. Aside from that, it was fairly. I’ve opened dozens of restaurants at this point in my career, this was fairly smooth.
Brook Howell (Frysmith)
Just the basics of getting a truck built to our specifications. That is pretty much the same as a regular restaurant. You have to deal with the Health Department and multiple agencies. That was tough, getting all that together, plus having a custom truck like ours.
Masa Ose (Pig’s Feet Under)
The networking. Unlike my experience of working in a restaurant, you have to find the location to go to for every week and unless you know the right people, you end up parking on the streets at random locations hoping you get customers.
Ernesto Reitich (El Pan-Americano)
The beginning is hard because you need all the permits, and figuring out where you’re going to park, and find the spots. All that is challenging, but it’s part of the job.
George Wu (Waffles de Liege)
Outside of preparing the menu, which is a whole other animal, I would say getting our truck approved by the health department was a significant challenge. Regulations concerning mobile catering trucks have undergone a lot of changes since the first gourmet truck launched and it’s very important to keep up with that. You don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot by building your truck out and missing out on important requirements. Paying attention to details and triple checking everything is a good policy to have.