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Mobile Mavericks

Thinking of joining the food truck revolution? Mix great cuisine with the right vehicle, then throw in long order-to-delivery times, severe-duty maintenance, DIY repairs and ever-changing regulations.

May 2011, by Jennifer Washington - Also by this author

From complicated truck build-outs and brand building to maintaining expensive equipment and keeping up with regulators, getting in on the mobile food truck revolution isn’t as easy as it looks. In the words of one food truck owner, “Things just happen when you’re driving older vehicles with thousands of pounds of equipment and food.”

Read on to learn how eight food truck vendors created their movable feasts and share their strategies for keeping them on the road. Click here to view a photo gallery of their food trucks.

Crepes Bonaparte

New chassis and custom upfit helps avoid maintenance hassles.

Christian Murcia of Fullerton, Calif.-based Crepes Bonaparte keeps his menu true to the French form: simple, delicious street food.

Murcia and his wife, Danielle, started the company in May of 2008 as a private catering company. Last year, they expanded the business to include “Gaston,” the Morgan Olson food truck they engineered to serve all types of crepes, any time of day.

Purchased new from a local Chevy dealer, Gaston features a Chevrolet engine, a Workhorse chassis and a custom-built interior. A crepe grill in the service window allows customers to see their orders being made, while refrigerators, a deli case, a generator and other stainless-steel equipment are situated within the truck. Annual mileage is about 10,000 miles, comprised of trips back and forth between Los Angeles and Orange County, Murcia says.

Being based in Fullerton and having permits in both areas gives Crepes Bonaparte a distinct advantage over its Los Angeles-based competition. “[Running a food truck] is a lot more hours than you think it’s going to be,” Murcia says. “I remember when we got off [the Food Network’s Great Food Truck Race] we had one ‘day’ where I literally worked 48 hours straight.”

The truck was outfitted by MSM Catering Trucks, a SoCal-based food truck builder. During the initial contract write-up for the interior build, Murcia made sure to include that Gaston needed to be completed in less than three months. “Some of the other food trucks take six, seven, or eight months,” he says. “I don’t know how they do it.”

Murcia went with a completely custom interior because standard food truck templates come installed with equipment he wouldn’t need to make crepes. Murcia says he saved $30,000-$40,000 by buying the chassis and customizing it himself.

On the flip side, “A really easy way to get into the industry is to lease a truck,” says Murcia. (Click link for more information on truck leasing.) He says six-month leases are available for food trucks with standard setups such as a stove, grill and freezer.

After a friend helped design the Crepes Bonaparte logo, Murcia had vinyl wraps created and installed before hitting the road.

In terms of maintenance, one of the most important pieces of equipment on the truck is the high-watt generator, which can cost $5,000-$7,000, Murcia says. “I know too many people that have blown generators because they don’t change the oil frequently enough.” He takes care of most of the maintenance on Gaston himself, though the truck is still under the manufacturer’s warranty.

CONTINUED:  Mobile Mavericks
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