published Sunday, June 1st, 2014

Embedded: Taking Lunch to the streets

Muenster Truck delivers the cheese

Embedded: Life inside a food truck — Muenster Truck edition
You've seen food trucks from the outside, but have you ever wondered what it's like to work in one? Strap yourself down and check out the view from inside our GoPro-equipped Muenster Truck.
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    Rajiv Mehta works at The Muenster Truck in this April photo.
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WHOSE VIEW?

Name: Rajiv Mehta

Age: 25

Job: Muenster Truck general manager

Wage: $10/hour plus profit split with owner Guru Shah

Years in the job: One year

Best part: Growing the Muenster Truck brand and meeting new people

Worst part: Truck maintenance.

Next time you stop by a food truck and enjoy a delicious mobile treat, don’t forget about the people who created your to-go delicacy.

In the summer, the inside of a food truck can feel like a furnace. The sun’s rays relentlessly bombard the truck’s metal skin from the outside, while hot stoves and ovens heat it from within.

Air conditioning wouldn’t be too effective anyway, since the rear and sides of the truck are open for the purposes of conducting business. Sometimes, Rajiv Mehta, general manager of The Muenster Truck, sets up a fan to cool down a bit.

The heat is one of many struggles restaurateurs encounter in the wild world of mobile food, as they leap bureaucratic hurdles and dodge unexpected costs during their mission to bring food to the people.

Local rules prevent food trucks from parking in most parking spaces or bringing tables and chairs along for people to sit and enjoy their meal. Strict contracts between many employers and large businesses like Aramark prohibit food trucks on many corporate properties.

And in the course of delivering gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches to the masses, The Muenster Truck can occasionally break down.

“If there ever is a problem with the truck, it is never a quick fix. We generally have to get it looked at by a professional,” Mehta said. “If the truck doesn’t run, then we miss big opportunities.”

But the struggles are worth it, said Chattanooga native Guru Shah, who owns the truck and runs it remotely from Boston. Shah founded The Muenster Truck in June 2013, purchasing the truck itself from a Miami business and hiring another company to design the vinyl wrap. All-in, it cost about $50,000 to OVERSET FOLLOWS:get started.

In an effort to stay busy throughout the week, he partners with local businesses to bring the food truck to offices and parking lots around the Scenic City as a special treat for employees.

“We’ve been up to Wacker, we’ll go out on Lee Highway, anywhere people want us,” Shah says.

The real trick is convincing people that food out of the back of a truck can be good.

“I think that people have been to Riverbend and tried the chicken-on-a-stick, and that’s the kind of food they think they’re going to get out of a truck,” Shah said. “They don’t know that we buy all our ingrediants locally, that we make everything from scratch, so part of what we do is try to educate.”

If you have an idea for Embedded, contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or sbradbury@timesfreepress.com.

about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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