• It isn't always an easy ride. (Biggie Smalls)
Mechanical failures, car accidents and broken air conditioners: sometimes the food-truck life isn't as glamorous as it seems.
Lucy Rennick

7 Feb 2018 - 10:24 AM  UPDATED 7 Feb 2018 - 10:24 AM

Shane Delia knows how to make work look like fun. His food truck business, Biggie Smalls Kbabs, is often spotted at some of Melbourne’s best events, from the Australian Open to the Laneway music festival, where a friendly team pumps out kebabs, snack packs and sides for the hungry masses. And while the music’s blaring and the staff are smiling, everything is not always as it seems.

“People think food trucks are an easy business to get into,” Delia explains to SBS. “The reality is that’s so far from the truth, it’s not funny. Some people just dive into it without realising they’ve gotten themselves in a bit of trouble – they’re stuck with this truck that they can’t drive or park anywhere.”

Parking issues aside, what food-truck customers may not realise when they’re scoffing their favourite street food is that food trucks are not just cute mobile businesses. They come with their own set of challenges, and get really hot in the summer months.

“People think food trucks are an easy business to get into. The reality is that’s so far from the truth, it’s not funny."

Sometimes, your dad offers to drive the truck to an event, and ends up sideswiping another car on the way. Sometimes, you’ll be promised thousands of customers at a single event, but then you’ll rock up and barely see 50. And then, (*shudder*) sometimes your air con will break on a 38-degree day at the Australian Open.

“Apart from those stories, we’ve been pretty lucky,” Delia says. “And the upside is that it can be really fun, too.”

Other than ensuring the air con is in working order always, here are his tips for doing the food-truck business right.

Do your homework

“Work out what it’s going to cost you, what your projected revenue’s going to be and if it’s going to be enough to live on,” he says. Owning and operating a food-truck business isn’t easy or inexpensive, he explains – it’s naive to think otherwise. “Doesn’t matter if it’s in a fixed shop or a food truck, the business questions are the same.”

Details, details, details

All the small stuff people tell you not to sweat? When you’re running a food truck business, nothing is too small. “Think about the little things that will become big things in the future,” he says.

“Where are you going to park your truck? Who’s going to drive it? Those are just two issues. People think they’ll just work these things about, but it’s a big deal if you’ve got to be at an event but no one’s licensed to drive the truck.”

Know the market

Big events are the lifeblood of any food truck, Delia explains. But it’s not just about rocking up.

“It’s all well and good to want to do the Grand Prix and the Australian Open,” Delia says. “That’s a great aspiration, but can you physically do it? Have you got enough capacity to fulfill the needs of those people at that event?”

When the Biggie Smalls food truck hit the 2018 Australian Open in January this year, the team served around 24,000 people in two weeks. “That’s not a backyard job,” says Delia. “That’s a big job. Be ready for it. It can be a monster of a business if you get it right, but it can be a brain-numbing pocket drainer if you get it wrong.”

It’s all about branding

“Choose a brand that stands out and that people recognise straight away,” says Delia. Easier said than done, right?

“Either you go for something cool that’s not reflective of the product, like McDonald's or Biggie Smalls. Or, you choose something that’s direct so people know what it is straight off the bat – something like Burger King.”

“When you go to a food-truck event and people are scouring the park to look for something to eat, you don’t want people to have to spend time figuring out what you’re serving. Tell people straight away.”

When the Biggie Smalls food truck hit the 2018 Australian Open in January this year, the team served around 24,000 people in two weeks.

Don’t underestimate the power of social media

With a mantra that could be applied to a lot of industries, Delia encourages entrepreneurs to figure out their message and believe in it. “Don’t underestimate how powerful your message can be,” he says.

“For the first time in history, we’ve been able to write our own media stories [through social media]. We’re not having to wait for people to write their interpretation of what we’re about – we can do it ourselves. There’s that saying: don’t believe the hype. Well, I say believe it. Create some.”

Follow Biggie Smalls Kbabs on Instagram for updates on its location and menu changes.

Shane Delia's Recipe For Life airs 8pm, Thursdays on SBS and then on SBS On DemandYou can find the recipes and more features from the show here. 

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