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Book Reviews

Books: Running a Food Truck for Dummies, a $20 Read Before You Pay $40K for That Used Truck

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Mon, Aug 20, 2012 at 6:00 AM

click to enlarge Running a Food Truck for Dummies - DUMMIES.COM
So you have this really great idea, fried chicken that comes in the shape of a cupcake or something like that, and a food truck is your dream vehicle to stardom. You're in luck: Running a Food Truck for Dummies is here. No matter that we seem to be reading about as many food trucks shutting their sliding windows for good as we are about the latest start-up mobile kitchens.

The guidebook is by Richard Myrick, who is, appropriately, the editor and founder of Mobile Cuisine Magazine, an online source for food truck news. And many of the book's real-time examples are from L.A. trucks, including how Twitter increased Kogi's customer base and a website sample from the Grilled Cheese Truck.

In typical Dummies form (and no fault of the author), some sections of the book dwell on rather routine, common-sense basics: You're going to need start-up cash, you want to work with reputable food suppliers, you're going to need to hire a few folks. When conducting employee interviews, Myrick advises that we "ask questions to help the candidate feel at ease, such as where he lives, what activities he enjoys and what his plans are for the upcoming holidays. Avoid asking yes or no questions because people tend to give only one-word answers." Right. Well, he does have a point. Get the full chapter breakdown after the jump.

click to enlarge A Prime Time Cuisine Truck Customer - ANNE FISHBEIN
Part I: Rolling Into the Food Truck Industry

As Myrick describes it, "a crash course in the food truck business." He includes a mock "day in the life of a food truck owner" (it begins at 9 a.m. and ends at 2:30 a.m.), choosing a cuisine/food angle, and the different types of "trucks" (converted trucks, trailers, buses).

Part II: Getting Your Food Truck Ducks in a Row

How to turn that mobile fried-chicken dream into a reality, otherwise known as a bank-account reality check. Myrick includes tips on food truck business plan development, insurance must-haves, how to sort through government regulations and the real clincher in cities like L.A.: Finding places to (legally) park.

Part III: Preparing to Open your Service Window

How to create a menu, buy supplies and ingredients, set menu prices based on ingredient and labor costs, staff your truck and "do all those business tasks that will keep your truck running."

Part IV: Keeping Your Food Truck Running Smoothly

This chapter interprets the section header literally, with "Truck Cleanliness 101" and tips on finding a food truck mechanic, and more figuratively with chores like tracking your financial performance (the taco truck bottom line).

Part V: Generating Buzz and Growing Your Food Truck Business

Twitter, Facebook, email lists. You get the idea. One of our favorite nuggets of Twitter advice: "Don't toot your own horn."

Part VI: The Part of 10s

This is a section included in all Dummies books, we are told (we're sort of glad we didn't know that), which promises "fun, helpful information in easily digestible chunks." In food truck terms, Myrick uses the section to dispel what he calls common food-truck myths. Among them: You're going to "get rich" and become a celebrity chef by owning a taco truck. Well, unless your name is Roy Choi.

The final bit of "helpful information" on the last page of the book was particularly entertaining, a food truck owner wink-wink sort of thing: "Nothing is worse than having your hand sinks dry when the inspector shows up," advises Myrick (because it apparently looks like no one is washing their hands). His solution: Tell employees to yes, wash their hands regularly, but also to splash water in the sinks so it always looks like a vigorous hand washing just occurred.

If only that worked when it came time to clean the dishes.


Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook. Find more from Jenn Garbee @eathistory + eathistory.com.

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