So it has been a busy holiday season, not for the truck really but for my family. You will find that no matter how good your food is people won't like standing in the cold to get it, at least not in Georgia.
First, if you are in the Atlanta area and are interested in getting permitted in Fulton County go to the North District office! There are three offices in Fulton: North, Central, and South. When I was told to go the North office I heard "don't go to the South office" for some reason. All I have to say is that I don't understand how some people get their jobs! I got the run-around something terrible. At one point they would not let me submit because I didn't have my truck drawings printed on the specified size paper. I ran out, found a Staples and got it done. I came back and they said, "Sorry, you needed to have at least two copies." Nowhere on their paperwork does it specify the number of copies required! The secretary was nice enough to try to get me submitted anyway, but over the course of trying to put everything in the new computer program it came up that we are submitting under our commissary kitchen's permit. I was basically told that I could not submit because I didn't own the kitchen! I explained that there are a number of kitchens that I know have several trucks under their permits in Fulton. She wanted the names of these kitchens so that they could put a stop to that! I just walked away.
Later I went to the North office to submit. I had no problems at all EXCEPT they must be on to everyone trying to avoid the lower offices. So they repeatedly asked if I have any vending locations in the North District area. Be sure you do, or you will get kicked down to the nut house! If I were you, I would put one North Fulton location on my route sheet and leave it at that. You can submit an amended route sheet after you are permitted. While I was at the Central office I saw another business owner get the run-around about transferring an existing restaurant under his new management. I swear to you I saw him at the North office the day I was there. He found out that he actually didn't need to get new blueprints made up--he lost $800 getting those drawings because the Central office told him he did need them to get the permit! Save yourself some time and money and get permitted in the North Fulton office!
Second, we had our first outing with our Full Bellies, Full Hearts mission on Christmas Eve. We partnered with a ministry at the Marietta SDA Church to go out off of Franklin Road and spread some love. We didn't serve very many people. I think everyone was either spending time with their families, or they thought the food would come with a catch. We were happy to serve a few grateful people, and then we found a fire station nearby and shared our food with the men that were stuck at the fire station in order to serve our community instead of being home with their families. We took our girls with us and they really enjoyed the entire experience.
The big lesson I learned from this outing had nothing to do with serving the public, though. We had to set up the truck, including turning on the generator and the gas. You would think after my last story about gas I would be more vigilant with the dangerous stuff, but I didn't realize that I would need to double check that the knobs on the stove and griddle where in the 'off' position before turning on the gas. They were off when we left the commissary kitchen. Apparently either during transit, or because someone bumped it, one of the griddle nobs was turned to the 'on' position when we arrived on site. I didn't check the nobs before I turned the gas on. Then I lit all of the stove pilots first so that when I was ready to light the griddle gas had already built up under there. So when I knelt down to put the stick lighter in there a flame shot right back out into my face! My bangs were burned; my eyebrows and eyelashes were also burned. I even later found out that my nose hairs were burned off! So, I learned to check that all of the equipment is in the 'off' position before turning on the gas! No assumptions! (Haha! I am getting a reputation!)
Finally, beware of the brokers you deal with, and check their reputations with other truckers. I have heard that there are some great event coordinators out there that are fair to trucks. I have also heard of a few to steer clear of unless you want to stay super vigilant. We haven't been out with the truck many times, but I can already say that I have seen some of the stuff I have been warned about come to pass with one broker. I don't expect anyone to guarantee sales, but lets not sugarcoat expectations. We were told that the location we were going to has never had a truck do less than $750 in sales, that there are trucks there almost every day of the week year-round. Well, that can't be said anymore--we did about $300. (We got great reviews from the people that did come out, so I know it is not us.) Later we found out that this broker is known for overselling expectations, being unclear about fees, and calling at the last minute, or saying that messages were sent and must have been lost.
If you are like us, you are in a commissary kitchen with several other truckers. Take the time to ask around. It can be hard (we know because we really wanted the potential income and we needed the experience)
when you get a call and the broker is wanting an answer right away, but do yourself a favor and tell them you can call them back. Then do some checking up on them and their event. There is such a thing as a good broker that puts on a bad event too. Usually when I ask why an event was bad it will be a combination of too many trucks and not enough people. The ratio of people to trucks (food vendors) has to be right for a truck to make money.
If you don't have a good group of truckers in your kitchen, or you are solo, there are also some great groups on Facebook, for example, like the Food Truck Association of Georgia where you can pose any number of questions.