A large group gathers at the Pasco Farmers Market in 2015 for the debut of the Food Truck Friday event. Tri-City Herald file.
By TY Beaver | Tri-City Herald
A Pasco agency and Columbia Basin College are again teaming up with other experts to impart knowledge on all things food truck for those interested in launching their own mobile restaurant.
Mobile Vending University will kick off July 23 at the Pasco Specialty Kitchen in downtown Pasco. This is the second time the kitchen, part of the Downtown Pasco Development Authority, has provided the teaching series in conjunction with the college.
While acknowledging that food trucks are a more affordable and easier way to get into the food service industry than launching a restaurant, officials and food truck operators said there are still many details to work out before finding a spot and setting up shop.
Taking the classes can help ensure you don’t waste time and effort going the wrong direction.
“It’s very eye-opening,” said Troy Hendren, a building official and fire marshal with the city of Pasco.
The kitchen started the teaching course to support Food Truck Friday, the weekly gathering of food trucks at the Pasco Farmers Market. The course covers licensing and other legal matters, but also finances and business planning, best operational practices, marketing and even securing a food truck.
Kitchen director Marilou Shea said the course exceeded enrollment goals when it was offered last summer and this past winter. There’s enough space in this session for up to 18 participants. Eight people are already pursuing registration after catching early word the program would be available.
Debbie Madison took the classes last year as her family moved forward on launching what has become Nattie’s Lil Red Caboose. It offers Americana food such as burgers, fries and grilled cheese in West Richland near the Van Giesen Street bridge.
She had already started to get the appropriate permits and licenses, but learned through the classes that she was going through the process wrong.
She thinks other food truck hopefuls can avoid that same problem by attending the Mobile Vending University.
“They see how much paperwork is really involved,” she said.
Hendren said some people had their ideas and plans dashed a little when he made presentations in the past on launching a food truck business. He covers everything from issues with combustible material to rules regarding tables, and standards on customer service.
“There was one guy who wanted to have deep fat fryers out on the street. On wheels,” he said, adding health and safety issues prohibit such a setup.
Regardless, Hendren said students in past classes have been very receptive to adapting their plans. That means fewer problems down the road.
“Entrepreneurs often have a dream, but not the full picture or set of tools to operate a ‘successful’ small food business,” Shea said. “MVU brings a 360-degree perspective and provides the tools to get them steered in the right direction.”