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How to Book a Food Truck: Company Lunches

A great post from our friends at the Peaches Smokehouse & Southern Kitchen Truck

Are you thinking about bringing food trucks out to your company for lunch? Or maybe you’ve been tasked with booking trucks but don’t know where to start? It can feel a little overwhelming at first, but here are some tips that might make the process a little easier:

TIP #1: Research the food trucks you want. Not all food trucks are created equal. Try asking your co-workers for suggestions or do a quick search on Yelp or Google. Start by contacting food trucks that have a good reviews and a strong online presence. These are often the trucks that are the most professional and are nice to work with. You can also get suggestions from your local food truck association. In Los Angeles, we have the SoCal Mobile Food Vendors Association. You’ll find tons of useful information about food trucks on their website, check it out: www.socalmfva.com

TIP #2: Attract great trucks. Many food trucks have a sales minimum they need to meet whenever they go out. A good rule of thumb is 50-60 tickets. If you’re able to get at least 50-60 people to buy their lunch from the food trucks, that’s a good start. Don’t forget to promote the trucks that are coming, designate a parking spot that’s big enough and keep an accurate calendar! As long as the trucks are making money, they’ll spread the word to other food trucks. Then you won’t have any trouble at all getting the best trucks to come out and feed you their tasty, tasty grub!

Continue Reading at Peaches Smoke House & Southern Kitchen’s website

 

photo credit: Got Food Trucks?

How did food trucks become so popular?

How did food trucks become so popular in Los Angeles?

How did food trucks become so popular in Los Angeles?  Is it the price? How about the food?  The modern food truck industry seems to have come out of no where.  One second there were traditional taco trucks the next second there’s Roy Choi and Kogi!  How did the new trend take become so popular so quickly?  There are many facets to the answer.

The most common answer; Roy Choi launched Kogi in late 2008 just as the economy was slumping. During this time Twitter was exploding onto the nascent social media scene.  Kogi used Twitter to connect with Los Angelenos.  The cuisine was different but familiar to city residents who had grown up with both Mexican and Korean food.  It was a perfect storm of cuisine, promotion and the public’s desire for deals.  This answer ignores a few other variables.

So what lead to the huge surge in Los Angeles?  In order for there to be a surge we needed the demand, but potential new vendors also needed food trucks.  The economic downturn had a dramatic effect on the construction industry in Los Angeles County.  The huge drop in construction  projects meant a decline in the market for traditional taco trucks.  Many of the trucks that had served construction sites went out of business once construction sites disappeared.  Those food trucks were returned (or repossessed) to builders/lenders who were the original owners. The industry had a huge supply of permitted food trucks waiting to get rented to any aspiring entrepreneur with a dream.  Our industry went from one food truck to ten to sixty in 18 months.  So this addresses the how the industry was able to grow so quickly. Now on to the why….

Why are people so enamored with food trucks?  In 2010 The first Los Angeles Street Food Fest expected 4000 people.  18000 people showed up and 6000 were turned away.  People came to wait in line to get into a festival where they waited in line to eat at a food truck. It was simply an amazing spectacle. City officials, some restaurant owners and many bloggers didn’t really grasp the draw.  From my perspective, the draw was a combination of three variables.

Eating at a food truck is a social activity. While waiting in line or for an order customers feel very comfortable interacting with each other.  Most of the time it’s to talk about the food.  The community in Los Angeles, a traditionally car-centric community, has very few opportunities to interact with one another in public space areas. Once three or more food trucks occupy a block, the normally unused sidewalk becomes an organic public space. Eating great food and socializing is nice way to spend the lunch hour.  People leave the experience full from the food and happy about the social interaction.

The innovative cuisine has been a huge draw.  The restaurant industry has a high barrier to entry for most fledgling entrepreneurs. The high cost of opening a restaurant requires most people to seek loans or investments. Moneyed interests can sometimes put a damper on a chef’s innovative ideas.  Imagine asking an investment group for $500,000- $1,000,000 pitching the Korean taco concept pre Kogi. It would have been a tough sell and I can imagine that most investors would rather go with a proven cuisine.  The desire to limit risk in food service can slow innovation. However, with the lower cost of entry into the market food trucks can take wild chances and introduce cuisines not normally found in their respective marketplace.  Grilled cheese sandwiches, Korean tacos, Chinese mexican fusion, Indian street food were all some of the first cuisines to hit the streets in LA.  There were little if any counterparts in brick and mortar restaurants.  The new cuisines were exciting to a public looking for something different.

