Starting a Food Truck – ROAM Conference Boot Camp

Food Carts Portland

So you want to open up a food truck or cart? Good for you!

There’s so many items that go into opening a mobile food business: finding and buying a unit, customizing it, permits and fees, menu and concept development, food production, staffing, pricing, marketing, accounting…the list goes on and on.

Roam Conference will feature both a special half day Start-Up Bootcamp for those interested in starting a mobile food business, but will also feature key education tracks including a business 101 track. The chance to meet with experts, network for peer support, and Roam’s education could mean the difference between making expensive mistakes on your own, or a smooth launch and ongoing success.

One thing all aspiring mobile vendors should check out is this excellent article looking at the economics of running a food truck. A Day in the Life of a Food Truck.

There’s also this great video showing a day in the life of a mobile vendor in Ohio:

Register here for Roam Conference, September 13-15, 2013

Tips for a Successful Business on Wheels

Food Carts Portland

Making a result-oriented business strategy and implementing it correctly is the best way to overcome unforeseen business difficulties. When it comes to starting a successful business on wheels and catering to food lovers of all kinds with a food vehicle, every new business person needs some tips for doing well and surviving confidently. These tips can help people in new ventures understand things easily and know what is right and what is wrong for them. Some of the valuable tips include:

  • To start and run your business easier, you should start with selective food items that you can prepare well and expend further. Generally, people make a mistake and make their menu heavy with different food items that they don’t know how to cook or prepare well.
  • If you have made a food cart or trailer business plan, review it to make sure that it matches your business needs. Also make sure that you leave no key area untouched.
  • Stick to a few regular locations than multiple locations for running your business on wheels. Generally, food cart and concession owners make a mistake and operate their business from multiple locations to boost the sales. It can be fatal to the growth and expansion of business because successful food trucks spend  vast majority of time in a few locations.
  • Always make a plan for the whole day so that you can easily execute and take things under your control. The daily or weekly plan helps you know things better.
  • When it comes to competition, prepare a list of popular foods that are sold by other food cart vendors and work accordingly. It will be extremely beneficial if you can taste the food items of your competitors. It will help you know what makes them popular. You can also link yourself to various social media sites to know latest food trends in mobile food business.
  • Set a weekly time in your notebook to deal with business needs such as paying of taxes, maintaining book-keeping and paying bills. If you don’t do it, you can make things harder for yourself.
  • Being a newcomer in the industry, you need to be aware of local restaurant owners, and other food cart or food trailer owners who can make things difficult for you. You need to do your best to avoid messing up with them!

This is a sponsored post by Cart-King. Cart-King has been in business for 15 years. For further information about their food cart, food trailer and design and manufacturing capabilities, please call: 1-877-986-7771 or visit our website @


Food Carts Portland

fish taco food truckLocation: SE 43rd and Belmont, Good Food Here
Tues-Sun, 12 – 8pm

The Story: A friend and I were lamenting the lack of great seafood restaurants in Portland. No, sushi doesn’t count. Yes, we have Granddad places of varying quality such as Jake’s or Dan & Louis Oyster Bar, Fish n’ Chip shops, and a couple of young gastronomic upstarts (the fancy fish place in Fox Tower downtown for example). And yes, you can get great seafood in markets, a few other carts, and it’s always available on most restaurant menus. But, unlike other port cities such as San Francisco, Seattle, Boston or New Orleans, Portland dining isn’t just very seafood focused. Perplexing.

When Dustin and Angie, the owners of the very new Fishbox cart started daydreaming, FISH is what they came up with, a plan that’s been hatching in Dustin’s head since at least 2003. “I was up on the Columbia River, and it was salmon season, and people were up at Mt. Hood fly fishing for trout, and I thought, man, we have all this seafood around and near Portland, we need a really great fish cart,” Dustin told me in an interview one sunny spring day. He comes from formal culinary school training, and years and years working in Portland’s restaurant industry. Dustin was burned out working for crazy restaurant owners and living the often hard livin’, hard partyin’ restaurant lifestyle. The man knows his way around a kitchen for sure though, and knows how to handle fish dishes. From the food I sampled, he’s a hell of a great cook.

Dustin and his partner Angie took their time opening and have put a lot of thought into the menu and kitchen of this simple white van. It’s a great lesson for other wanna be cart owners. “I wanted to build out my kitchen and truck from scratch so that I have it and the equipment EXACTLY the way I need it. I didn’t inherit bad equipment or a clunky layout, which will save me money and time in the long run, especially when I get ready to expand” Dustin explained. Dustin was also very picky about getting a van, rather than a trailer type cart to offer more mobile flexibility and because a van is easier to move for catering and other special events. Dustin continued, “it was more expensive upfront than a cart and the build out took longer, but I think it will be worth it.”

fish taco food truckBut how about that fish? It’s not purely focused on wild seafood or local seafood, but it’s super fresh, very high quality and prepared with a light touch. The day I visited, the menu featured items such as a very chunky, very creamy clam chowder as good as anything you’d find at the coast, a wild salmon satay with Asian style pesto served with rice, a textbook Caesar Salad (with option Ahi tuna or wild salmon), an Ahi Tuna melt sandwich, a dark roux non-seafood gumbo, and Wild Salmon or Ahi Tuna seared tacos. “It’s funny because before I opened I was always telling people, I’m NOT going to be a taco truck,” Dustin laughed, “but tacos have turned out to be my biggest seller and most popular item.”

fish taco food truckThere’s a reason why. These aren’t your regular petite fistful Mexican tacos in corn tortillas, but large gourmet tacos in soft big flour wraps. Bursting with perfectly cooked and seasoned seafood, and a generous amount of lightly dressed slaw, three to an order is worth the $9. I was plenty full after just two.

