fci alumni ed hardi demo

6 Things to Know Before Opening Your Food Truck

Written by: Judson Kniffen, ICC’s Associate Director of Education

Ed Hardy explaining how to open a food truck to ICC students and alumniFCI graduate Ed Hardy, Class of ’06, recently returned to his Alma Matter to lead a business workshop and cooking demonstration for ICC students and alumni. Ed owns and operates the award-winning food truck, Bacon ‘n Ed’s Mobile Gourmet Kitchen, in the DC metro area. He specializes in private events where he features his famous fried chicken banh mi, Swedish meatball sub, and many other delicious items!

 

 

While discussing the business aspects Chef Natalia serving Bacon n Ed's demo samplesof owning and operating a food truck, Ed and his chef-partner Evan Henris demonstrated how to make quick pickles for their celebrated Banh Mi sandwiches, and they discussed the multi-week long process for making real sauerkraut. Fermentation is hot right now, and Chef Ed works hard to stay on top of the food trends.

 

 

 

Thinking of opening your own food truck? Here are the 6 key lessons we learned from Ed Hardy:

1. Focus on a concept.

Really think about your menu, and whom your audience is. Is your food able to be prepared and served in a truck? What practical necessities will you need to serve the most amount of people in the shortest amount of time?

2. Chose your vehicle wisely.

Airstreams look cool, but those curved corners are big wastes of space. Think about maximizing every square inch of your food truck. What is the flow of the cooking and serving? Is there enough storage for food and cleaning supplies?

3. Systems equal success.

Gey your systems in place before opening: payment, scheduling, cleaning, organizing.

4. Start your paperwork early.

There is a lot of licensing, tax forms and other paperwork that need to be submitted. It’s not the fun part of the job, but it’s an unavoidable reality.

5. Be present on social media.

Let your followers know where you will be and keep them engaged. Respond to all question and comments just as you would in person.

6. Be unique

Competition is fierce these days. Your truck and your food need to stand out. Invest in good graphic design and be creative, and consistent, with your brand image. Maintain your quality — don’t lower your standards to increase margins, customers will notice.

5 Takeaways from ICC’s Ask The Alumni Demo with Adam Lathan, Co-Founder and Executive Chef of The Gumbo Bros.

Written by: Cathi Profitko 

Adam Lathan, co-founder and Executive Chef of The Gumbo Bros., is a native of the Gulf Coast of Alabama and a graduate of ICC’s Culinary Entrepreneurship program. In 2016, he and his business partner Clay opened their first location in Brooklyn to rave reviews. He recently joined ICC students for an Ask the Alumni event where he shared his experiences and advice on opening your first restaurant …as well as some secrets to making a great Gumbo.

Opening a restaurant is both exciting and overwhelming. It means you are creating a business that not only feeds your soul but will pay your bills. A big difference between those who succeed and those who don’t, is how they prepare for and manage the unexpected. How did Adam approach this? Here are some highlights from his discussion.

1. First things first, prepare a business plan.

A business plan is your road-map and will make you focus on all aspects of your business – not just the ones you are best at but more importantly the ones you are not.

2. Be generous with your estimates and set aside contingency to cover the inevitable yet unexpected.  

One area that many people miss is that in addition to construction and other startup costs, you also have operating costs (lease, utilities, insurance) to pay, even before you open. Setting aside sufficient working capital to cover this is critical.

3. You will need help.

Use resources and the network at ICC to assemble a team of advisers that will give you honest feedback and advice. The Gumbo Bros. has been operating successfully for well over a year yet Adam still actively maintains and expands his relationships with advisers and mentors.

4. Work with people you trust.

In addition to your advisers, mentors, and business partners, find a real estate broker and an attorney that care about your business as much as their own. You are tied to your lease for at least 10 years… be ruthless in making sure it is the best you can get. Remember, if you can’t take it with you when you leave, negotiate to have your landlord pay for it.

5. Understand what each member of your build out team – Architect, Engineer, Contractor(s) – is responsible for and hold them accountable.

Having had plenty of experience in general contracting while working for his father, Adam understood a lot more than most going into the build out. He recommends hiring a self-certifying architect to save time on approvals, working a “no change order” clause into your contractor agreements and take LOTS of pictures throughout the ENTIRE process. You don’t want to have to take down an entire wall to find out where a leaky pipe is 6 months after you open.

This discussion on restaurant construction could have gone on forever as Adam is a wealth of knowledge… but we were all getting hungry so Adam made us some Cajun Gumbo (the roux is oil based). And, of course, it was delicious!


Fun fact: Do you know the difference between Cajun and Creole cuisine? Cajun is referred to as country cooking where ingredients harvested from the swamps and bayous are used prominently; Creole cooking is referred to as city cooking as it came out of the diverse kitchens of New Orleans where the ports supplied an abundant array of less local ingredients.