John Greco is a custom food truck and coffee van builder based in Sydney, and has three businesses, My Coffee Van, Liquid Black and Food Truck Solutions. In fact, John had the first ever coffee van in Australia called Cafe to You. In just three and a half years he built his fleet to 55 vans, eventually selling to Belaroma Coffee. From here, he set up shop turning transport vehicles into fully functioning commercial kitchens on the go.
With 16 years’ experience in designing and building specialised vehicles, John is the go-to man when it comes to taking your food concept on the road.
He says that space doesn’t need to be an issue, and he always ensures the design can comfortably fit four adults at any given time. This is the bare minimum, he says, during busy periods when you need all hands on deck: prepping, cooking, taking orders, and processing payments.
“I believe room is really important. Otherwise you’re not working on a profitable business where you could be flat out one day,” he says. “I try to keep a good gap in between everyone – so everyone can have their own space.”
When it comes to the design, John insists that it is genuinely bespoke for every client who walks through the door. Whilst some will come to him with no van, and no idea of where to begin; others will turn up with a van, and specifics on what they’re after.
Most often the end result is dictated by budget. With the vehicle fit-out ranging from $45,000 for a small coffee van, to $150,000 for a fully-functioning food truck, John sits down with every person to figure out the best way to approach their business.
John’s advice to new starters is to solidify your business concept before commencing building. He recommends visiting a designer like himself to check out the practicality of your idea first.
“A lot of people have high expectations and huge menus, that don’t really work too well inside a food truck. I think food trucks are about providing minimal, high quality products.”
In his time working with food trucks, John has seen a significant trend of business owners migrating from a bricks-and-mortar business, to a food truck. What are some of the reasons for the shift?
“High rentals,” he says flatly. “High electricity bills, all the costs in a shop are huge. And, a better lifestyle. They’re not locked down to the 6am – 5pm for cafes, or 6am – 10pm for restaurants. They just want flexibility and quality of life. There’s less risks.”
John’s seen everything from German sausages, burgers, gelato, and even woodfired pizza…in a truck. Is there anything that he believes is not suitable for a food truck?
“No. That’s probably the difference between me and the other companies. I don’t say ‘no’ to a lot of things,” he says. “I believe that anything that can be made not moving, can be made moving. It will just be smaller, in a food truck size.”
John has noticed that during his time in the business, food trucks haven’t just become popular, they’ve become expected at many major events. An increasingly savvy customer doesn’t want a sausage sizzle anymore – they want a high-quality, on-trend food offering. And in the decade plus John has been building food trucks and coffee vans, he’s seen some pretty out-there concepts!
“I’ve just finished a job for a van that specialises in meatballs,” laughs John. “Just meatballs. They’re called ‘Mad Balls’. They do pasta and meatballs, meatballs in a roll – anything to do with meatballs, I guess!”
While there is a massive opportunity for success in the food truck world, it is not without its initial hurdles.
“The biggest challenge is knowing where to take the food truck,” says John. “A lot of people already have a game plan, whereas some people only have a general idea.”
He notes that speaking with councils and local businesses about the availability of their land for food truck service is crucial before building. More Bonuses. Also, many businesses might opt to only use their van sporadically on weekends or major events, which can affect their rights and regulations.
The undisputed king of food vans, John brings a lifetime of knowledge and experience to the trade. As he says: “I’ve been building vans for 16 years and I’ve only had one person fail.”
To find out more about starting up your own food truck business, GoGetta has put together a comprehensive e-book to guide you through the setup process.