It’s hard to think of Florida without imagining the cultural and tourist center of Orlando, that city of bright lights, palm trees, and I’m sure many residents who’d like us to stop the annoying idealizing of the city and stay home for once! Or at least, that’s what I imagine them to think… I certainly wouldn’t blame them, wanting to keep the city to themselves, especially with the particular year-long climate (not counting rainy season and Polar Vortex irregularities. Hah, suffer you spoiled gulf coast sun-warmers!). And the food truck owners seem to agree; around 2010/11, the new fad business rushed the city along with the same movement happening throughout the state. Quickly they ingrained themselves into the populace’s interest; though with regulations still being scarce, local restaurant ire grew quite high at many a blatant misuse of parking (from what I heard, I for once agree with the annoyance).
Two years later, city regulations to control the outburst went into place, and from then on the businesses and strategy turned refined as they worked to stay a set point in the culinary culture. They now set up a Monthly Food Truck Bazaar in Coytown, to much love by the public domain. It’s practically set that the trucks are here for good, and any new owner looking to start up in Orlando is certainly in their right mind, so long as they make sure it’s done properly.
Janelle Luce from La Empanada Truck is here with us today talking about the city’s startup and resources. Operating one of the signature style food trucks along the gulf, her business has built up quite a bit of experience in the last few years. As usual we thank her for the time taken out of her day, especially with the busy Orlando scene at this time of the year.
Q: Tell me a bit about you and La Empanada and how long have you been working in Orlando.
Janelle: Open in August of 2011, we were among the first food trucks in Orlando. I worked in a small Cuban restaurant in town for years and in the back we would stuff empanadas with leftovers and anything else around. When the food truck fell in mine and my partners laps we kicked around a few ideas but eventually realized empanadas were best. They’re versatile, quick to serve, and of course delicious.
Q: How’s it been like for you in the city? What’s the growth been in Orlando?
Janelle: Orlando’s embraced the food truck culture and I think statistically we have the most food trucks per capita in the country. The city government works with promoters and it’s been easy going for the most part. Mark Baratelli, owner of the DailyCity.com blog, knew early on that food trucks were going to be the new thing and he started organizing truck meet ups throughout the city and beyond. A large part of food trucks’ success is because of his hard work and vision.
Q: How did you learn how to start a food truck in your area? Are there any resources you recommend for getting started or organizations that could help newcomers get started in your area?
Janelle:There weren’t too many resources when we started. We had help from the previous owners of the truck to get on the road. Today though there’s tons of info online.
Q: What are some of the best parts of operating a food trucks in Orlando?
Janelle: The weather, opportunities with Disney, Latin influences, multi-cultured population, also the city spread allows trucks to hit different parts of town and serve different customers.
Q: What are some of the worst?
Janelle: RAIN ALL SUMMER
Q: Being located in Florida, Orlando is a pretty hot-climate city; unlike the colder north, this means you can be open year round. However, I would expect the extremely hot summer can offer its own unique challenges. What are the main challenges of this? Any pitfalls the new owners may miss? Are there any successful strategies to not only survive but thrive, business speaking, in this weather?
Janelle:Invest in a decent air-conditioning unit, but know that you will sweat A LOT. Sit in a sauna to adapt. Jump in a pool immediately after your shift. Get used to it!
Q: One of the most common challenges beginning food truck owners have is navigating city regulations, including health and fire safety requirements. As you know these regulations vary considerably from county to county and city to city. Where should entrepreneurs go to find information about the local health code and fire safety regulations? Which ones are often overlooked in Orlando?
Janelle: The state’s website is comprehensive and easy to navigate. http://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/
Food trucks follow the same health codes as restaurants with regular inspections and standards. Make sure you have a fire suppression system or you won’t be able to do events.
Q: What’s the parking situation like in on the streets? Do you need a special permit to park? Any places you suggest new owners should start in before branching out?
Janelle:state license, city license, county license.. Not supposed to be curbside and serving. Find a bar to link up with and do a regular night there to get noticed.
Q: Are there any interesting and good commonly-occurring events and rallies that new Trucks should try and participate in? What’s your experience with them?
Janelle: The Food Truck Bazaar by the DailyCity.com organizes many of them. There are other promoters in town too. They’re great! Our bread and butter.
Q: On the lighter side, is there any sort of Truck that you’d love to have join the Orlando scene?
Janelle:Haha I think we have all areas covered for now but if you have a good idea go for it.
OTHER RESOURCES AND READING MATERIAL
Orlando’s Food Trucks – a site dedicated to showcasing and promoting all of the trucks in the city.
Much appreciation to Janelle and the truck for contributing to this post on her city, we wish much luck to you and the other area trucks in the pursuit of your street-eat goals. Stay warm!