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Food trucks find a home

Mobile diners often stop at local businesses after the annual Saturday night food truck gala

Posted: May 12, 2014 1:42 p.m.
Updated: May 12, 2014 1:42 p.m.

Tiffany and Marilyn Ramos welcome customers while in The Cupcake Truck, one of the number of food trucks serving meals in the parking lot across from the Walmart on Carl Boyer Drivein Santa Clarita.

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Taking advantage of the growing food truck industry, Tiffany Ramos opened her own mobile food business and has organized a weekly gathering of other food trucks in Santa Clarita every Saturday evening.

Her lifelong passion for baking was first inspired by her grandmother, but her skills were later honed in classes that Ramos took at Clarice’s Cake and Candy Supplies store in Newhall.

After first sharing her designer creations with co-workers, demand for Ramos’s cakes began to explode.

Over time Ramos developed designer cupcakes but became frustrated that the local market may be oversaturated by the number of brick and mortar cupcake stores.

“My husband said, ‘why don’t you just start a truck,’” Ramos said.

And so she did – paying cash for an old-fashioned ice cream cake to keep the cupcakes chilled so the icings wouldn’t melt on warm days.

The Cupcake Truck by TiffyLee Cakes launched in November 2013, and Ramos found herself frequently stopping off at popular food truck destinations in the Los Angeles area, specifically Studio City near the film and TV studios.

While working in the area, Ramos found a lot of local SCV residents who worked in the Studio City area, she said. And they wanted to see more food truck venues locally.

“But Santa Clarita doesn’t have the same kind of public streets like Studio City,” she said. “I thought I’m going to start one in Santa Clarita. I looked for the right space for quite a while.”

Not only did Ramos find a location, she’s attracted a number of other food trucks to the area adding to a growing local mobile food market.

But all is not rosy for the owners of California mobile food trucks.

Industry

The multi-million industry generated revenues at an annualized rate of 12.4 percent over the best five years, making it the best performing segment in the broader food-services sector, according to industry analysts at IBIS World.

The experts theorized that while people were more cautious with their money during recession, they would spend money for “affordable gourmet food” often sold by food trucks.

It is estimated that are 3,900 food trucks employing some 14,424 people in the industry.  In 2014, however, the industry is expected to grow at a slower rate of 4.4 percent to reach nearly $804 million in revenue, according to IBIS.

Ramos said it took “forever and was a huge headache” to get approvals from the Los Angeles County Health Dept.

And in the case of master plan cities – where does one go to set up shop?

Analysts say that industry associations will need to work closely with city governments and other restaurateurs to address issues like regulations, increased competition and low profit margins if food trucks begin to play a larger role in the food-services business market and the sales taxes they generate.

Recently, however, the California Board of Equalization did take a step to simplify the taxable sales collected from the food trucks.

The BOE voted in March to change the tax calculation process for food trucks by presuming that the taxable sales for the food sold is a included in the list price of each food item.

“The new policy takes effect July 1,” said a spokesman with the BOE.

Ramos, however, isn’t waiting for everything to be sorted out.


Saturday nights

Securing permission from the property owners, Ramos said she began setting up every Saturday night in a parking lot across from the Wal-Mart on Carl Boyer Driver in Santa Clarita.

“I became friends with a lot of different food truck owners,” Ramos said. “The trucks really love Santa Clarita and the people. They say it’s a good change of pace from the San Fernando Valley and that there’s a great atmosphere here. I have emails and calls every week begging me to get a spot.”

To keep a good mix of food, snacks and sweets, Ramos solicits feedback from her Facebook and Twitter followers as to what kind of food they want to see in the SCV.

Then she limits the trucks to only eight to 10 per week – enough food varieties to generate interest with the foodies, but not so much that the food truck owners aren’t making money, Ramos said.

Each truck has their own insurance and all are required to provide their certificate of insurance listing the lot owner as an additional insured, Ramos said.

As for costs, some lots charge as much as $50 per truck and there might be as many as 40 trucks there, Ramos said.

“You work hard for your money. I work hard for my money. That’s like stealing to take their money,” she said.

As for the expenses that Ramos incurs for the tables and chairs that she provides, she charges only a minimal amount spreading the costs out among all the food truck owners.

“On good Saturday nights people go straight from us to the local businesses,” Ramos said.

jana@signalscv.com
661-287-5599

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