Meals Truck to Restaurant: How 4 Jacksonville Corporations Made the Transition | Jax Every day Report | Jacksonville Every day Report

By Dan Macdonald, contributing writer

Food trucks become a vehicle to open a traditional restaurant.

Once a novelty, food trucks grew into a multi-billion dollar industry across the country. The owners bring their vagabonds to conventional restaurants.

The mobile kitchens offer a relatively inexpensive way to get into the restaurant business. According to, start-up costs range from $ 50,000 to $ 200,000 nationwide, depending on the size and concept of the truck.

The cost also increases depending on the number of permits a city requires. However, according to a survey of 700 restaurant owners by, that cost is about half the $ 498,888 or more that can be involved in building a small specialty restaurant

Local owners say they like mobility and the freedom to set their hours and location is appealing. At the same time, they find that the job presents different challenges than running a traditional restaurant.

Also, those who for the most part make the step into a shop front are unwilling to park the truck and keep them both going.

Here’s What Four Jacksonville Food Truck Operators Say About Choosing a Home Door and Four Wall Address.

Happy Grilled Cheese is located downtown at 219 N. Hogan St.

The happy grilled cheese

Serendipity played a large role in Anthony Hashem’s decision to open The Happy Grilled Cheese restaurant in downtown 219 N. Hogan St.

With his food truck, Hashem had expanded the theme of the standard grilled cheese sandwich to create preparations that included ingredients like avocado, pulled pork, apples, ham and cheese.

He started the truck in 2013 and branched out into the shop front in 2017.

It is rare that there are no customers at the counter at lunchtime. The 30-seat restaurant can get full, and according to Hashem, 60 percent of orders should go.

The Happy Grilled Cheese food truck was launched in 2013. While there is now a stationary restaurant in the city center, the truck is still in operation.

Folk Food previously rented and closed the space. The real estate agent had just put a rental sign in the window when Hashem drove by.

As soon as he could park the food truck, he caught the agent and had a lease at the end of the day.

The conversion of the existing restaurant for Happy Grilled Cheese is relatively inexpensive and costs less than 10,000 US dollars. It needed cleaning, new paint, and a few special cooking utensils and was ready to use.

Approval was also quicker as the room had been used for a restaurant.

Hashem said that by owning a stationary location he can add salads to his menu that are proving to be popular, but he doesn’t want to go far beyond grilled cheese.

He also continues with the food truck.

Paryse Watson, owner of the Full of Crepe Food Truck, opened The Stuffed Beaver restaurant on 2548 Oak St. in Riverside. She still has the food truck.

The stuffed beaver

Paryse Watson, owner of the Full of Crepe food truck, opened The Stuffed Beaver restaurant at 2548 Oak Street in Riverside after finding a niche.

Watson, a former model, had traveled the world trying variations on crepes. The native Canadian saw a market niche in Jacksonville in the thin pancakes.

She found a mail van and was able to turn it into a food truck that specializes in serving sweet and savory crepes for under $ 30,000. She started it in 2015.

The truck is small but has the height to keep the 6 foot 2 cook from bending over all day.

Watson opened the Stuffed Beaver store in February this year to expand their menu and bring the cuisines of Montreal and Quebec City to northeast Florida.

The Stuffed Beaver Restaurant on 2548 Oak St. in Riverside.

When she saw poutine – french fries with sauce and cheese curd – catching on as a starter, she wanted to prepare the dish the way it is cooked in Canada and give it main dish status.

The conversion of the former Riverside sandwich shop is a long and expensive undertaking, she said. Watson was hoping to open last summer, but due to construction delays, the restaurant couldn’t open until early this year.

At nearly $ 60,000, the price was almost twice the price to start their food truck.

Jacksonville has a large Canadian population who discovered the kitchen customers bring friends for crepes and properly prepared poutins, she said.

“You can tell when a customer is coming from Canada by saying ‘pout’,” said Watson.

She still has the food truck.

Keith Waller, owner of Monroe’s BBQ, started a food truck to promote his Westside restaurant. It now has a second location on Beach Boulevard.

Monroe’s Grill

Keith Waller, owner of Monroe’s BBQ, started a food truck business in order to build his first restaurant on 4838 Highway Ave. advertise on Jacksonville’s Westside on Cassat Avenue.

He already had a mobile catering truck that he used to supply local film and television productions with food and serve food at Adventure Landing.

“Since I was on Cassat Avenue, my restaurant was a destination. You had to know to find my place, ”said Waller.

“You take customers seriously when you also have a restaurant.”

The truck was grilling around town, but with a limited menu. In an independent restaurant, he can prepare and smoke food there and then put it in the truck to heat it up during the day.

After the truck was being repaired for a few days, regular food trucks found his grill and drove to the Highway Avenue store for the first time.

In 2012 he opened a second location at 10771 Beach Blvd. in a former Woody’s Bar-BQ restaurant. It already had the space and most of the equipment.

Even so, he estimated the second restaurant was $ 75,000 to $ 100,000 to prepare.

He continues to operate the food truck because it is a profitable endeavor and serves as a promotional tool for his restaurants, he said.

Corner Taco at 818 Post St. in Five Points opened in 2014. The business started as a food truck in 2012 and is still used, but only for private parties and special occasions.

Corner taco

Corner Taco started as a food truck in 2012, but owner Chris Dickerson only uses the truck for private parties and special occasions.

He opened a restaurant at 818 Post St. in Five Points in 2014 and that’s his main business.

He also took over an established restaurant, the former Gina’s Deli, so his startup costs were minimal. Dickerson declined to discuss his investment.

The 42-seat restaurant is open seven days a week and on a busy day the tables can be rotated up to ten times.

It’s no accident that most food trucks are operated by young people, Dickerson said. The job is difficult, from loading heavy crates of product into the truck every day, to driving a large rig, to assembling, dismantling and cleaning every day.

“The food truck currency is creativity,” said Dickerson. “I wanted to do my own thing without investors. Overall, it was a great experience, but it’s tough and demanding. I admire everyone who drives a food truck. “

Competition and expansion

When food trucks hit the market, traditional restaurant owners complained about unfair competition.

Local laws were created to regulate where trucks can be parked to avoid competition with established restaurants nearby.

Now that they own stationary restaurants, Dickerson and Watson still see the value food trucks have to customers.

“Those who say food trucks aren’t fair don’t understand the economy,” said Dickerson. “Did Blockbuster claim it was unfair when Netflix changed the movie model? People vote with their dollar. “

Watson said restaurants “need to improve their game,” noting that many serve the same menu year after year. “Food trucks serve a variety of foods or give foods their own specialty,” she said.

She said food truck entrepreneurs also rely on social media, which any business can benefit from.

Food trucks customer base is based on Facebook, Twitter and other social media websites, which operators use to inform customers where they will be.

Dickerson disagrees with the argument that food truck operators have lower overheads and don’t pay rent.

“I saw my fuel bills as my rent. Fuel was 10 percent of my budget while rent was 6 percent of my sales. ”

Food truck owners typically need to rent a sufficiently zoned space to park the truck when it is not in use.

The food truck operators say they intend to open more restaurants instead of buying more trucks.

The Happy Grilled Cheese’s Hashem plans to expand, but sees rents in the city center as too high. He’s looking in the suburbs and other counties. When rents fall, he will look for another location closer to the city center.

Dickerson’s staff run Corner Taco most days. He spends a lot of time these days looking for new locations to expand his brand.

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