Food Trucks Help Mortgage Banker Reinvent Himself as Restaurateur
“I love the food truck, the concept of street food,” says Akash Kapoor, CEO and co-founder, with his wife, Rana, of Curry Up Now food trucks and restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area. “I grew up in India, and I grew up eating street food.”
The former mortgage banker — who knew little about the food industry — says it took him just 14 days to turn an initial menu and business plan into his first food truck, which hit the streets in 2009.
“Being that I was someone with zero food knowledge, it seemed that this was an easy entry. It wasn’t easy,” he admits with a laugh.
Curry Up Now has since grown to five trucks and four bricks-and-mortar restaurants, all but one of which specialize in traditional North Indian cuisine (based on family recipes) with a modern twist.
“The burrito is our #1 seller,” says Kapoor, who pioneered the concept of serving Indian food in a wrap. The method has become so popular that other culinary entrepreneurs are emulating it. A search for "Indian burrito" in the San Francisco area brings up a Yelp list of several choices, with Curry Up Now at the top.
Mobility brings both challenges and benefits. A food truck operator has to deal with weather, traffic, and breakdowns. “It’s a kitchen with an automobile, so there’s double wear and tear,” Kapoor notes.
But, he adds: “From a business point of view, they are very profitable for us. They are marketing vehicles.” The trucks can go to events and weddings and bring Curry Up Now’s food to locations where he doesn’t have a restaurant — and where he might want to open one in the future.
“You don’t sign a 10-year lease,” he notes. The investment is much smaller, so the point of entry is easier, and the potential loss of investment is smaller.
The husband and wife team started Curry Up Now with one truck, as a part-time business. Kapoor also believes a truck provides much-needed flexibility, which can help entrepreneurs starting out: “If you’re a one-truck operator,” he says, “a food truck works really well vs. a restaurant.” For example, it’s much easier to take a week off and park the truck than it is to close a restaurant with a fixed location, online ordering, and staff.
Kapoor sees other food trucks eyeing his success and thinking about opening bricks-and-mortar restaurants. “I think that’s a good sign,” he says. “It’s a great vehicle for getting into the food business.”
Laura McCamy is a freelance writer based in Oakland, California. She writes about small business, real estate, and development. An avid urban bike rider, she also loves to cover bicycling, urban planning, and the intersection of bicycles and business. Follow her on Twitter @lmcwords.