Southern California crepes food truck expands into multifaceted foodservice business
Crepes Bonaparte has established a signficant catering business in conjunction with its food trucks. Photo courtesy of Crepes Bonaparte.
Crepes Bonaparte, launched in 2008 to bring crepes to the streets of Fullerton, California, faced a turning point in 2012.
When the husband-and-wife team of Christian and Danielle Murcia expanded from serving crepes off of a tabletop grill to a food truck in 2010, they quickly realized that food trucks were on a growth curve, as explained in part one of this two-part series.
Armed with two years' worth of food truck experience, the Murcias purchased a used truck instead of a new one, saving more than half of the cost of their first truck.
What they saved on the truck went into a higher tab for the kitchen, however, since equipment costs had increased.
A server prepares crepes in the kitchen.
Each of the trucks cost around $80,000. As with their first truck, the Murcias took out an SBA loan to finance the additional truck.
Also, as with their first truck, they hired MSM Truck Catering Manufacturing in Paramount, California, to build out the truck.
They also hired five to seven more employees for the San Diego truck.
That second truck was only one part of what would eventually become a multifaceted foodservice business.
A new opportunity emerges
As more food trucks took to the streets of Southern California, clients began to arrange to place different food trucks in a rotation in order to offer patrons variety. Murcia found himself spending a lot of time helping his clients find food trucks to book in addition to his own.
Murcia saw this as an opportunity for a new sideline: a food truck booking service. In 2012, he started Curbside Bites, a food truck booking service in Southern California.
"Rather than having them schedule a truck, we said, 'we can manage that for you,'" he said.
Curbside Bites now has its own full-time manager who schedules food trucks for about 50 properties in Southern California. The client locations include malls, residential properties, office buildings, universities and other businesses.
For recurring events, Curbside Bites charges the food truck a fee or a commission, and sometimes a combination of both. For larger locations, such as college campuses, the booking client sometimes keeps a portion of the fee. For one-time events, the client is provided a list of trucks to book. For catering, the client pays a fee.
"If we can partner with properties that want the food trucks there and are actually marketing the food trucks that are there, that's where it's a win-win," Murcia said. The company manages 250 to 400 bookings per month.
A partnership emerges
In 2012, the Murcias formed a partnership with the owner of a fusion taco truck called Calbi. This partnership launched a sausage truck called Brats Berlin and a Greek food truck called Louks Greek. In 2014, the partner moved on to a new venture, so the three concepts were either sold or discontinued.
At that point, the Murcias decided to return their focus to crepes, and moved the San Diego truck to Orange County in order to streamline food truck and catering operations.
As the catering side of the business grew, Murcia became convinced that a brick-and-mortar restaurant would help streamline the process of prepping for catering gigs, while supplying the food trucks, as well.
Expansion into brick-and-mortar
In late 2016, a building with reasonable lease terms became available in Fullerton. It took a year to build out the 1,000-square-foot facility, which serves as both a restaurant and a food truck supply point.
"It works because it's tying in with everything else," Murcia said. "I wouldn't necessarily want to have a restaurant on its own."
|A brick-and-mortar restaurant supports other facets|
of the Crepes Bonaparte business.
The restaurant has 12 indoor seats around a bar counter and 10 two-person tables outside. Guests select their food at the counter, then choose a seat indoors or outside on the al fresco patio.
The restaurant offers the same menu as the trucks, and also serves French beer, French wine and espresso.
The $200,000 investment in the restaurant was mostly self-funded. The company currently has no debt, Murcia said. He hopes to see the restaurant deliver $300,000 to $400,000 in annual sales. He also plans to expand Curbside Bites to new markets in California this year.
The Crepes Bonparte brand has been featured on the Food Network Food Truck Race and highlighted on Food Truck Fanatics. More recently, the concept claimed the No. 40 spot on the New York Daily News list, "101 best food trucks in America for 2018."
Elliot Maras is the editor of KioskMarketplace.com and FoodTruckOperator.com.