In this Q/A interview, Giovanna was extremely gracious with her time and providing detailed answers about what it was like to start a food truck in Atlanta. Unlike many other food truck entrepreneurs, Giovvanna owned her own brick-and-mortar restaurant location for over half a decade before entering the world of mobile food. In this exclusive Giovanna shares her story about starting food truck business from the ground up and provides some of the local resources she found helpful when launching a successful business. If you happen to live in the Atlanta area, we highly recommend stopping by A Movable Feast for a crepe or two!
Q/A WITH GIOVVANA ROSENFELD
FTE: Could you provide an overview of your business and how long you’ve been operating in Atlanta?
Giovanna: I “grew up” in my family’s italian restaurant in California – I got out of “the business” for about 5 years -then decided to go to culinary school in France in 1997. I received my Culinary Diplome from Le Cordon Bleu Paris – moved to Scottsdale Arizona then lived in the UK for a minute, Martha’s Vineyard – back to AZ – All the while working with Amazing talents, Learning and honing my craft – Getting to do interesting things along the way: on a fishing boat helping catch Swordfish -on a farm learning how good water and soil are everything – then at the oyster beds learning to appreciate the briney subtleness in a perfect oyster (France, UK & East Coast)
When I moved to Atlanta with my fiancee (Now Husband) for his job in 2010 from Tupelo Mississippi (long story short – I had a French Bistro for the previous 6 years in MS – The full story requires a bottle of wine). Atlanta seemed to be more trend driven then Chef driven – so I did not want to do the Brick and Mortar thing – A Truck seem the perfect fit, I could change my food at my whim (depending on availability of fresh products & good choice of seasonal ingredients) – I could work seasonally – and Atlanta was just starting to get rolling in that direction. We’ve been open now going on our third year.
Giovanna: Starting the food truck – I did research for two years and finally I decided that it was time. The laws here are terrible – getting better all the time.
The permitting process is a marathon, it was new to the state and nobody knows what they are doing in the government regarding the trucks. They are very, very limiting. I could never have done it if it wasn’t for Greg Smith of the Atlanta Street Food Coalition. He was my go-to. He is very helpful with everything. I did not listen to him about the truck builders (we went with the lowest bid – that ended up costing more than the highest in the end) I regret that.
The Atlanta Street Food Coalition is key. They will help you! He teaches a class FoodTruck 101 – So worth taking. Take that and a Serv Safe class prior to anything. Also go to the health departments in all the counties you want to operate in and see what they want. It is so much easier to do it right the first time. Something I wish I did – Look for newer model used trucks (Avoid States that have a lot of rust – get it checked out by a mechanic- a lot of people go into this business ill prepared, you might be able to find an affordable – gently used – gem!
FTE: What are some of the unique opportunities in Atlanta for mobile food vendors?
Giovanna: Atlanta is a Great City full of people not from here – You really experience a little of everything. Piedmont Park, Buckhead – Alpharetta – We go everywhere. It’s always a different experience. Great diversity here. It’s a busy city and people like to eat. In addition I think we are #2 in the nation in Motion Picture and TV filming (Walking Dead, Resurrection, The Vampire Diaries, The Originals – Tyler Perry Studios – BET) All here, you have opportunities to cater a lot of film sets – The people are always appreciative.
FTE: What are the challenges?
Giovanna: Licensing & Permits. It’s a good several months – on the run around to be legit. So much of a challenge that a lot of people would rather ask for forgiveness than permission. Unfortunately doing that – you get shut down and fined. I think it’s better to be legit. It’s a hassle, but we serve the public.
FTE: Thanks so much for taking the time to share your knowledge about the industry and local market. Any parting pieces of advice before we go?
Giovanna: Save more money than you think you need. You should have a years worth of money saved to pay your bills – In any restaurant (food trucks even more) – Working depends on a lot of factors:
Running Truck & Equipment (truck doesn’t run or has a dead battery or flat = you don’t work
Weather – Rain, Thunder & Snow= not a lot of people eat outside in that.
Employees – Pay fair and get reliable people.
Commissary – In Georgia, you have to have a commissary to prepare & store food – in addition to your truck – they are an added expense of 1K+ a month (and you have to pay that even in the winter when your business is nearly non-existent if you don’t get catering).
Catering – Weddings, private parties and events will pay better and get you through tough times – take all that you can get.
The truck owners in Atlanta are super cool and most of us will help you any way we can. We are a big family (like normal ones, sometimes dysfunctional) But we all try and help each other. Email one of us and you will see…If we’re busy it might take a minute.
EXTENDED RESOURCES IN ATLANTA
Atlanta Street Food Coalition – This organization comes highly recommended by Giovanna. The ASFC can provide you with resources needed to start a food truck in Atlanta. They also publish an updated calendar of food trucks operating in the area so it’s the ideal place to track if you’re a food truck foodie too!
Street Food 101 Class – This is a class taught by Greg Smith, a trainer that comes highly recommended in the Atlanta area. New classes are held regularly. Here’s a video of Greg Smith in action from TEDxAtlanta to get a sense of his presentation style.
Atlanta Food Truck Park – This is the first place in the Atlanta area that has offered a permanent location for food trucks. There is a rotating list of vendors that serves up a variety of foods here. Check them out if you live in the ATL.
The Food Movement – This is another organization that helps promote mobile food in the area. The group also operates a large commissary in the area.