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A day in the life of a New York City food truck owner



Opening a restaurant is not easy — and running a food truck may be an even taller task.

“With food trucks, there’s no road map on how to start one,” Yumpling co-founder Christopher Yu tells CNBC Make It. “They are common, but, for whatever reason, there just isn’t that much information out there on how to do this.”

Through trial and error, Yu, 28, and his co-founders, Jeffrey Fann, 35, and Howard Jeon, 34, have built a successful business with their popular food truck, Yumpling, which has been serving Taiwanese-American fare on the streets of New York City since 2017.

Their flaming red truck draws a lunch crowd that lines up for dumplings, beef bowls and fried chicken sandwiches as early as 11 a.m. From 11:30 a.m., when the window opens, to 2:30 p.m. when it closes, the queue is consistently dozens of customers deep.

The Yumpling line starts forming before the window opens

Source: Yumpling

“The idea started while I was at another job,” says Fann. The co-founders had no prior experience in the restaurant industry before Yumpling — Fann was working as a lawyer, Yu was a recruiter and Jeon was living abroad in Vietnam running a language school — but all three had grown up surrounded by Taiwanese food.

“Chris, being a native of Taiwan, had a lot of really insightful information about the culture,” says Fann. “My experience was more through my family, growing up in a Taiwanese household in the United States and eating the food and being exposed to the culture that way.”

With food trucks, there’s no roadmap on how to start one.

Christopher Yu

Yumpling co-founder

In 2015, Fann was the first to quit his job. He started developing a menu and testing it by hosting pop-up dinners and selling his food at the Long Island City flea market. “It ended up being pretty successful, first in flea markets,” he says, “and then we decided to take it to the next level and see if we could do a food truck.”

Yu and Jeon left their jobs shortly after to pursue Yumpling full-time. They bought the truck in February 2017 from Syracuse University through Autotrader, an online marketplace. “It was an old truck that Syracuse had used to deliver things internally on campus,” says Fann. It was six years old, “but the mileage was very low and that’s what attracted us to it.”

They outfitted the truck, obtained all the necessary permits and were ready to open for business in June 2017. After two successful years selling on the streets of New York, the co-founders plan to expand their menu and open a restaurant this fall in Long Island City, Queens.

Yumpling started as a stand at the Long Island City flea market

Source: Yumpling

To see what it really takes to run a successful food truck in the culinary capital of America, I spent a day on the job with the Yumpling team. Here’s how it went.

12:30 a.m.: Commute to Long Island City

The Yumpling crew start their day in the middle of the night. My alarm sounds around 12:15 a.m.

I’m meeting Yu at 1 a.m. in Long Island City, Queens, where the truck parks by their commissary overnight. To get there on time, I quickly bundle up — it’s winter in New York — and leave my apartment by 12:30 a.m. That’s around the same time Yu heads out from his place, but he doesn’t get any sleep beforehand — he prefers to stay up and work out until it’s time to leave.

The Yumpling co-founders: Christopher Yu, Jeffrey Fann and Howard Jeon

Source: Yumpling

1 a.m.: Pick up the Yumpling truck

I arrive a few minutes early, but Yu is already waiting for me in the truck. I hop in the passenger seat, and we head toward Midtown Manhattan, where Yumpling parks on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It parks near Bryant Park on Mondays, Dumbo on Wednesdays and Soho on Fridays.

The streets aren’t congested at this hour, and we make it to West 49th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues by 1:30 a.m. Driving back to the commissary in afternoon traffic will take much longer, Yu tells me.

The reason we arrive so early is because location is everything. Competition is stiff, as this is a popular block for food trucks because of its proximity to so many big office buildings. The later you show up, the less likely you are to snag a parking spot. It’s important for Yumpling to stick to a weekly schedule and park in the same places because it helps build and retain a customer base, says Yu: “We don’t want to have to disappoint those people who have come to rely on us for their lunch.”

While most trucks will park between 3 and 5 a.m., the Yumpling team doesn’t mind sacrificing sleep to guarantee their spot.

The truck, in Long Island City around 12:30 a.m.

We’re not the only early birds — there’s already another food truck parked on this specific block — but we still get a good space. Yu parallel parks the massive vehicle with help from a back-up camera. It’s been a “very good investment,” he tells me.

