Chef Darryl King started Riteway Catering in Phoenix more than 10 years ago, but itâ€™s only in the last year that heâ€™s run the Taste-Rite food truck, using a trailer he originally built for participating in barbecue contests. Here he gives BlackEnterprise.com an inside look at this hot trend in the food business, why it was a good business move for his brand.
BlackEnterprise.com: What made you pick a food truck vs. a restaurant?
King: Itâ€™s a little bit cheaper to do that than to sign a lease and rent a piece of real estate. And [with a restaurant] youâ€™ve got to have employees. I still have a couple of guys that work for me, but when youâ€™ve got a restaurant, youâ€™re almost making a decision that youâ€™re living in that. Itâ€™s not easy in a food truck, either, but to have the freedom to be able to move around [to meet] demandâ€”thatâ€™s the option you have with a food truck and street food.
With the truck, what would you say were your startup costs?
Well, I built my trailer. But I would say for a person to start up a food truck youâ€™ve got to have at least $25,000 if you just go out and get one of the standard, already-built trucks with all the equipment in it. Thatâ€™s for a used truck thatâ€™s in decent shape. But if you want something thatâ€™s brand new, youâ€™re looking at $80,000.
What were some of the challenges were when you were starting?
I think the biggest challenge for anybody with a food truck is getting used to all the ordinances you have with the cities. They tell you what you can do and canâ€™t do.
And what lessons have you learned?
You definitely have to be professional with your customers. You have to give people a fair amount of food for their money. And youâ€™ve got to be really consistent. Iâ€™ve learned you must keep your food as fresh as possible, give your customers what you say youâ€™re going to give them, and follow the rules.
What do you predict your revenues will be this year?
Thatâ€™s hard to say because this will be the first full year for me doing food truck stuff. Being that itâ€™s so seasonal and it was still a bad economy, I really couldnâ€™t say what the gross revenue would be yet. I would hope that it would be in the $65,000 to $85,000 range, but who knows? Iâ€™m still trying to do a lot of festivals. [Having the truck] gives you some visibility to those who didnâ€™t know you were out there doing catering before you were doing food trucks. I would say a good 15% to 20% [of my revenue] is based around the visibility of the food truck.
Why do you think food trucks are so popular now?
I think in our society, everyone wants everything right now, they donâ€™t want to wait. I mean people donâ€™t even e-mail anymore, they text, right awayâ€”they want that instantaneous response and I think itâ€™s the same way with the food business. People want good, creative food that they donâ€™t have to pay a lot of money for it. It has its advantages and its disadvantages, too, but it definitely has a lot more upswing than downswing.
King, along with other food industry professionals, will be profiled on BlackEnterprise.com throughout this month, in conjunction with Black Enterprise magazineâ€™s November 2011 â€śA Passion for Foodâ€ť issue.
Check out the latest features on industry heavyweights, including Marcus Samuelsson and The Neelys, on newsstands now.