Dayton Daily News reporter gets food truck work experience

I saw firsthand what it was like to work a food truck three weeks ago at the Dayton Blessing of the Bikes event at Kil-Kare Raceway in Xenia. Cory Thompson, the owner of What The Taco?!, allowed me to tag along.

His set-up is similar to Chipotle or Hot Head Burritos where everything has been prepped ahead of time, so building tacos during an event is easy and seamless. If he has an event at 11 a.m., he typically starts prepping around 9 a.m. at a commissary kitchen in Miamisburg.

Thompson is always the one building the tacos, while someone else is taking orders. As the third person on the truck that day, I started off by warming up flour tortillas on a small griddle. Most people ordered soft shell tacos verses hard shell tacos. Heating up the tortillas was easy, but it became hot real quick — especially with three people in the trailer.

I’m the type of person who likes engaging with customers, so eventually I weaved my way into taking orders. Thompson has it down to a science — by the time the person is done paying, he already has their tacos ready to go. I didn’t even have to write anything down.

Thompson said his key to success is speed, affordability, friendliness and options.

During this event, What The Taco?! had Jamaican Jerk Chicken, Ground Beef, Barbacoa Beef and Black Bean & Roasted Corn (vegetarian and gluten-free) Tacos. They also had chips and salsa. Most people were ordering the Jamaican Jerk Chicken and Barbacoa Beef Tacos. Each taco has a specific list of ingredients that they are topped with. For example, the Jamaican Jerk Chicken Taco is topped with creamy jerk slaw, mango salsa and sweet chili sauce. The Barbacoa Beef Taco is topped with pico de gallo, shredded romaine lettuce, cilantro sour cream and Monterey Jack cheese. When people ordered, it was super easy to modify because everything is made-to-order.

Tacos were two for $10 or three for $12.

The most surprising thing for me was how many people did not look at the menu before coming up to the food truck and trying to order. The good news, whoever was taking orders was able to walk the customer through the options (even me who had only been on the food truck for two hours).

“Prepare to hustle,” Thompson told me before the event. “You have to have a friendly personality. You have to be approachable.”

My favorite part was seeing the other food truck owners getting food from Thompson’s truck. The support the food truck community has for each other is exhilarating.

Of course, I couldn’t leave without making tacos. For those few people that came at the end of the event, I do apologize for the overstuffed, mess. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, I just hope they had a fork!

Having the firsthand experience gave me a better understanding of what’s it like to work a food truck. You’re always listening, watching and trying to serve the customer as fast as possible.

Honestly, I would do it again!

Food & Dining Reporter Natalie Jones may be reached by email at

Credit: Knack Video + Photo

Credit: Knack Video + Photo

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