We’ve seen a number of people get into the food truck business and leave just as fast as they came in. Talking to some of them, we determined a common denominator—they thought that it was going to be a walk in the park. The lack of research and ample preparation is what drove their business to its demise. We don’t blame them. It really looks simple from the outside, but there’s a lot more to it than just having a great product and buying a truck. Fortunately, there are people like Kelly and Todd Partusch who are willing to share their experience so that others won’t have to go through the same ordeal. By the way, they are the proud owners of 402 BBQ, a successful food truck operating in Omaha, Nebraska.
Let us move on to the interview.
FTE: Tell me a bit about yourself, your business and how long you’ve been operating in your city.
Chef Kelly: 402 bbq is a BBQ food truck and catering company out of Omaha, NE. It is owned and operated by husband and wife team, Todd and Kelly Partusch. We have been in operation since March 2014.
We specialize in Apple wood, pit-smoked pork, brisket, ribs, turkey and sausages. Everything we sell is handmade, including our five sauces, sides and desserts.
FTE: Where did you get information about how to set up a food truck business in your area?
Chef Kelly: Starting out was very difficult. Although there are approximately 60 trucks on the streets of Omaha today, there were just a few when we opened. There was nothing online that laid out exactly what we needed to do.
We read every book we could find. We made a lot of phone calls. We asked advice from the other trucks in town, and made a lot of mistakes we learned from.
Today, there is a food truck association in Omaha. They are super helpful in helping newcomers into the market. I also am happy to help anybody who contacts me with questions. It was so difficult for us when we were starting out, and I don’t want anyone else to have that problem.
FTE: Where should entrepreneurs go to find information about the local health code and other regulations?
Chef Kelly: In Omaha, every food truck needs a state, county, and city license. They are all purchased in different offices. If you want to go into any neighboring city or county, you need a permit from them also. Our city also borders Iowa, which means the same rules apply for their jurisdictions. We have a giant stack of permits.
Omaha food trucks are currently fighting with the city about a law on the books that makes it illegal to vend from metered parking (or any city property). It stems from a law that was enacted in the 1970’s that stopped ice cream trucks from being able to parking in front of people’s homes. So, if a food truck wants to park in our busy downtown area, we not only need to pay the cost of the meter, but also the cost of the ticket.
FTE: In other areas, available parking space has been a constant problem among food truck operators. How is it in Omaha, Nebraska?
Chef Kelly: Most food trucks park on private property such as outside large office buildings where we can schedule a date in advance, and they will promote us within.
FTE: What are some of the unique challenges of operating a food truck in your city?
Chef Kelly: Winter is such a tough time in Nebraska. It is insanely cold and snowy for months. This makes it almost impossible to operate a food truck. Our water tank freezes, our cleaning supplies freeze, and sometimes our food truck won’t start due to the weather. Since we cook outside, this time of year is especially difficult for a BBQ vendor.
FTE: Finally, if you could give only one piece of advice for new food truck entrepreneurs, what would that nugget of advice be?
Chef Kelly: New food truck owners need to understand that it is a difficult and volatile business. Sometimes, you will have great sales and sell out daily, and other times, you will go a period of time where you can barely sell your food, and you don’t understand what has changed. Hang in there. If you dedicate yourself fully to the business, you will likely succeed!
More power to your business Kelly and Todd!
Additional Reading Material
Here are some useful links to help you get started.
Nebraska One-Stop Business – This is the starting point for anyone planning to set up a business in Nebraska.
Small Business Administration – This is a link to the list of local district offices in Nebraska.
Nebraska Department of Revenue – You might want to check this out also.
Nebraska Food Code – An in-depth guide into Nebraska’s food code—a worthy read.
402 BBQ – Please visit our friends at 402 BBQ. Their barbecues are amazing.