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Seoul Food Truck: Business Is Good

by ARLnow.com September 9, 2011 at 1:59 pm 7,253 16 Comments

It wasn’t the easiest decision for Anna and J.P. Goree — leaving their jobs at a Fairfax County Whole Foods and launching their very own food truck. But Anna, who had dabbled in the catering business while still at Whole Foods, knew it was something she wanted to do. Three weeks after their “Seoul Food” truck first started offering Korean cuisine to Arlington lunch-goers, it’s looking like a good decision.

“It’s too good to be true,” she said of the lines that formed outside the truck while it was parked in Rosslyn last week. “It’s amazing.”

The Gorees, along with their one full-time employee, were serving between 200 and 250 customers a day last week. By 1:30 p.m., most of the menu was sold out. And that was perfectly okay with Anna.

It’s a “sinful thing” to throw away perfectly good kimchi rolls, kalbi burritos and bibimbap bowls, she said. And she refuses to sell day-old food.

Anna says she’s happy to be in Arlington, serving daytime crowds in Crystal City, Courthouse, Rosslyn, Ballston and — soon — Virginia Square. Business is so good, however, that Anna says they’re already thinking about launching a second truck in D.C. next year. While admitting that “D.C. is very saturated with many food trucks,” Anna says that her Korean cuisine is unique enough, and the ingredients (many of which are purchased from Whole Foods) fresh enough, that she’s not worried about the competition.

Anna only has to look at their own truck to realize the treacherous nature of the mobile business, though. The truck used to belong to the BBQ Bandidos, whose sammys and cemitas attracted crowds in Arlington, but who decided in the end that it wasn’t worth the effort. The Bandidos, Anna said, have returned to their old gigs in the catering and music businesses.

Luckily, the Gorees have a plan to increase sales.

To keep customers coming back, Anna and J.P. — a pastry chef and a meat carver, respectively — are planning on adding to their menu. Soon, the Seoul Food truck will be offering duck rolls, Korean nachos with kimchi and green onions, bacon kimchi quesadillas and kimchi bacon fried rice. Homemade miso and udon soups will be added to the menu this winter.

To boost sales beyond the lunchtime crowd, the Seoul Food truck is available for catering to private clients. It also makes appearances out DC United soccer games.

And while Anna says she’s “shocked” by the number of people in the area who are already familiar with Korean cuisine, she’s actively trying to make customers out of kimchi newbies. Just ask and you’ll receive a free sample, she said.

For more information, see the truck’s menu, current schedule and Twitter page.

  • CW

    So for all the food-truck sympathizers out there who were talking about how it was tough for them to make ends meet on the Po Boy article, realize that given the above and assuming everyone spends about $10 (low), these guys are bringing in like $2000-2500 a DAY. From a truck that cost like maybe fifteen or twenty grand. With one employee. Just saying. I realize ingredient costs are high but these people are more than rolling in the dough. How do you think Sauca and District Taco magically came up with the capital out of nowhere to open brick and mortar restaurants?

    • Don

      Hard work?

      Sure, there’s good money to be made in doing this but ” $2000-2500 a DAY” makes it sound like it’s some easy windfall. Odds are they start their day before 6 to prep and aren’t done cleaning up till 4 at the earliest. A ten+ hour day isn’t the stuff of tragedy but I think it’s worth considering how much longer and harder someone doing something like this is working than those of us who get to report to a desk or even carving meat in someone else’s company.

      If they’re paying that employee for just 6 hours at $8 an hour that’s actually costing them more like $10 (1.3x of an hourly salary is a reasonable overhead multiplier). So if their food & cooking fuel overhead is half of their selling price they’d putting an optimistic $1250 – $60 = 1190 a day in their pockets.

      Of course, that’s only if they aren’t paying anything towards a commercial kitchen rental, asset costs (like say a truck…), tools purchases, license fees, gasoline, incidentals like parking tickets,…

      So shave 1/2 off that 1190 just for the sake of argument and you have $595. Divide that by the conservative 10 hour workday for each and they’re paying themselves under $30 an hour, before taxes. Though don’t forget that the self-employed pay both halves of the 15% social security withholding.

      Is it okay money? Sure. But if they’re managing to pay themselves $25 an hour that means an annual salary of $50,000 for a full-time job. Not negligible money but that’s in exchange for being the only risk-taker, not getting paid vacation, etc. It’s certainly not “rolling in the dough.”

      And I’d be shocked if Sauca and DT aren’t fairly to notably leveraged. They just had a hand up in convincing a lender that people would want to eat what they had to offer because they’d proven it on a smaller scale.

      • CW

        Right, but I’m not speaking in absolute terms. I’m comparing them to restaurants. Take everything you mentioned and add in the cost of an Arlington or D.C. lease. And somehow the trucks come out to be more expensive. Where is the value proposition for the consumer, other than hype?

      • South Arlington

        The owner of Sauca was also independently wealthly from his previous career in i-banking. I don’t think the trucks paid for the Sauca brick and mortar location, I think derivatives and mergers/acquisitions paid for it.

        • CW

          Ahh the Georgetown Cupcake model. Pour your wealth into self-fulfilling hype, product quality be damned. Makes sense now. I didn’t know that – thanks!

  • JimPB

    Impressive enterprise. Best wishes to Anna and J.P. Goree.

    I look forward to sampling some new (to me) Korean dishes.


    I wish H-mart and Grant provided information about recipes for the various ethnic foods they offer. We’re eager to try new things, with guidance.

    • ballston chick

      Try this:

      First episode aired on Create (WETA 26-2) last night and it was pretty good. I believe they’re going to air regularly Thursdays at 9:30pm. As a Korean-American I found this show explained the foods and culture pretty well. Looking forward to the next episode!

  • FrenchyB

    So that’s what happened to BBQ Bandidos. Too bad, I liked them.

  • wow – I smell and taste the hot peppers in those photos!

  • I don’t get it.

    Waste of electrons; didn’t read.

    • drax

      You wasted 48 keystrokes to tell us that.

      • CW

        Which probably took less time than it took you to count the keystrokes. Which probably took less time than it’s taking me to write this snarky response. Which…OH GOD…INFINITE LOOP!!!!

  • John Fontain

    Maybe I’m slow, but what would be the point in putting eggs in a cage in the first place?

    • Richard Cranium

      It’s called THINKING AHEAD. See, I’m an idea guy. Wait – feed mayonnaise directly to tunafish!

  • Cas

    I thought the beef bimibap was good (not great). I wish the steak wasn’t cooked so much, but when feeding the masses, I understand why you have to do it.

    The homemade kimchi (cold of course) on the other hand was delicious. The perfect amount of spice. My mouth is watering just thinking about eating it again.

  • Tabby

    They should bring a 2nd truck to Pyongyang.


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