7 maggio 2018

Interview with Umami Natura Golosa – Food truck

Interviewer: Giulia, Associazione NET

Interviewee: Pravas, Umami business promoter

Italy

1. How did Umami Natura Golosa start out? Who are its creators? Since when is it active?

Umami is the marriage of my dream to change my working life with the same idea my business partner, Alessandro, had. He was a restaurant manager at Lido di Venezia, I was a cook for a restaurant in Venice. We both felt it was time to work together, autonomously. Alessandro wanted to change job because where he worked there was no space and willingness for a green kitchen and he didn’t feel represented in that place anymore; on my side: I wanted to try to work on my own. It all started one year ago, we were young enough to try and we wanted to take the same direction since we both share a passion for natural vegetable-based kitchen. In the beginning we were looking for a restaurant but we never found the right place, then a friend of us spoke about the possibility of a food truck and so we decided to get one and start this business.

2. Why did you choose to sell organic and vegetable-based food? 

Because we both had a personal passion for this kind of food, it’s not a commercial choice because we think vegan food is not something you can get rich with. It’s widely spoken about but numbers are still very small, you have to strongly believe in it. According to us, it’s still a very sectoral niche, if we did it only for business we wouldn’t have the results we have, in fact, many vegan restaurant open and close right after, you must be able to do things in the best way with passion.

3. What’s your background?

Alessandro was a restaurant manager i was employed as a cook.

4. How did you do your business start up? Could you benefit of any fundings? 

No funding was accessible, we opened for a private lending. We asked for a measured loan to buy a used truck (new ones cost as restaurants) because we didn’t want to spend all the money needed for a new one. Some of our colleagues bought a new truck but we think such investment is very hard to recoup, it’s not a winner. This job has many uncertainties and it’s not so easy to recoup the money you need to start off. People think you can earn good money with food trucks, but it’s not like this, there are many variable, you work on the street and your work depends on the weather, you first have to anticipate money for taxes in order to take part in festivals so before you can start earning money you have to get back that money you spent. If it goes with rain for two days it’s a flop! It’s a kind of job for people who has money to invest because you don’t always recover your money. It’s almost like gambling. We chose to be cautious, we always pick very targetted and medium-small events to limit economic loss.

5. What’s your qualification? Did you do any training course?

I’m trained as a cook at the Vocational Training School Il Sesto Sapore. We are subject to almost all norms and laws that restaurants are subject to with few exceptions mostly regarding structural aspects of the kitchen (ventilation for instance, is not relevant); the truck is homologated and we have a regular licence.

6. What’s your legal framework? We are a limited partnership.

7. What do you exactly do? Do you have another job besides this? (Full time? Part time? Only weekend or theme festivals?)

We don’t have another job, this one fully engages us at 100%. We cook everything we sell, we don’t have to simply buy something and resell it as other truckers do (see for fish and hamburgers). We cook in a kitchen and this takes good part of our time. Week si divided like this: Monday is the day off, Tuesday and Wednesday go for shopping and administrative issues, from Monday to Friday we cook for the weekend.

8. How many are you?

It’s the two of us and some employee when needed.

9. Regarding law, what norms do you have to respect? Is there any specific law for your activity? What permission do you need to operate?

Specific laws or regulaments don’t exist, it’s a very new sector and it’s still under normed. It’s a recent phenomenon. We have a licence for travelling commerce and we can settle down where we like to, we have to stay out of historical centres, but we don’t have to ask Municipality for any permission. Theoretically we can stay in the same place for only two hours but we are hardly checked-on on that. If municipal police arrive is always after we were reported. It happened once because we stopped to close to zebra crossing but it could also happen that people report us because the backup power we use is noisy and it could bother someone after a while.

10. What kind of feedback do you have from your clients? 

Our clients are very happy, they come back and look for us! We meet many interested people that taste this food for the first time and are amazed how good it can be. We have 50 reviews and 48 of them are 5 stras!

11. What ae the main difficulties you met until now?

Difficulites are everyday, it’s a very heavy job that request multisectoral competences: you have to know cooking, administration, accounting and mechanics because as the truck has a problem you can’t work anymore. You have to know how to handle it in every different situation. Our truck is old, we saved some money at the beginning but we are spending it now for its maintenance. Problem were many, we had to learn how to get over a flat tire, a dead battery, now we should change the power system. I mean, this job really tested us. It has been a hard road, first winter was tough, we tried to go out but we understood that people don’t eat out on the street in winter time, it’s a seasonal job.. Next winter will do something different, some indoor activity, indoor events and catering service.

Good! I get you are full of energies and enthusiasm!

Yes, totally! We work with seasonal products, our menu always change, our luck is that we can offer many different things unlike other colleagues the just buy and resell, they definitely can’t offer kitchen course or catering. In the food truck frame we are very special, 8 trucks out of 10 don’t have a cook that work on it but only a manager that is investing his money in selling a product, but this person can’t have a B plan as we do, he must work on that truck with that product!. We have the possibility to offer different activities and we will starting from next winter!