Think­ing of open­ing a food truck?

Own­ers like the free­dom to test dishes, be cre­ative

USA TODAY US Edition - - MONEY - Pa­trick An­der­son

Here’s how four busi­nesses got their start.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Glen Drew made his way through well-known lo­cal kitchens be­fore start­ing his own busi­ness.

The restau­rants gave him a chance to cook, but none with the level of au­ton­omy he has now.

So, the Sioux Falls na­tive bought a retro­fit­ted mail truck on­line, drove it home from Min­nesota and took his culi­nary skills on the road.

“I can be more cre­ative and in­de­pen­dent,” said Drew, owner of the yel­low-and-white Lunch Box truck. “Do my own thing.”

Food truck own­ers all have their own unique menu, con­cept and rea­son for buck­ing the con­ven­tions of the brickand-mor­tar restau­rant in­dus­try.

Some hit the road, chaf­ing against cre­ative lim­i­ta­tions of some­body else’s kitchen. Oth­ers are hunt­ing an af­ford­able way to test recipes and dip their toes into a com­pet­i­tive mar­ket. It starts with an op­por­tu­nity or a phi­los­o­phy – or some­times even a dream.

Here’s a look at how three other food truck busi­nesses got started.

Papa Woody’s Wood-Fired Pizza

Lisa Esser and her hus­band have a com­bined 35 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in the restau­rant in­dus­try.

When her sis­ter died, they took in her four chil­dren. With two of their own chil­dren, it meant find­ing a way to pro­vide and care for a new fam­ily of eight.

“He was a stay-at-home dad, and I was work­ing an un­godly amount of hours,” Esser said. “He didn’t have a life, and I was never at home.”

Then, they hatched an idea for a food truck. It al­lowed them to go into busi­ness to­gether and bring some­thing new to the Sioux Falls scene: a wood-fired pizza oven on wheels.

Esser, her hus­band, Steve Blumke, or her 16-year-old son Arien all work on the truck, which has found a niche for it­self in cater­ing spe­cial events.

Papa Woody’s, which hit the road two years ago, serves up 7-inch pies, all made to order with fresh in­gre­di­ents. Be­cause of the wood-fired oven, piz­zas often cook faster than the prep time.

Break­ing Bur­rito

Fawn Dang and her hus­band left New York City to be closer to fam­ily in Sioux Falls. They wanted their three girls to grow up close to their grand­par­ents and Dang’s own sib­lings, but that meant her hus­band, a restau­rant man­ager, needed to find a new job.

They de­cided to start a food truck and looked for trail­ers on Face­book.

“He said, ‘You know what, we’ll just take a leap of faith and run with the idea,’ ” Dang said.

Af­ter try­ing out recipes and up­grad­ing to a cus­tom­ized food truck last year, Break­ing Bur­rito has de­vel­oped enough of a fol­low­ing to stay busy all sum­mer, Dang said.

The name comes from the cou­ple’s love of the AMC show “Break­ing Bad.” Dang’s hus­band, Car­los Sal­gado, runs the day-to-day op­er­a­tions while Dang han­dles back-end du­ties.

The menu in­cludes tra­di­tional Mexican fare such as bur­ri­tos, ta­cos and que­sadil­las.

Bro­ken Trel­lis

There’s a rea­son why this food truck is named af­ter a wooden gar­den fea­ture.

That’s be­cause its roots go back to the com­mu­nity gar­den Gregg Brandt and Jenna Da­ley tried to start.

“Ev­ery­body stole our pro­duce, so we got real frus­trated with it,” Brandt said.

Brandt and Da­ley have kept many of the same philoso­phies that in­spired the gar­den years ago but have since hopped to the other end of the farm-to-ta­ble par­a­digm.

It started with sell­ing his pro­duce and his par­ent’s meats at a lo­cal farm­ers mar­ket, Brandt said. He de­cided a good way to sup­ple­ment the stand would be to cook up some dishes us­ing in­gre­di­ents fresh from the farm.

De­mand con­tin­ued to grow un­til Brandt and Da­ley de­cided to com­mit their full at­ten­tion to pre­par­ing and serv­ing food. They bought a trailer in July.

They work hard to in­clude as many South Dakota-grown in­gre­di­ents as pos­si­ble in their recipes, which they ro­tate to keep din­ers in­ter­ested.

“We change our menu ev­ery week,” Da­ley said. “We do things that you can’t find in this area.”

ARGUS LEADER ME­DIA

BRO­KEN TREL­LIS

“We change our menu ev­ery week,” says Jenna Da­ley of the Bro­ken Trel­lis, which uses as many South Dakota-grown in­gre­di­ents as pos­si­ble.

PA­TRICK AN­DER­SON/USA TO­DAY NET­WORK

Glen Drew, owner of The Lunch Box, says he likes that he can be “more cre­ative” and “do my own thing.”

USA TO­DAY NET­WORK

The Lunch Box food truck pre­pares for the lunch rush in a Sioux Falls, S.D., park­ing lot.

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