As in Southern California, gourmet food trucks are popping up all over the Las Vegas Valley, and Ricardo Guerrero, owner of Slidin’ Thru, says that’s because getting started isn’t as tough as you’d suspect. If you think this line of work might be for you, here are some pointers to get you started:
- Five Gourmet Food Trucks We Want to See in Vegas
- 1. Grilled cheese: Melty, salty, hot and gooey. Who doesn’t like grilled cheese?
- 2. Pizza: Ditto.
- 3. Ice cream: We’re not talkin’ Bomb Pops here. Homemade ice cream with unique flavors. Candied jalapeño anyone?
- 4. Barbecue: A good pulled-pork sandwich is perfect mobile food, as long as it comes with plenty of wet naps.
- 5. Okonomiyaki (Japanese pancakes): We can dream, can’t we?
- — Jim Begley
1. Find a cheap truck Guerrero says a new, fully equipped truck will likely cost $30,000 to $50,000, but that there are deals out there. “We picked up our first truck for $12,000. It was a complete stroke of luck. A man who knew I was looking hooked me up with a great deal. Yeah, it needed work, but it was a great truck.”
2. You cannot park your truck in front of your house Once you have your truck, you must park in what is called a commissary, an official lot where food trucks can be serviced, cleaned and maintained. Guerrero says there are three commissaries operating in the Valley—two in the north and one in the city proper.
3. Your truck is a restaurant on wheels This means you’re held to the same rules and regulations as other food operators. According to Guerrero, all the equipment in your truck has to be NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) restaurant grade, and you must get business licenses from every jurisdiction you plan to serve, from Henderson to Boulder City to Clark County.
4. Be prepared for health inspections, which can come unannounced This means thoroughly cleaning your truck each day you operate it, which can take up to a quarter of your day. “Whenever we have a break during the day, we’re always wiping stuff down,” says Guerrero. In addition, you must make sure your equipment is always up to grade, and that you have hot water, correct temperatures in your refrigerators, etc.
5. Have a budget for breakdowns because, as Guerrero puts it, you will break down “You really have to have a sense of humor about everything, because nothing ever goes the way you planned it. From running out of gas to being unable to leave a location, the lighting system going out, transmission goes out ... it will always be something, and you have to expect it and accept it.”
6. Be ready for long hours A typical day for Guerrero: Arrive at work at 8 a.m., spend two hours prepping all the food to ensure everything is fresh. Leave commissary at 10:15 a.m. to get to 11 a.m. lunch service. Factor in getting gas and propane. Because of the winter hours, lunch service ends at 1 p.m., after which the crew heads to an old office warehouse next to the commissary, where inflatable mattresses are waiting so everyone can catch about a half-hour of sleep. Then it’s prepping for a 5 p.m. dinner service (earlier again because of winter hours), which lasts until 7 p.m. Then it’s directly to the commissary to scrub the truck down, from the floors to the grill to the vents. Exhausted, the crew then heads for a beer to discuss the day and ways to improve the business. Guerrero gets to bed at about midnight, then wakes up at 6 a.m. to do it all over again. “It’s better now with the winter hours, but in the early going I was working 16-hour days six days a week. And I loved it.”
7. Pray for everything to come together Guerrero started Slidin’ Thru by himself, but quickly added two people he’d known his whole life, one he met randomly on Craigslist and two others who had been customers. Somehow, it’s all coming together perfectly.