A food trucks’ lower operating costs means they can provide high quality ingredients at a lower cost. As a lunchtime option, trucks are typically more expensive than fast food but cheaper than a mid range sit down meal. The quick nature of service lends itself to a lunchtime crowd looking for quick food at reasonable prices.

So how did food trucks become so popular?  It’s combination of innovative food, reasonable prices, and a welcome social experience. The food truck industry is expected to continue its meteoric climb. It’s important that the food truck industry continue to offer the food and experiences that have made it so popular. As the industry grows in popularity, more and more communities will embrace the trend.

 

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Getting on the Road: Starting a Food Truck

Starting a Food Truck

The popularity of food trucks has continued to grow! As such, new food trucks continue to open throughout the United States (and the world). Every new food truck has an opportunity to add to their respective market.  They can do this with their cuisine, their service and their organization. But where does the prospective new food truck start? Should the new food truck merely go to where all of the other food trucks vend?  Many new trucks are frustrated with their inability to find places to vend in their first few weeks on the road. Ongoing lunch lots are typically booked up and organizers usually like to wait and hear how a truck is received before booking them at their events. Starting a food truck requires a lot of time spent developing your market.

New food trucks must understand the importance of creating their own market and customer base. It’s not the industry’s job to find new food trucks customers, and it’s best not to be at the mercy of your regional event organizers. So how do you acquire customers? Start with your friends, relatives and coworkers. Does anyone in your group of friends/family work at a building or complex that has limited food options?  Do you have friends that need food for a private party?  It’s important to reach out to everyone that may need your services and let them know that you’re now the proud owner of a food truck!  There is no easy answer and it’s important to have enough cash reserves that you can make mistakes and/or develop your market.

Many food trucks that have been on the road for a long time have developed spots and areas that are popular with customers.  These spots can be parking lots near a building, or just streets where food trucks congregate.  As a region’s industry grows it’s important that new opportunities are developed.  If newer trucks simply go where other trucks have already created the market, an oversaturation occurs.  In instances where a space is on private property, many new food trucks get frustrated when they’re not allowed by the organizer (often the organizer is another food truck) to vend.  The best way to ensure your new food truck has access to organized spaces is to organize some spaces of your own.  Asking an established food truck if you can vend from one of their developed spaces is much easier when you can offer that food truck something in return.

Developing your own market ensures success without having to rely on others.  The more places and spaces you can develop yourself the better your chance for success.  Don’t forget how important catering is. Make sure that everyone who walks up to your food truck, sees it driving on the road or checks out your website knows that you cater!

Starting a food truck

No Time Limits for Food Trucks in Los Angeles

Lately I’ve been receiving some disturbing complaints about overzealous enforcement officers claiming that the City of Los Angeles has time limits on how long a food truck can vend.  It is true that in the Los Angeles Municipal Code there is a code section, 80.73 b(2)F that expressly forbids vending longer than 30 minutes in a residential area and 60 minutes in a commercial area. However, this code should not be enforced as per the instructions of the Chief of Police.  The memo to “All Sworn Personnel” outlines the reasons for suspension of enforcement.

From the memo: “On June 5, 2009, an appeal of a parking citation was heard in Superior Court. The parking citation was issued by the Department of Transportation employees to a catering truck which was dispensing food in violation of Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC) Section 80.73(b)2. F, which regulates the amount of time a catering truck may park in residential and commercial locations.  As a result of the appeal, LAMC 80.73(b)2.F was rendered invalid and no longer enforceable.”

The memo is very clear.  There are no time limits for food trucks in Los angeles outside of the posted signs and painted curbs.  If a Department of Transportation officer, a police officer, or a code enforcer tells you that you must leave due to time limits, please give them the attached memo.  If you are still having an issue with an enforcement officer call: LAPD Legal Unit, Risk Management Group-213-978-8300.

You are still required to follow the time limits of the posted sign and painted curb.  

Please see and download this memo.  Keep it with you:  LAPD 80.73 memo

On a side note, remember that Yellow Curbs are safe to park at after 6pm, Monday – Saturday and all day Sunday.  The code section is 89.38 of the Los Angeles Municipal Code.

Know your rights!

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How do I start a food truck? Roam can help.

How do I start a food truck?

The Roam Conference is a two day mobile vending conference for food truck operators, suppliers and public health officials.  The most asked question on the comment section of this site is, “How do I start a food truck?” The answer: “Educate yourself.” The Roam Conference curriculum covers everything that the aspiring mobile vendor needs as well as connecting suppliers with the new industry.  The two day conference utilizes speakers and panels from industry professionals to educate and inform the mobile vending industry.  All of the sessions have a Q & A component and attendees are encouraged to participate in the discussion.

