Kimberly and Andres Nuñez Started a Food Truck With No Culinary Experience — Now, They’re a Major Success
We grew up with comida en la casa, but we also want to support those who make us comida en la calle. That’s why this Latinx Heritage Month, mitú has partnered with El Jimador to spotlight small business owners to aid the Latino Community Foundation. Juntos, we build on our efforts to foster inclusivity and amplify Latinx voices.
Working in the corporate world for a number of years, husband and wife team Kimberly and Andres Nuñez had it made. “I was in the fashion industry for over 23 years,” Kimberly explained. “I worked in high-end fashion and my husband worked with elite cars. He worked for BMW and then had his own dealership for a couple of years.” The only problem was that they never had enough time to spend with each other.
“We’re a very family-oriented couple,” she said. “I used to go to New York or Texas or wherever my locations were and then he had to work weekends when he worked at BMW, so we really didn’t have a balanced family-work life.” After just two months of dating, the couple was engaged. Six months into the relationship, they were married. They’re preparing to celebrate their 10th anniversary in 2023.
“We feel like we’re soulmate love,” she said. “But that type of love also wants to be together, so my husband and I saved money to figure it out. We didn’t know what we were going to do together, but we knew that we wanted to start a business together.”
Soon enough, the once-nebulous plan crystallized when Andres, still working in the automobile industry, had “an opportunity to buy this catering truck,” Kimberly said while briefly clarifying, “We’re not a food truck anymore, we’re a catering company.”
In just five years, the couple turned their humble food truck into a full-fledged culinary operation, all without any experience in the industry. They prioritized the things that were most important to them, their food and their family, and learned the rest along the way. “We were lucky,” she said. “Food is a very tough industry and we had no knowledge of it. We had savings, so we had capital to start a business, but we didn’t know what we were going to do.”
For Kimberly and Andres, the most exciting part of opening the truck was being able to have full control over how the business operated, which included the freedom to make their own schedules.
“We have blackout dates throughout the year that we just absolutely do not work,” she explained. “It doesn’t matter what kind of contract we can get, we just do not work those days, to be with our family.” Those guiding principles allowed the Nuñez family to launch this business on their own terms.
Of course, that came with a particular set of challenges, especially in the beginning. “We didn’t even have an idea of the menu,” Kimberly admitted. “We just bought a food truck and thought we would just sell on the streets, like any other vendor would, and the business would come.” She took a brief pause and said, “Completely wrong. That is not the reality of any of these food vendors that you see on the street.”
Instead, the couple had to work from the ground up and earn their reputation in the community. “They don’t care how good your food is. It’s based on time, experience, word of mouth,” she explained.
Over time the two developed a greater understanding of what it really meant to run a successful food truck, but it took longer than they expected to ramp up that momentum. “We went months without making any money,” she said. “On one of our biggest days, in the beginning, we made $24 dollars in a whole day. It was the worst feeling.”
Not only that, the couple endured a series of hardships when the truck itself required constant maintenance. “Our food truck broke down. The engine went out and that was very costly. [We spent] like $24,000 dollars within the first six months on top of putting the investment in…”
The couple knew that they still had an upper hand because they’d been saving for years. “Having capital does help, for sure. It’s just a fact,” she said. “If you’re undercapitalized in this business, there’s no way that you can go through that storm and come out on fire. It’s so hard. There were months that we saw no money, but every expense was thousands of dollars.”
As they started to get on track, they turned their focus to the recipes, allowing Kimberly and Andres to take inspiration from their Cuban and Colombian backgrounds, respectively. “My husband loves to cook for me at home,” she said. “So we knew for a fact that he’d be the one cooking in the business and I would be the one on the customer service side, the design side, more of what I’m comfortable doing.”
Despite her decision to stay out of the kitchen, Kimberly still drew on her mother’s cooking to contribute to the menu. “The recipes are from three generations passed down to my husband and I,” she said, adding, “My mom’s a delicious cook. At our home, she was the heart of the kitchen and she was always making us fresh, delicious cuisine.”
Andres drew on his Colombian background to inform his decisions in the kitchen. “The [rest of the] menu came from recipes that he loved to cook with his family when he was a little kid,” Kimberly explained. “[For instance,] he knew how to make empanadas because he was raised in Colombia for the first 10 years of his life.”
Calibrating the menu meant keeping a close eye on the top sellers and making firm decisions on what would and wouldn’t be featured on the menu. “It was trial and error,” Kimberly said. “We used to have lentils on our food truck, but now we don’t even offer that. It’s only for catering.” Kimberly noted one particular menu item, a recipe for chicken wings that she got from her mom that had to be removed because “they weren’t a top seller.”
Going in without any experience proved to be something of a benefit for the business because it allowed Kimberly and Andres to develop the food truck, and now catering company, the way they saw fit. “It’s been an evolution of just years, and now it’s the same. It doesn’t change.” However, for those looking to plan a party or an event, she clarified, “For catering purposes, there are many more items that we can cook.”
To learn more about how you can help elevate the Latinx community alongside El Jimador and the Latino Community Foundation, visit LCF.
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