Immediately after parking, he gets out and walks behind the truck to where the generator is located and turns it on. The generator powers everything, including the fridge and freezer, where most ingredients are stored.

2 to 7 a.m.: Sleep in the truck

The way the regulations are set up in New York City, Yu can’t just park the truck, leave it and come back in the morning: He has to be in the vehicle at all times, so he’ll camp out overnight. He can’t sleep in the back of the truck where the food is prepared, so he turns the driver’s seat into a makeshift bed.

He makes it as comfortable as possible: “The trick is, you have to tilt the wheel so the wide side faces up,” he says as he puts the key in the ignition, starts the truck to reposition the steering wheel and stuffs it with spare jackets to form a “portable pillow.”

Yu and Jeon alternate parking and sleeping in the truck

Source: CNBC Make It

It’s about 20 degrees outside, and not much warmer in the truck (there’s no heater), so Yu relies on layers. Today, he’s wearing three pairs of pants and two jackets. In the summer, he deals with the other extreme: “It’s tougher to sleep in the summer than the winter because the heat is just unbearable. That’s just part of the process that you have to get used to.”

I head back to my apartment, feeling thankful for my bed and heating system, while Yu falls asleep in the truck. When he wakes up around 7 a.m., there will be four to five other food trucks parked on the block.

7 to 11:30 a.m.: Morning prep

By the time I meet back up with Yu, Yumpling’s manager, Dani, has arrived and started morning prep. Two more employees show up between 9 and 10 a.m. to assist.

The team pre-fries chicken, marinates and cooks beef, assembles side salads and labels containers with Yumpling stickers. Three giant rice cookers are going at once.

Thirty minutes before opening, they’ll start cooking the dumplings, which take up a lot of space in the small kitchen: Of the eight total stovetops, seven are reserved for dumplings.

The dumplings are the top-seller

Source: Yumpling

By 11 a.m., all six employees are on the truck. This is when space starts to get tight, and I have to hop off to let them finalize preparations for service.

11:30 a.m.: The window opens

By the time Yumpling opens for service at 11:30 a.m., there’s already a line of customers snaking along West 49th street.

People arrive as early as 11 a.m., especially if they want one of the elusive beef bowls: Due to limited space on the truck, the team can only prepare 15 bowls a day — and they go fast. Today, they’re gone within 20 minutes. The quickest they’ve ever sold out is five minutes.

“It’s a running joke that [the beef bowl] is a myth,” says Fann.

In the three hours they’re open for service, business doesn’t slow down. To maximize efficiency, each employee has a specific role on the truck: one works the fryer, one is on dumpling duty, two are on assembly, one is at the register and there’s one “floater,” who does a little bit of everything.

The Yumpling food truck serves lunch in Manhattan and Brooklyn starting at 11:30 a.m.

Source: Yumpling

2:30 p.m.: The window closes

After three hours of service, Yumpling is sold out of every menu item: the only food left on the truck is one piece of fried chicken, three dumplings and a bit of rice.

The dumplings are their top-seller: “On a good day we can go through approximately 1,200 to 1,400 dumplings,” says Yu. Fann estimates they’ll help 200 to 250 customers in a three-hour window, with many customers ordering multiple items.

3 p.m.: Drive back to the commissary

After a quick clean up, the full team heads back to the commissary in Long Island City to do a deep clean of the truck and replenish it with ingredients for the next day.

They’ll wrap up between 6 and 7 p.m.

It’s a long day, but “just like any job, you get used to the schedule over time,” says Yu.

One of Yumplings’ menu items: the fried chicken sandwich

Source: Yumpling

The cost of running a food truck

The start-up costs that come with opening a food truck range from $100,000 to $150,000, depending on the type of equipment required, the quality of the buildout and the cost of the actual truck, Fann explains: “When we were looking at different trucks, some of them were as cheap as just a couple thousand dollars, but we also saw ones that were as much as $50,000 to $60,000. The cost of the truck can be a very big variable.”

The other big variable is the equipment that you put in the truck. The co-founders had to install everything from refrigerators and freezers to deep fryers.

Fann’s wife standing in front of the original truck, which they outfitted and turned into Yumpling

Source: Yumpling

They also invested in a dual window, which allows them to serve out of either side of the truck. That’s particularly helpful in NYC, where, “on certain streets, you will only be able to face one side and not the other,” says Yu. “Having a dual window allows you to park in more spots.”