The inaugural Roam Conference was last year in Portland, Oregon.  Attendees and speakers came from all over the Country to discuss mobile vending issues, regulations, advocacy and special events.  The discussions did not end at the end of the day’s speakers sessions, rather they continued on into the evening informally.  Roam was the first time multiple food truck regions were able to get together for relevant discussions.  It was at last year’s Roam that the National Food Truck Association was born. This year’s Roam promises to be as exciting, informative and important for the industry as last years.

The food truck industry is seeing monumental growth.  However, since the industry issues are so regional it’s sometimes hard to focus on the bigger picture. With a conference like Roam, food truck operators and associations can get together and discuss issues going on nationwide. This gives individual operators and potential operators a better understanding of what they may face in the future as well as some solutions to issues they face now.  As cities start opening up their streets to food trucks, it’s nice to see how the other areas of the country have adapted. Discussions with representatives from some of the older markets can really prepare newer trucks and regions to deal with issues that will arise.

Looking forward to meeting everyone at Roam.  Please come talk to me during the conference and at the planned evening events. I would love to hear all about your food truck, your city issues and anything else you’d like to discuss.

Matt Geller
SoCal Mobile Food Vendors Association

 

 

 

Food Truck Conference

Best Practices Guide for Food Trucks in Los Angeles

Best Practices Guide download copy- BPSCMFVA

  1. You must obey the posted parking restrictions, including, but not limited to, restrictions on stopping, loading, and parking from either posted signs or painted curbs [ LAMC 80.73(b)2(B)].
  2. 80.73(b)2(F) that restricts food trucks from operating for more than 30 minutes in residential and 60 minutes in commercial is NOT being enforced as of June 12, 2009.  LAPD 80.73 memo
  3. Yellow curbs in Los Angeles are open after 6pm and all day Sundays without restrictions
  4. You must dispense food from the sidewalk side of the street. No truck may dispense food street side [ LAMC 80.73(b)2(C)]
  5. Stay a safe distance away from intersections to avoid obstruction of sight lines. Know the municipalities’ requirements.
  6. Trash shall be removed from all areas VISIBLE around the truck. The truck shall take all bags with them when vacating an area. Trash is to include all materials originally dispensed from the truck as well as any other items left by patrons, such as cigarette butts[ LAMC 80.73(b)2(E)].
  7. You must have a CONSPICUOUS litter receptacle which is clearly marked with a sign requesting its use by patrons [ LAMC 80.73(b)2(D)]. In-truck hatch receptacles are NOT sufficient.
  8. Trucks must be parked at a Commissary every night. [Cal Code: 114295(c)]
  9. Trucks shall be cleaned and serviced at least once per day [Cal Code: 114297]
  10. Trucks must have access to a readily available restroom within 200ft, with warm water (100 degrees)(113941), single use dispensing soap, paper towels, kept in clean working order, if vending for over an hour (Cal Code: 114315)
  11. You must have a business license/vending permit/ peddlers permit for the municipality you are doing business in. Malibu and Calabasas use the LA County Business License. List of Cities in LA County
  12. You must have a health permit for the County (or City if it’s Pasadena or Vernon) you are doing business in. Pasadena and the City of Vernon are not covered under the Los Angeles County Health Permit and require a separate health permit and approval process.
  13. Every employee must have a seat with a working seatbelt while moving [Cal Code 27315]
  14. There is no smoking on a Mobile Food Facility. Cal Code and LAMC.
  15. There is no smoking within 40 feet of a food truck in Los Angeles City [41.50 A.7.]
  16. A properly charged and maintained minimum 10 BC-rated fire extinguisher to combat grease fires shall be properly mounted and readily accessible on the interior of any mobile food facility that is equipped with heating elements or cooking equipment. [114323(e)]
    • Some cities require a K-Rated fire extinguisher even if you have an ANSUL fire system.

FOOD SAFETY

  1. Wash your hands in 100º for at least 15 seconds after every restroom visit, and after handling food directly.
  2. Wash, rinse, sanitize.
  3. Do not handle foods with your bare hands.
  4. Do not work when ill.
  5. Hot temps must be kept above 135º
  6. Cold temps must stay below 41º
  7. Avoid the temperature danger zone: 42º -134º
  8. Cool items at the appropriate time intervals. 135º to 70º within two hours, 70º to 41º within 2 hours.
  9. Do not cross contaminate your food items.

Health Department:

  1. DO NOT MODIFY your truck after you have been permitted without a plan check
  2. DO NOT add equipment without approval
  3. If you substantially change your menu you must inform the Health Department
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