Foodies rejoice because scrumptious food is on the move in South County. Throughout the summer Providence Food Truck Events (PVD) hosts food truck nights all over the state, bringing good eats, live music and the community together in one tasty place.
Though their offerings and inspirations are varied, the food trucks at these events are working together to create a thriving community of entrepreneurs that love seeing each other succeed.
Michael Rodgers of PVD Food Truck Events said, “all the food truck owners and staff really work to help each other out. They want everybody to succeed because the more that every food truck succeeds the whole event succeeds and it gives the community a chance to come out and have fun, hang out and relax.” He continued, saying, “it makes us proud, and it feels really good that we’re doing something to help local businesses while also creating a fun environment for the local community.”
Bryan Chavez and his brother-in-law Marc Glaviano are co-owners of the Farm to Sandwich food truck. They take pride in using locally sourced ingredients to create their food from scratch. The duo launched their business in September 2020 after they both lost their jobs during the pandemic — which all happened not long after the two families moved to Rhode Island. From this resilience during a difficult time of transition sprung a thriving business that has already made itself a staple of the Rhode Island food truck scene.
The brothers-in-law were relieved to discover that their new career came ready made with a community of helpful fellow business owners. “Everyone has been very, very supportive. We came from New York originally where things are a little more cutthroat, but everyone here has been so nice and supportive helping us get started with tips and pointers here and there. Even in terms of connecting us with breweries and gigs to work at, everybody kind of passes [resources] around and works together.”
Glaviano continued, saying, “we don’t look at anyone like competition. We feel that the more trucks the better because more people show up. We all really support each other.”
Debra Thibault and her business partner started Atomic Blonde Ice Cream Truck five years ago as a fun semi-retirement project after careers in the restaurant industry. “We love our Rhode Island food truck community! Everybody has everyone else’s back — it’s like one big food truck family,” said Thibault.
Running a food truck takes more than just a dream and a recipe, though. And Mike Cofone of RedsRi has had a firsthand look at the delicate inner workings of this venture. “It gets tricky because you can only fit so much in a small, finite area. You’re basically building a kitchen up from the ground every day… You’re loading and unloading supplies all day, it’s very time-consuming and physically strenuous. It’s a different animal than planning a kitchen because a kitchen already has everything you need. With a food truck, you have to stop at stores on the way to events… you have to make sure you have propane and gas, and you have to make sure your staff is on time and in the right place… logistics can be tricky, so you need to run like a well-oiled machine for things to go well.”
He continued, saying, “it’s a lot of learning the business side of it like paperwork and permits — different cities have different permits and licensing, so you have to apply for those — there’s a lot of lessons to learn when starting [a food truck]. We adapt literally every day.”
The things to worry about when running a food truck are abundant and pricey. To establish a food truck, you obviously need to purchase a truck, but you also need to determine whether you are going to remodel it yourself or work with a food truck designer to create your mobile kitchen. This will prove to be a tricky thing as no two food truck kitchens are alike. One may just need a freezer for ice cream and storage for toppings, but another may need industrial fryers, ovens, griddles or multiple refrigerators. It all depends on the type of food being served and the total amount of ingredients needed to keep on hand. Once the truck is designed and outfitted properly, food truck owners also must seek the proper permits for each town they serve food in, which can get very complicated.
Once the proper permits are in place the food truck owner must figure out their prices based on factors such as the total price of bulk ingredients, the number of units being sold, truck maintenance, gas to get to an event, staff pay and gas for the generator running the truck for the duration of the event. These factors are only a glimpse into the daily complexity of owning a food truck and making a profit.
The Trapbox is another truck that was born out of need during the pandemic. Dario Dacosta is the husband of one of the co-owners of The Trapbox, so he has been privy to the process of establishing a food truck from the beginning.
“With a mobile kitchen, you can run into problems. You try to keep up with the maintenance as much as possible, but having to restock your fridge, scheduling events and all the other stuff you can sometimes forget about the engine. It’s very gas and go, but it can sneak up on you. We just opened in October, but we’ve had three events we’ve had to cancel already due to being broken down,” said Dacosta.
During the time they were broken down, there was an event that promised a large number of sales, so the team asked for permission to tow their truck to the event, and they did it. That kind of dedication to your craft is necessary for the success of a food truck venture.
“The way you spend money, you have to make that money back… there’s a lot of logistics to a food truck. People think it’s just buy a food truck and go, it’s much more than that,” said Dacosta.
The Trapbox team hopes to one day open a kitchen to serve their food when events get rained out and during the winter off-season.
Despite the stresses of the job, Cofone of RedsRi expressed the joys of it all as well. “I say every time I come to work it’s kind of like going to a party every day, especially [PVD’s] events. You know, you’re outside, you’re enjoying it, all the food trucks trade food, and if you’re missing something there’s always a truck that’s going to lend it to you… you get to meet a lot of cool people and make a lot of connections. You can’t ask for more.”
To experience a food truck event for yourself you can visit PVD in South Kingstown on August 5 or September 2 from 5 to 8 p.m. at Extreme Airsoft, 1425 Kingstown Rd., in Richmond on September 9 from 5 to 8 p.m. at 5 Richmond Townhouse Rd., Wyoming, or in East Greenwich on August 11 from 5 to 8 p.m. at Goddard Park, 1095 Ives Rd. For more information and event listings, visit foodtrucksin.com/food-truck-events.