Practical Tips

How do you pick a good employee to work in your food truck?

The owner of Rickshaw Dumpling Bar in Manhattan recently told Nation’s Restaurant News that not only do his employees have to be “able to steam fresh dumplings, prep all the fresh sides like the green salads and sesame noodle salad, and be able to drive in New York City,” but they also must know how to “handle hot weather days, cold weather days and being harassed by other vendors. Basically, they set up the entire store in the morning and tear it down at night. They also have to be good at not getting tickets. They have to feel very confident in troubleshooting when the truck goes down because so many things can go wrong that we don’t have checklists like we do in the restaurant. Instead, we just tell them to leave the truck how they’d like to pick it up.”

How do you select a lucrative location?

In a three-part article entitled “Behind the scenes with an L.A. Food Truck,” posted on Serious Eats, the owner of the Manila Machine reveals that it is sometimes necessary to send a “staging car” to hold a good spot and that revealing your secrets on Twitter may put you at a disadvantage. “Are there other restaurants in the area? Can you assume that the people in this area will want try your food for the first time? Are there any cops around that may shoo you away even though you are following the letter of the law? Are there other food trucks in the area that may not welcome your presence?” vendors must ask themselves.

Not Cool!

Last week in New York city, ice cream trucks got into a brawl over territorial rights to a few feet on the street.

A video of the clash between a Mister Softee truck and a competitor with a similar name was linked on the blog The Consumerist, proving that there is nothing soft about peddlers of icy treats!

Ugly words were exchanged, followed by punches and a call for the police. The incident took place at the corner of Broadway and W. 60th St., near Lincoln Center. Content may not be suitable for tender ears…

Eye Candy

Thanks to this cool little infographic spread, New York magazine’s article about “Trucks on a Roll” as part of their yearly Cheap Eats issue really pops out.

Read the full text of the article and drool with envy…

News from All Over

In New York City, two City Council members will introduce a new local law giving the Department of Health authority to “suspend any vending permit issued to a truck with two parking tickets in a 12 month period and revoke the permit of a truck that receives three parking tickets in a 12 month period.” Feeding the meter and idling while hogging a parking space should, indeed, be discouraged, but the business resulting from a new generation of gourmet food trucks shouldn’t.

In Chicago, on the other hand, the City Council just heard testimony from executive chef and food truck advocate Phillip Foss and chef Matt Maroni, author of a model food truck ordinance  that has the support of at least four aldermen. In his column, our friend Phil Vettel of the Chicago Tribune begged the city (“Don’t make me go to Hoboken”) to legalize street food. “What we need is an ordinance permitting trucks with onboard cooking equipment, so they can serve hot, made-to-order dishes,” he wrote. “Serving bad, warmed-over food is already OK in Chicago. Let’s amend the rules to permit trucks to serve first-rate food.”,0,3811246.column

In Houston, where a local TV station savaged the taco truck industry, blogger J. C. Reid rose to its defense, reporting that there is basically no difference in terms of health rating between a decent taco truck and one of the city’s most beloved upscale restaurants. “What can we conclude from a review of these records?” the author asks. “Most health inspection reports are reflections of exactly what they are: routine inspections where otherwise sanitary kitchens are reminded about actions they need to take to stay clean and compliant with legitimate health codes. Just because violations are found at Tony’s during a routine inspection does not mean it is a ‘filthy’ or unsanitary restaurant. It’s not. But neither is the Taqueria Veracruz taco truck.”

[image by J. C. Reid]

Times Square Savior: The Link Between Street Vending and Public Safety

Mike Lukovich cartoon

The modest hero in New York’s latest bomb scare, a T-shirt vendor with sharp eyes who alerted the police after noticing the smoke billowing from the rear of  an S.U.V. packed with explosives, is a Vietnam veteran who has been selling stuff on the street for the last 20 years.

“I don’t have too much of a choice, nobody’s giving me a job,” he said to reporters. Asked if he had a word of advice for his fellow New Yorkers, he used the familiar  ”See something, say something,” motto.

Atlanta’s Mike Luckovich pays homage to the street vendors, including a burly fellow with a pretzel in his hand, whom he lines up with the FBI and the New York City Police right behind a pleased-looking Mayor Bloomberg giving credit to the forces of safety!