Line of credit puts Chattanooga mobile food operator back on the fast track

| by Elliot Maras
Line of credit puts Chattanooga mobile food operator back on the fast track

Rolling J's is back on track in Chattanooga, thanks to Jacob D'Angelo's determination to bounce back from a setback. Photo courtesy of Rolling J's.

When the Rolling J's food truck suffered an engine blowout last year, owner Jacob D'Angelo felt like the rug had been pulled out from under him. The business was up 25 percent on the year at that point, but all of a sudden, everything was put on hold for the Chattanooga, Tennessee, Southern gourmet food truck.

But he soon realized that it was only a setback. The moral support from the community encouraged him to rebuild the business, as noted in part one of this two-part series.

Reassessment begins

The setback also gave him the opportunity to review his goals for the business which, in addition to a food truck, included a stadium concessions stand and catering. Long-term, D'Angelo also wanted to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant.

Being smaller than a food truck, the trailer can be stationed
to serve at more locations.

The first order of business was to get the truck up and running. But in considering his options, D'Angelo decided to invest in a trailer instead of repairing his truck.

Trailers require less maintenance, consume less fuel and have fewer automotive components to maintain. 

When he came across a 7- by-12-foot trailer, D'Angelo realized that a trailer this size could be taken to more locations than a full-size food truck. 

While the trailer came with a kitchen, it wasn't big enough to prepare the amount of food needed, so he rented kitchen space from a local sports stadium.

D'Angelo needed around $20,000 for the trailer. He also needed a pickup truck to pull the trailer.

In search of credit

One option was to borrow money from a bank, but he needed funds immediately to get his business operating again, and bank loans take a long time to secure.

Another food truck owner told D'Angelo about Kabbage, an Atlanta-based automated lending platform. 

Kabbage requires borrowers to be in business for a year and have a minimum of $50,000 in annual revenue, or $4,200 per month, for the last three months. The platform leverages data — such as accounting, sales, shipping and other information — generated by the borrower's business activity to understand performance and deliver funding in short order. 

"The website was really well put together," D'Angelo said of the lending platform. "Everything was understandable, so I went ahead and filled out the application." Two weeks later, he got an email advising him that he had an open line of credit with Kabbage. He also received a call from a representative who explained how the financing worked. 

"It wasn't a difficult process at all; it was very easy," he said. "I wanted to get back out there and start serving our clients." D'Angelo withdrew funds from his line of credit to buy the trailer, and he was able to begin serving food from it in November.

He could have financed the trailer through the company that sold it to him, but D'Angelo wanted to establish a line of credit he could draw on for other business uses, as well. Kabbage reviews his bank statements on a three-month basis and qualifies him for his credit amount.

"If you need access to the money, you can get it," he said. "It was nice to have that extra money you could pull out." He has since used the line of credit to pay for his inventory.

On the road again

Between the trailer, which generally needs a staff of three, and his catering business, which typically requires two people, D'Angelo was back to serving three events per day from day one. And no sooner was he back in business than he began to plan his first brick-and-mortar restaurant.

Jacob D'Angelo, with his wife, Bryanne, looks forward
to opening his brick-and-mortar restaurant.

He has shown the city his plans for a 535-square-foot restaurant with seven tables he hopes to open in the fall, serving breakfast and lunch.

He is in the process of building the kitchen and finalizing the lease for a building on the Riverfront Parkway in Chattanooga, an area under development.

The kitchen will cost about $10,000 and the restaurant buildout will cost $20,000 to $30,000. Rent will cost approximately $1,300 per month.

"Getting these plans approved is the hardest thing," he said. Once that happens, he expects to be able to open the restaurant within 30 to 90 days.

In the meantime, D'Angelo has been hiring people to help with the trailer on a part-time basis in order to see who he might want to hire to work in the restaurant. He expects he will need six to 10 employees.

D'Angelo will keep the commissary at the stadium to support the trailer even after the restaurant opens.

Securing a line of credit is important to any food truck planning to expand into a brick-and-mortar restaurant, D'Angelo said.

"When we established our finance ability, it opens up a whole other world," he said.

Photos courtesy of Rolling J's

Topics: Business Strategy and Profitability, Equipment & Supplies, Food & Beverage, Franchising & Growth, Independent Operators, Purchasing, Vehicles

Elliot Maras
Elliot Maras is the editor of and

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