Tampa, FL: Food truck dream finally up and running

SEAN BOWES Dave Cruz and Kimberly Bailey pose with their food truck, The Chicken Trap. It took the couple eight months to get the business operational.

By Sean Bowes  |  TBO.com

SEAN BOWES The Chicken Trap has appeared at various events around Tampa Bay.  From big parties to motorcycle shows and food  truck rallies, the couple has been bringing  their food truck all around Pinellas and  Hillsborough County.
SEAN BOWES – The Chicken Trap has appeared at various events around
Tampa Bay. From big parties to motorcycle shows and food truck rallies, the
couple has been bringing their food truck all around Pinellas and Hillsborough
County.

Owning your own business is something that most people talk about, but few have the guts to try.

For some, the thrill of starting a business is one of the most exciting things they have ever done.

For others, the fear of failing and “losing it all” is a risk they aren’t willing to take.

For Dave Cruz, 28, and his girlfriend, Kimberly Bailey, 25, it was all about taking the chance to be their own bosses.

A chef by trade, Cruz knows his way around a kitchen. Raised in a Puerto Rican household, food was a major part of growing up, so it was only natural that he made his living cooking.

For the last two years, Cruz has worked as executive chef at The Bricks in Ybor, before leaving to lend a hand at Rooster & the Till. He says the work was satisfying at both restaurants, but he needed to see what it was like to run his own business. Bailey was ready for something different, too.

Cruz says he loved the idea of opening a barbecue restaurant, but he and Bailey decided to set their sights a little lower and eventually settled on a food truck for starters. After all, how hard could it be?

SEAN BOWES  Dave Cruz and Kimberly Bailey pose with  their food truck, The Chicken Trap. It took the couple  eight months to get the business  operational.
SEAN BOWES 
Dave Cruz and Kimberly Bailey pose with their food truck, The Chicken Trap.
It took the couple eight months to get the business operational.

Since 2008, around the same time as the recession, food trucks steadily grew in popularity in the United States.

The trucks range in themes from Hawaiian to vegan, but the premise is the same: a restaurant on wheels that offers a quick bite to go. The mobile snack shacks became a hit when the public noticed that you don’t need to visit a 5-star restaurant to get a tasty meal.

Plus, for business owners, it means keeping operational costs at a minimum.

However, there is a lot of red tape, hidden fees and surprises in store when starting a food truck business.

For Cruz and Bailey, it was an eight-month battle to get their business, The Chicken Trap, a fully functional, permitted and inspected food truck on the road. They had originally budgeted for about $10,000; today they figured they have spent closer to $50,000.

“We had no idea it was going to take this long,” says Cruz.

“But I guess if it was easy, everyone would do it … we couldn’t have done it without the support and help from our family and friends.”

When they first got started, they planned to use a customized $700 barbecue smoker they bought off Craigslist and trailer it to events, but they ran into problems when they went to the city for licensing and permits.

Cruz admits it would have been easy to set up his mobile shop without proper permits, but there was no telling how long that could last.

Eventually, it made more sense to purchase a customized 1985 Chevy box truck and convert it into a food truck the right way.

More than just chicken: The menu for  The Chicken Trap varies with each event. Tacos, sandwiches  and shish kabobs are standard items.,  SEAN BOWES
More than just chicken: The menu for The Chicken Trap varies with each event.
Tacos, sandwiches and shish kabobs are standard items., SEAN BOWES

On The Chicken Trap’s menu is, of course, chicken, but Cruz does his best to be creative with the choices.

He serves up boneless chicken wings that are stuffed with tasty goodness like broccoli, cheddar and bacon and spinach with mozzarella. The truck also dishes out soft tacos, shish kabobs and empanadas.

“I leave all the cooking up to him,” says Bailey. “I’m trying to handle everything behind the scenes.”

Most of their eggs and meat comes from Alafia River Heritage Farms and their produce comes from local farmers markets. The key is to keep it fresh. But cooking, Cruz says, is the easy part.

It was the zoning, permitting, insurance and licensing that made his head spin.

Electrical work, plumbing and generators were issues, too.

But, now everything is up and running.

“We want to have the truck somewhere different every day of the week,” says Cruz.

The Chicken Trap has appeared at various events around Tampa Bay.

From big parties to motorcycle shows and food truck rallies, the couple has been bringing their food truck all around Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.

The next stop for the Chicken Trap will be at Brews and Bites at the downtown Tampa Convention Center on Friday from 6-11 p.m.

http://www.tbo.com/dining/food-truck-dream-finally-up-and-running-20160210/