Food is always the best part about visiting Portland’s intense food cart scene, and the Fishbox keeps its side of the bargain up quite nicely on that end. But the stories behind the carts really make me smile. Everyone is unique, and has a terrific story to tell. We think it’s the people that contribute as much to our vibrant cart community as much as the food does. The Fishbox is yet another wonderful, friendly, and tasty addition to our always cool food cart scene.

Sample Menu (contact vendor for current menu and pricing):

  • Seared Ahi Tuna or Wild Salmon Tacos – $9
  • New England Style Clam Chowder – small $4, large $6
  • Veggie Fried Rice Bowl – $5. With tuna or salmon, $9
  • Wild Salmon Satay with Asian pesto and veggie fried rice – $9

Hours: Tues-Sun, 12 – 8pm

Hours of Operation. Hours of Frustration.

Food Carts Portland

I’ve tried to visit this cart but they are never open!  The hours posted on your website are wrong! I drove all the way from Scappoose and all the other carts were open, but this cart was closed!

Cart diners: What do you think? Is this a big issue for you when dining at carts and what do you think carts can do to be better about it?

Business owners: How important is keeping regular business hours and how do you let people know when you are going to be closed, or when you change your business hours? What challenges do you face in keeping and communicating your schedules?

We’ve been running Food Carts Portland since 2007, and have just about seen and heard every question, comment, compliment and complaint out there about the carts. But the number one gripe we continue to receive from readers to our website, Facebook page and Twitter? Food Carts’ Hours of Operation.

There’s nothing more frustrating than wanting to visit a specific cart and making the haul out there only to find out their posted hours on our website have changed or for some unknown reason they are closed.  Or, assuming a cart keeps hours similar to other carts, or for some carts even keep regular open hours (a few very much do not). Trust us, it’s our frustration as well. This is especially true when a cart contacts us to give them a write up, we ask when they are open, and then go out there only to find a big old CLOSED sign up. We know of more than a few carts that have lost fans and customers – permanently – because of this issue.

On the flipside, we understand and respect the cart owners’ issues and limited resources. More than any other businesses we know of, food carts follow supply and demand quickly and accordingly. If it’s a rainy, cold Sunday in June and only one person has stopped by, a cart will decide Sundays are no longer feasible. Heck, some of them just close up that day if there aren’t any customers. Makes sense. Why waste valuable time and money? And yes, hours do change depending on the seasons, locations, and amount of resources a cart owner has. Some are solo operations – if an owner gets ill, that’s it, there is no backup. Or, if something in the cart breaks and they can’t operate until a special piece of equipment is fixed and the parts for it are available. Or, a worker flakes, suddenly quits, or otherwise can’t be there and the owner runs another cart or has a catering gig or something, well, we are out of luck again. Of course, Food Carts Portland tries, but we can’t be at all 450 plus food carts to get updated hours on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis. We rely on cart owners and cart eaters to let us know and even then, it is a challenge.

Yes, some carts are more professional than others, keeping everyone abreast of their hours on their websites, twitter updates and even email lists. And others? Well, let’s just be kind and call these “starter businesses”. They are still learning the fundamentals of marketing, business communications, and what it takes on a daily basis to run a business and are stretched thin in time, money and other resources. Some don’t speak English, have smart phones, or know how to use social media, and this makes communications a challenge. Some simply don’t have the money to hire more workers, and some are just starting out and have mechanical and other problems. But yes, some carts are simply flakey.

Business owners: If your hours change, simply drop us a line at We won’t publish last minute schedule changes or closures; that’s when social media can help you. Get a Facebook page and Twitter account. Get a website that’s easy to update and keep it updated. Try, try, try to keep regular hours. It’s important for your reputation, in gaining and keeping loyal customers, and your livelihood overall.

Our advice to diners? If you are really, really craving a certain cart CALL AHEAD right before you visit. Or, just take it in stride and look at it as an adventure. Have a back up cart plan. And do let us know when a cart changes posted hours by email us here. It really helps us keep this site updated and correct.

Happy Carting,

The Food Carts Portland Team.

Meetup at Mississippi Marketplace – Saturday

Food Carts Portland

Hey everyone, we’re having a little get together at Mississippi Marketplace this Saturday. Our hope is that you’ll want to come out, try some amazing food, maybe a beer from PROST! and say hi to me (Dieselboi) and Cuisine Bonne Femme. We have a bonus for you also. The first 50 people to come say “Hi” will get a free cupcake from The Sugar Cube, an amazing dessert cart in the pod. We’ll be the ones with the balloons.

Mississippi Marketplace is located at the corner of N Mississippi and Skidmore and is the host to nine food carts that serve a range of dishes from breakfast to lunch to dinner. Anchored by PROST!, a German pub, you can enjoy your cart food while imbibing a tasty German beverage.

Hope to see you there.

Food Carts Portland Meetup
Saturday, March 20, 2-4pm
Mississippi Marketplace, N Mississippi and Skidmore
Rain or Shine (they have awnings)