“Because there’s so little space, everything on a truck is a trade-off,” Fann notes.

“For example, our driver-side door actually doesn’t open anymore. We had to decommission the door to make room for that window. It also meant that we wouldn’t be able to put a cooking apparatus in that area.”

Yu, Fann and Jeon pulled from their own savings to launch Yumpling. “Luckily, the start-up cost, though high, is not prohibitively high, and we were lucky to be able to handle that on our own,” says Fann.

The full Yumpling team

Source: Yumpling

Now that the truck is up and running, they have a variety of other expenses to account for, including cooking gas, fuel for the vehicle, portable Wi-Fi to run the POS system on the truck and parking tickets, which they accumulate regularly during service. “A lot of people will say, ‘Trucks are great because you don’t pay rent,'” says Fann. “Well, you do in different ways, like getting parking tickets daily.”

Other regular costs include their parking space in Long Island City and a commissary space they rent out and use to prepare food.

A lot of people will say, ‘Trucks are great because you don’t pay rent.’ Well, you do in different ways, like getting parking tickets daily.

Jeffrey Fann

Yumpling co-founder

Plus, there’s the cost of maintaining the truck, says Fann: “I think everything on the truck has probably broken at least once at this point. That has everything to do with the fact that we drive across a lot of potholes — it’s very bumpy — and things like deep fryers and rice cookers were not created with this use in mind.”

The biggest misconception about the job

Running a food truck isn’t for the faint of heart. “A lot of people, when they see us, they see us happy at the window. They assume it’s a very fun experience,” says Yu. And that’s the biggest misconception: “The whole food truck game is not all happy and fun. It’s just like any other start-up: There’s a lot of work behind the scenes.”

A slew of problems may arise on any given day, he says: “Your battery might run out, you might forget the water tank. Just like any other jobs, there are a lot of obstacles that you have to overcome. But having been in corporate jobs and now in a restaurant job, I would say I run into far more issues on a daily basis than I ever had in a corporate job.”

That said, “We pride ourselves in what we do,” Yu adds. “The biggest joy for us is to serve people. It’s very satisfying. At the end of the day, all aspects that are tough aren’t as tough when we see people giving us compliments, giving us a good review. That makes it all worth it.”

Don’t miss: Here’s what it’s like to work at one of the busiest Chick-fil-A locations in America

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RBC’s Helima Croft on crude oil supply, demand and Middle East risks



A large fracking operation becomes a new part of the horizon with Mount Meeker and Longs Peak looming in the background on December 28, 2017 in Loveland, Colorado.

Helen H. Richardson | Denver Post | Getty Images

Oil is a “broken barometer” and a “lagging indicator of Middle East stress,” according to Helima Croft, managing director and global head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets.

Investors are underestimating supply-side risks, Croft told CNBC at the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition & Conference on Monday.

“We have a market that is singularly focused on the demand side; the whole idea that Chinese demand is going to go off a cliff,” said Croft, a closely-watched oil market expert.

But China’s crude oil imports are resilient, she added.

In October, crude oil imports into China rose 11.5% from a year earlier to a record high, Reuters reported.

However, investors have been spooked by the fallout from the U.S.-China trade dispute and a global economic slowdown, leading to a broader market selloff and lackluster oil prices, Croft said.

Middle East, Iran risks

At the same time, they are also brushing off supply risks in the Middle East.

“They’re looking at the Middle East saying ‘it’s noise, we’ve seen this before, even when we had the type of attacks which are almost unprecedented in this market. They are thinking ‘well, we can get over this, we have U.S. production and we have demand worries,'” she said.

Considering U.S. sanctions on Iran, current oil prices are “amazing,” said Croft. The market is “basically saying ‘we are swimming in oil, it doesn’t matter; someone can fill every supply gap,'” she added.

But there are considerations surrounding the oil market that present supply uncertainty, said Croft.

Aside from geopolitical issues in the Middle East, any potential change in the U.S. presidency could also reshape the U.S. energy landscape, as well as the country’s approach toward Iran’s nuclear program, she said.

A recent Reuters survey showed that oil prices were expected to remain under pressure in 2019 and 2020. The poll of economists and analysts forecast international brenchmark Brent crude would average $64.16 a barrel in 2019 and $62.38 in 2020.

