The Food Truck Frenzy With Beth Colla & Lake Street Creamery

The Food Truck Frenzy has arrived. To be honest it’s more of a subculture than a fad, really. You can literally search the web for any kind of food you can think of, throw in the words ‘food truck’, and you’re certain to find it already exists. So maybe that Thai Zucchini Pasta Food Truck hails from Austin, Texas and not from your town, but if you were to do a search of the city you live in and again throw in ‘food truck’, you’d probably be delighted at the vast array of mobile delicacies right around the corner. Chances are this isn’t news to you. Chances are you’re already quite the food stalker and have the daily and weekly location schedules of your favorite Hawaiian fish taco and sushi trucks memorized. Don’t worry, we’re not judging. In fact, we’re considering a food truck venture ourselves. An initial investment that’s only a fraction of what it would be to open a ‘brick and mortar’ means less risk. Another promising aspect of food truck industry is the intense craze it’s creating. Larger cities fill huge parking lots with thousands of people who are there simply to eat food from a truck. It sounds strange, but as a business model it’s hard to deny the appeal. To get a better understanding of the food truck business we spoke with Beth Colla who, with Tim Ferguson, owns and operates Lake Street Creamery.

“We make gourmet ice cream and we actually make it right on the truck. Our truck is our mobile kitchen. It’s definitely something that’s unique to the other dessert trucks around town – there’s really no other ice cream parlour on wheels. We started not quite a year ago (the end of June 2010) and we’ve been hitting LA ever since.”

The Ice Cream Need

“This is our first food business venture. Before, we were in the toy industry. Well, Tim was a musician and worked in the toy industry with me. I had been in that industry for years – painting and sculpting prototypes of toys for licensed product. We had been doing freelance together for quite a while and then the industry just completely changed in the last few years – most of that work was outsourced to China.  So out of necessity we completely changed direction. We had been making ice cream at home
for friends and they were very encouraging of us doing this. They really loved our flavors. Doughnut flavored ice cream is probably our signature flavor. It tastes like a cake doughnut and it is awesome. People love it. We have really good floats that we use that ice cream in. We’ve got a jelly doughnut float with black cherry soda, a chocolate doughnut float with chocolate soda, and a glazed doughnut float with cream soda. No matter what you get they taste just like they sound. It always freaks people out but they love it.”

“It took us six to eight months of planning because we had to build a truck. There wasn’t a truck that we could rent or buy that was already like the one we have. We bought a step van that was completely empty inside and had this great company called Armenco customize it. They do a lot of food truck construction and they’re amazing. We made plans that we had to run by the health department for approval.  It took a lot of time to make sure we did it right and were as efficient as possible. We also had to figure out how to make the ice cream professionally and in bulk instead of just with a home maker, so we did a lot of research on the kind of ice cream maker to get. We got a really great Emery Thompson ice cream maker onboard. It’s really cool. It makes a bunch of ice cream in about 8 minutes. All in all, it has been a long process and a lot of learning.”

“We pretty much stick in the LA area. We’ve done events but nothing farther than 50 miles out because you have to have a
business license for every area that you’re working in unless you get a special events permit. We pretty much stay in the areas we have our business license for which is Burbank, The Valley, Los Angeles, and Santa Monica. We rotate around there, go to different events and downtown LA, and then we do a lot of private parties. We’re on TV sets a lot. They will have food trucks come out because it’s easier than catering or hiring food service sometimes. It’s a lot of fun – something fun and different.”

The Food Truck Frenzy!

“The idea of a ‘brick and mortar’ was kind of scary with all of the businesses closing down and with the economy being so rough. We figured a food truck was going to be a lot less investment initially and also you can go to your customers. The craze in LA was just starting when we were planning this.  We saw the potential to jump on something that was already taking off – so we really wanted take advantage of that.  There were so many events coming up and we thought instead of being stuck in a location where nobody knows us, we’d try to get our name out there and around all different areas. It was obviously a really good plan because it worked. Now we’re looking into a ‘brick and mortar’ because we have a following and people know who we are.”

We have some ice cream stalkers and it’s great!

“On our website we have a calendar which we keep up to date so people are aware of that days location, can plan accordingly and come out. It’s really cool to see a bunch of regulars all the time. Being your own boss is really good, but what’s great is selling ice cream. Had I known how appreciated I would be just making and selling ice cream, I would have done this years ago.  People are so happy! You give them ice cream and they literally squeal. To work at a job where people are smiling and thrilled all day long is really nice. I never even thought about that before. I didn’t realize how happy we would make people with ice cream. It’s kind of amazing.”

Amazing sounds about right. Who wouldn’t enjoy being supremely appreciated day in and day out? To get to that point though, there were a few things Lake Street Creamery had to work out:

“I think the challenge at first was figuring out where to go. Before, when we were getting started, people didn’t know who we were. We didn’t know where to go with all these strange regulations in all these different areas and parking rules. Then there are certain cities that aren’t as friendly with food trucks as others. That’s really changed now and things are getting better, but first it was a matter of figuring out how to do this and not get tickets or make people angry. We had to figure out the etiquette of where to go, our schedule, where is more lucrative, and how not to waste time and gas.  Right now the main challenge is finding good help so that we can delegate some more of the responsibility and have more time to concentrate on the marketing and creative aspect; which is where our talents truly are. That’s kind of what we’re into so we want to get some help with the physical ice cream making and the scooping.”

The Lake Street Creamery.

Of the future Beth says:

“We’d like to open a store. That’s our next goal: to open a store and continue to take the truck out and run another truck down the line. Eventually it would be kind of cool to get our ice cream in stores. There’s a lot to tackle to get to that point though; a lot of research will have to be done. Right now the short-term goal is the shop. “

“We’re pretty much going to stick in the southern California area. We might venture farther south if there are events, but for the most part sticking around the area is the most efficient. We might find a way to ship our ice cream at some point. I know some places do that. “

As is customary with our interviews, we asked Beth to share any specific advice she had in terms of running her business. She said:

“Twitter is invaluable and absolutely necessary; Facebook is absolutely necessary; and a website is absolutely necessary. So all three of those things combined are really really helpful. In this industry people have to know where you are. Also there are all kinds of other websites out there that are basically food truck trackers. Reviews on Yelp have been really helpful. Twitter for sure though. You have to use Twitter if you’re going to run a food truck.”

“If you can start your own business and it’s something you enjoy doing, and you have the ability to do it, then do it. There doesn’t seem to be much loyalty working for anybody else these days. It’s not like you can keep your job for fifty years like you did in the past. Things are constantly moving and changing. I feel more confident having my own ‘iron’ and my own ‘fire’ instead of having to trust other companies to keep it together and not make changes. If you can do your own business then do it. It’s a lot of work but it’s on your terms. It’s better.”

To learn more about Beth Cola & Lake Street Creamery, please visit:

Website: LakeStreetCreamery.com/

Blog: LakeStreetCreamery.com/wp/

Facebook: Facebook.com/pages/Lake-Street-Creamery/159953714564

Twitter: Twitter.com/#!/lakestcreamery

About the Author: Daniel Ballard

Daniel is a Writer and Entrepreneur. He is Co-Founder/Main Author/Editor of BossStart and Co-Editor/Featured Author for BossStart's sister site, PauseStart, launching early 2012

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