Challenges to Finding a Food Truck

What is the first image that comes to mind when you think about a Food Truck? If you imagined a run down, dirty, questionable “roach coach”, you are one of many. Mobile food has been around for centuries, but the food truck craze began in late 1600’s in New York City. The ideas we hold today about food trucks stem from Oscar Meyers wiener mobile, which became very popular in the 1930's.

Today, food trucks have been transformed by food entrepreneurs and chefs who bring their culinary passion and create beautiful, decadent, artisan food on-the-go. The range of food offered through food trucks is more diverse than most brick-and-mortars (traditional restaurants) and because utility costs are typically lower, as is the price of your to-go meal.

The search for a food truck in the Bay Area is rough unless you have upwards of $70,000 to blow. The trucks currently on the market are coming from a non-regulated DIY climate and emerging into a highly regulated custom made reality. Most of the older models are outdated and don’t have much of the required sanitation or safety equipment such as, a three sink set-up for dish washing, Ansel fire extinguisher system, 74" height requirement, fans in the refrigeration system, etc. Another big problem is power. The generators need to be housed inside an enclosed compartment as to not contaminate the food or disrupt patrons while they grub.

Other good trucks on the market are bought quickly and owners always want to make a profit or at the very least break even. Can you blame them? Not at all. We almost snagged a truck that was up for donation up in San Francisco, but once we got up close, we soon understood why the owner was trying to get rid of it and unfortunately has to decline the offer.

On the road to San Francisco I was accompanied by our food truck consultant and our mechanic consultant who guided me in understanding what would fly with the Mobile Food Facilities (MFF) inspector in the county of Santa Clara. After a full evaluation we determined that the costs to revive the truck were going to outweigh what we were willing to put into it. This food truck had no blowers in the refrigerator, no class K fire extinguisher system (required for oil and grease), no hand-washing sink (separate from the three sink set-up), no emergency exit, and no HCD insignia. The HCD insignia is a stamp of approval from the Housing and Community Department and the process for acquiring the insignia can be quite long and complex. Under the hood, we found several leaks which would require a complete engine re-build. The transmission was not functional and if we wanted to drive it home to San Jose, we would be out of luck because the break pads were non existent.

As the search continues I will stay persistent in my pursuit to find a truck where the vision of our mobile culinary classroom can blossom and provide a solid platform for Eastside Grange.

Eastside Grange is generously supported by The Knight Foundation.