Brent crude oil was trading around $61.75 at 5.23 p.m. Hong Kong/Singapore time on Monday.

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UK economy avoids recession with third-quarter growth rebound



An employee works on an engine production line at a Ford factory on January 13, 2015

Carl Court | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The British economy has avoided slipping into a technical recession, after official data Monday, showed the third-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) at 0.3%.

The data marks a rebound from the second-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) which contracted by 0.2%.

On a year-on-year basis, third-quarter growth slowed to 1%. This marked the slowest rate of expansion since the first three months of 2010.

On a month-to-month measure, September GDP alone marked a 0.1% contraction. Manufacturing data for September revealed a 0.4% contraction from August and a 1.8% fall from September 2019.

Both figures were a touch worse than a consensus of forecasts collated by Reuters.

There was very little initial reaction in the pound-versus-dollar trade. Just prior to the decision, sterling was trading at $1.2804 and this dipped to $1.2797 after the data drop.

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

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Australians urged to evacuate as ‘catastrophic’ fires loom



Fire burns on Bolivia Hill near Glen Innes, Australia, on November 10, 2019

Brook Mitchell | Getty Images

Authorities declared a state of emergency across a broad swath of Australia’s east coast on Monday, urging residents in high risk areas to evacuate ahead of looming “catastrophic” fire conditions.

Bushfires burning across New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland states have already killed three people and destroyed more than 150 homes. Officials expect adverse heat and wind conditions to peak at unprecedented levels on Tuesday.

Bushfires are a common and deadly threat in Australia’s hot, dry summers but the current severe outbreak, well before the summer peak, has caught many by surprise.

“Everybody has to be on alert no matter where you are and everybody has to be assume the worst and we cannot allow complacency to creep in,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.

The country’s most populous city has been designated at “catastrophic fire danger” for Tuesday, when temperatures as high as 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit) are forecast to combine with powerful winds for potentially deadly conditions. It is the first time Sydney has been rated at that level since new fire danger ratings were introduced in 2009.

Home to more than 5 million people, Sydney is ringed by large areas of bushland, much of which remains tinder dry following little rain across the country’s east coast in recent months.

“Tomorrow is about protecting life, protecting property and ensuring everybody is safe as possible,” Berejiklian said.

Lawmakers said the statewide state of emergency — giving firefighters broad powers to control government resources, force evacuations, close roads and shut down utilities — would remain in place for seven days.

On Monday afternoon, the fire service authorised use of the Standard Emergency Warning Signal, an alarm and verbal warning that will be played on radio and television stations every hour.

NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons urged people to evacuate before conditions worsened, warning that new fires can begin up to 20km (12 miles) ahead of established fires.

“Relocate while things are calm without the pressure or anxiety of fires bearing down the back door,” he said.

Authorities stressed that even fireproofed homes will not be able to withstand catastrophic conditions, which Fitzsimmons described as “when lives are lost, it’s where people die”.

More than 100 schools will be closed on Tuesday. 

On Monday afternoon, rescue services were moving large animals from high risk areas, while health officials warned that air quality across NSW will worsen as winds blow smoke from the current mid-north coast bushfires south.

The fires have already had a devastating impact on Australia’s wildlife, with about 350 koalas feared dead in a major habitat. 

Climate change debate

Australia’s worst bushfires on record destroyed thousands of homes in Victoria in February 2009, killing 173 people and injuring 414 on a day the media dubbed “Black Saturday”.

The current fires, however, come weeks ahead of the southern hemisphere summer, sharpening attention on the policies of Australia’s conservative government to address climate change.

Environmental activists and opposition lawmakers have used the fires to call on Prime Minister Scott Morrison, a supporter of the coal industry, to strengthen the country’s emissions targets.

Morrison declined to answer questions about whether the fires were linked to climate change when he visited fire-hit areas in the north of NSW over the weekend.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack on Monday accused climate activists of politicising a tragedy at the expense of people in the danger zones. 

“What we are doing is taking real and meaningful action to reduce global emissions without shutting down all our industries,” McCormack told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio.

“They don’t need the ravings of some pure, enlightened and woke capital city greenies at this time, when they’re trying to save their homes.”

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