How to run a successful food truck business

March 26, 2020 • 8 minutes

Kseniia Kyslova
Kseniia Kyslova
Managing Editor and Content Marketer at Poster, collaborates with industry experts and spreads Poster's footprint across the web.

As the coronavirus started spreading across the US, in different states food truck businesses had to limit their operations or close. The popularity of food trucks has been growing for the last several years. More people were thinking about writing a food truck business plan, starting a food truck business, and quit their boring jobs. Now, some doubt the viability of this business while others think it has high chances to survive as they initially don’t have dining rooms.

We talked to Desmond Mays, owner of Champ Ian Food Truck, Houston, the U.S. He started his food truck 2 month before the coronavirus began to spread across the U.S. His business has quickly gotten everyone’s attention in the Houston/Katy Texas area and worldwide-known Rappers & NFL Players and Coaches were putting in requests for upcoming catering events.

Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the food service landscape has changed overnight. But would this stop food truck owners from pursuing their dream to run a business they are in love with? Desmond told us what has inspired him to become a food truck owner and shared some ideas on how he’s going to cope with the upcoming hurdles.

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Own food truck is a feasible dream if you love to cook & entertain

Owning a food Truck was something Desmond always joked about with his fiancée, Linda Tran. Linda comes from a family that loves to cook authentic Vietnamese dishes. Every time Desmond’s family and friends would try something that she cooked, they would rave about the flavors and how amazing the food was.

‘Once I told myself whenever I saved up enough money I was going to let the world try how good this food is.’  Desmond

As Desmond has always enjoyed entertaining and сooking, he had a double motivation to make this dream come true.

‘I remember myself being 12-year old or so. My mom used to work nights. I used to wait until she left for work to sneak out and make food for the guys on the block. They would throw me some change. I had a hustle mentality at a very young age. To be honest, I still simply just enjoy giving guys food and listening to them telling me how good the food is.’  Desmond

He started his food truck with a concept centered around the unique taste of Asian fusion food with an American twist. His philosophy is based on providing customers with great food, service and exceeding their expectations. Having strong family values, Desmond has named his business after his 2-year old son, Champ Ian Mays.

‘I believe my son will be a Champ in whatever he decides to explore. Ian means gift from God. So that's how he got his name Champ Ian Mays.’  Desmond

Food truck owner is more than a profession, it’s a lifestyle

When Desmond started looking for a truck he got very lucky. He met a business person who had purchased a vehicle (learn how much does it cost to open a food truck) and obtained all permits and licenses needed to run a food truck but their plans changed. They posted it online for sale, and Desmond jumped right on it and got a good deal. This helped him skip the bureaucracy and throw himself into work and learn what it takes to run a food truck from his own experience.

Champ Ian Food Truck usually opened up on Friday-Sunday. Striving to sell all their food fresh they have to prep veggies and everything needed the night before. For this, they would stay up most of the night doing this because they know that fresh ingredients make a big difference with their customers' satisfaction.

‘We would usually start our night off at Kapri Ultra Lounge in Houston, Texas at 9 pm and stay there until 2:30 am. People are very classy there and they don’t mind having us there. And they tip very well! Most clubs ask for a percentage for your total sales. But not the owners of this place. They are stand up guys and help me out with anything I need. Very rare you can find people like them nowadays.’

Although being up for about 24 hours is hard, Desmond doesn’t complain about the difficulties of the trade. It doesn’t feel like work for him and it takes him back to being a kid again, entertaining, and putting smiles on people's faces.

‘We have a saying for when things are not going expected from prepping to actually being in the truck. We say NEXT PLAY this lets us refocus on the task at hand. Saying this allows us to never get down or in a bad mood.’  Desmond

Being open for customers an average of 20 hours Friday through Sunday, Champ Ian Food Truck would average a total sales between $1800–$2,000 a weekend. Among the factors that help him manage his food truck with a profit, Desmond mentions getting to people through social media and walking advertisements.

Coronavirus hit food truck businesses yet hasn’t killed them

Now, entrepreneurs have to figure out how to operate a food truck business being limited by governments during the quarantine. Mobile businesses have suffered the most from event cancellations. Those whose trucks are permanently parked near business and entertainment spots have lost sales because of the stay-at-home directives.

‘COVID19 outbreak is the first difficult challenge our business has faced since we started operation. Before that, we had been lucky to get through all the startup hassle with ease. Now, we continue to trust GOD for his provisions! ’ — Desmond

Everybody has to reconsider how to run their food truck. Now truck owners are offering online orders and payments plus delivery or curbside pick up. And a cost-effective food truck POS system can be of good help here. They’re reaching their customers on Facebook and community forums where people usually look for nearby trucks, their schedules, and menus. Those who have good following have an advantage.

‘All of our orders are served curbside. And a lot of people from local communities have been reaching out for us to be there to serve them. This operation style has worked so far.’ — Desmond

Deep cleaning and sanitizing. No cash and no card contact. Those things now are critical to overcoming the doubts people might have about the safety of food sold from trucks. Every owner who continues operating a food truck should also be attentive to local health department regulations. When looking for a new viable vending location, they should abide by the local rules about where food trucks can park.

Houstonians don’t give up! Desmond is determined to restore his food truck operation at full capacity. After the COVID19 crisis passes, he is planning to gather fellow food truck owners at a huge event called Champ Ian Stand up Food Festival. He hopes it will help everybody to raise enough money to get back in their usual work rhythm.

‘Before I purchased the truck I made a commitment to GRIND. Put in these long hours. Go the extra miles. Do the things others aren’t willing to do. We’re completely 110% in this to Win! ’ — Desmond

To survive the crisis, small business owners should keep their eye on the ball and catch every opportunity to cut their expenses. Despite all the hurdles waiting ahead, Desmond believes that running a food truck is his calling and he’ll follow it.

‘My grandma, Evelena Mayes, passed away 6 years ago. She was our everything from hosting family cookouts to just simply holding the family together with prayers. Before she passed she gave my mom her blue cooking aprons to give to me. I honestly didn’t understand all that at the moment but it all is coming together NOW. I truly believe my grandmother is looking over this business and keeps the light shining on us.’ — Desmond

Those who adapt will survive! We wish Champ Ian Food Truck and other food truck businesses to strive against the crisis and hope everybody will be able to restore operations in the near future.

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