Photo by Ryan Pederson
I was talking to a would-be entrepreneur the other day, and she innocently asked, “But everyone likes food trucks better, right? It seems like food trucks never close.” I looked at her funny. “They just open. You never read about food trucks closing. Right?”
Okay right, maybe you never read about them closing because food writers can’t drive by and verify that they’ve closed. But, oh yeah, food trucks close. Here’s what happens: they get sold. Either on the national market or local craigslist. Here’s a nice national graveyard of failed food trucks for sale.
How about a locally available food truck—on Minneapolis craigslist ready to go for $75,000! Sad. I never even heard of that one.
Anyhoo, once you purchase your food truck, you, or the nice people at Chameleon Concessions in Plymouth, fix it up all fancy and make every trace of the prior food truck disappear! Then you send out a press release saying that you’re open, and voila! Food trucks only open—because they just kinda vanish.
Here are a few vanished food trucks:
Sadness. The Filipino truck with Ethiopian flourishes was godawfully bad—but the people were so nice. I threw out two full trays of lunch from that place and never wrote about it. Not sure if they had problems cooking the way they wanted in a truck or what, but, let’s say no more.
MELCH'S MEAT WAGON
I tried this once and thought: Meh. I thought maybe they’re new and need time . . . and now they seem to be gone. Twitter down, Facebook down, website still up. They were positively reviewed—it’s a mystery. RIP.
BLOOMY'S ROAST BEEF
I never even got to try this one. I went about three or four times, and they were always sold out—then I gave up. Grok the Facebook page for sad last days of a food truck dream.
This was a head-scratcher to begin with. I personally had no awareness of the specialness of kebabs (rhymes with rehabs) of Australia. Favored by koalas? If you flush them they go the other way round? Anyway, didn’t last long.
In a general way, I’d say don’t put body hair in your food truck name. Poisons, hair, excrement—we have food taboos for a reason. Fare thee well, Mr. Mustachios, we hardly knew ye and you might have gotten farther if you were Mr. Manicotti’s. Just saying.
MARIE ANTOINETTE CREPES
Totally tasty, lovely crepes. That took forever. I’m not a big believer in the financial possibility of dessert trucks in a general way, if anyone’s wondering.
Never heard of it till I went looking for dead food trucks. This was a thing? For why? Who? When? Eh?
But you can have the best product and customers who adore you and still close! Saucy Burt’s was a meatball sub cart that operated in Minneapolis for a few years. She was a sweetheart, the meatball subs were delicious, her customers loved her, a win-win-win, right? Until she decided she’d had enough.
“It was tons of fun, especially in the beginning,” Sarah Burt told me on the phone from her current job, working at locavore market gem Local D’Lish. “I really enjoyed so much of it, the nuts and bolts, taking it from a fantastic idea to something you were executing, tinkering with until it was awesome and great. It was tons of fun, especially in the beginning. But I think for a lot of people, the sheer force of manual labor you need to bring to the job every day to make it successful becomes overwhelming.”
For instance, a lot of food trucks start their days at 3 or 5 o’clock in the morning prepping food, stocking the truck with enormous loads of ice, water, food, and beverages, then heading out to the streets to battle for parking spots. Then, of course, they’re standing over a hot stove and engaging with customers, and then home to either do it again for a second night shift of a brewery or festival, or simply to unload and swab out the truck for the next day. “For myself,” says Burt, “I’d start my day at 6:30 [in the morning], pick up bread, get to the kitchen, prep, then out to sell, then running around getting more food and doing errands, then back to the kitchen to prep till 11 or midnight. I have no regrets; it was totally worth it.” What has Burt done with her signature cart? “I still have it,” she told me. “I’m obviously going to keep the brand, I’ll always be Saucy.”
And one more thing. Sometimes food trucks don't close, they just drive away. For instance, the Magic Bus Café had enough of these Minnesota winters, and drove off to Colorado.
In conclusion: Love the ones you’re with, folks! Because they might die or go away, whether they’re people or trucks bubbling along full of fryer oil.