It’s a feature post! Few of these non-recipe- or picture-centric posts exist on TuroK Like Food. Prepare yourself for feature of The Lime Truck, based on an interview with Daniel Shemtob, the man behind The Lime Truck and its restaurant TLT. I initially struggled on how to approach this piece. The typical “what’s your recipe for success?” interview is overused. I decided to tackle The Lime Truck by asking questions about parts of the food truck world I didn’t previously understand. In this article, you’ll see my commentary on a few aspects of The Lime Truck’s existence: logistics, vision, and competition.
My primarily curiosity is how The Lime Truck operates from a logistical standpoint. As a consumer of, not producer in, the restaurant industry, I didn’t understand ingredient sourcing. Sourcing each ingredient from a farm seemed like a full-time job in itself. The Lime Truck, according to Daniel, uses separate produce and meat companies that do the ingredient sourcing heavy lifting. The Lime Truck holds those two companies to a certain standard by purchasing the products that it feels proud serving. The second logistical question regards preparation and cooking. I figured it impossible that all the cooking was done on the truck. How would they efficiently braise pork for 12 hours? Where would food and supplies be delivered? During the first bit of The Lime Truck’s existence, Daniel and his business partner Jason (now the visionary at The Playground in downtown Santa Ana) cooked everything on the truck. Soon thereafter, they rented a commercial kitchen space, a strategy I understand. Currently most of the cooking for the trucks is done at TLT, the restaurant originating from The Lime Truck.
Because of my fascination with psychology, I questioned Daniel’s vision and inspiration in creating The Lime Truck. His vision is nothing revolutionary for what I understand of the restaurant industry, but the empirical evidence points towards success. When Daniel and Jason started The Lime Truck, they lived in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, respectively. They decided to take their vision to Orange County, where they both grew up. The vision is this: The Lime Truck aspires to serve good quality food at reasonable prices. What is a reasonable price? Daniel mentioned $10-12 and under. Some may disagree on their assessment of reasonable price, but those people do not understand the economics and logistics of the food truck scene.
I was also interested in The Lime Truck’s financial and competitive situation. I discovered that Daniel and Jason started The Lime Truck in 2010 with $20,000 in capital costs. I’m still surprised at how little capital was required. With 20/20 hindsight, he claims that he should have used $50,000 instead and that some food truck owners go through $250,000 in startup capital. This is the point of the interview where his responses seemed like words from a coach, as if I were starting my own food truck and he were my mentor. When I asked Daniel about his views on other food trucks as friends or foes, he mentioned that The Lime Truck started the first food truck roundup in Orange County. From what I gather, Daniel doesn’t view many trucks as direct competitors, and a strong sense of camaraderie pervades within the food truck community. The truck owners empathize with fellow trucks because they understand the difficulties, of which I didn’t ask and Daniel didn’t tell. Evidently, food trucking is a tough business, based on the number of trucks for sale on Roaming Hunger.
On the bright side, Daniel is opening the third, non-wheeled, TLT restaurant in October of this year, this one at The Spectrum in Irvine.
Should you eat at The Lime Truck or TLT? If you like good food, the answer is obvious.
Because this post needs a photo, here’s one of a duck confit sope I sampled at The Lime Truck in 2012.
And here’s a bulgogi sope I ate in 2012.
Did you expect perfect pictures? I hope not. This is delicious street food, and I was hungrily impatient.