One of the first lessons I learned at Jimmy John’s was that to manage a restaurant well, you have to be the best at every position in the restaurant. That holds for everything from prepping orders to scrubbing the bathroom. Then when chaos strikes – when you look up and see a line way out of the door, tickets getting mixed up, and you realize you haven’t prepped enough product– you know exactly where you need to be.
Ideally, I want to be as close to that point as possible before launching my own truck. So, when I saw an ad on Craigslist about a brand new truck (a BACON truck!) starting up and looking for help, I jumped at the opportunity and applied to Lardon.
The owners, a husband-wife duo who share a passion for bacon (who doesn’t though, right?) were making their entrance into the restaurant business and after a meeting at their commissary they agreed to hire me on. For me, working with Lardon seemed like a great opportunity in that it not only would give me a chance to see how I liked working on a truck, but also would give me insight into the challenges a startup truck and help me decide if I was sure that I wanted to start my own.
On my first day, I immediately started learning about challenges unique to a food truck. While prepping for the day, I realized how tight storage space was. A restaurant generally has the luxury of a walk-in fridge and freezer and racks for dry storage. A food truck on the other hand has about as much fridge space as 3 dorm room fridges and if you’re lucky, a freezer the size of a microwave. As a result, you tend to pack the fridges pretty full, which becomes a HUGE pain when you need to get something from the bottom. Later I would realize that the lack of storage space wasn’t just annoying, it was a serious limitation. You can only sell as much product as you can fit in the truck and trips back to the commissary to restock waste time and money spent on labor. I would need to do some math to figure out how to maximize profits based on forecasted sales of each item.
I’m learning quickly that the mobile aspect to a food truck makes it a more complex operation than an ordinary restaurant in many ways. The advantage you gain in lower overhead costs can be outweighed by logistics that are out of your control such as weather, parking, and truck breakdowns. In the past week alone, we’ve encountered each of these challenges at least once.
This is part of an ongoing series about the start up of a food truck called NaanStop. We will be launching in the first quarter of 2011. You can follow us on twitter @NaanStop, on Facebook, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any feedback. Check back here for weekly updates!