The food business is no cakewalk. It involves long hours, hard work, a fluctuating business market and is often thankless. Last Friday, on April 14, the Retriever was able to chat with David Chapman and George Bakoulas, two local food truck owners. UMBC students may not be familiar with Chapman or Bakoulas, but they may be familiar with their food trucks: The Green Bowl and B’more Greek Grill (respectively), both of which can frequently be found on the Commons Loop.
Neither of the truck owners started out in their current business. As a matter of fact, neither of them even worked in the food business. Chapman proved to be a jack of all trades as he described his professional life before starting up The Green Bowl truck. “I’ve been a waiter, a bike messenger, a floor salesman, an A/V technician, a satellite tech, an elevator tech and a fire alarm/building access/security tech. There’s a few other jobs mixed in there too,” Chapman said. Bakoulas, on the other hand, worked as a private contractor for the Baltimore Sun. Neither of these men’s previous jobs could have fully prepared them for what the food truck industry would have in store for them.
When asked to describe the work load of the food truck business, Chapman immediately stated that an accurate and detailed response would “take all day” to describe. “Taking inventory, ordering, receiving and prepping food, loading and unloading the truck, responding to requests for service, writing and reading contracts, scheduling the truck and staff, hiring the staff, answering phone calls and emails, responding to requests for interviews, book keeping, dish washing…and oh yeah, serving the food to customers,” Chapman said.
Along with a hefty work load, neither of the owners get much of a break, ever. “Our typical work week never ends. It’s an every day operation,” said Bakoulas. Chapman shared a similar statement. “My average work week is about 80 hours, no exaggeration. I often get one day off every 2 or 3 weeks, today is day 19 in a row,” he said.
Despite the hard work put into their businesses, the two owners have different drives that keep them in the business. Chapman, on one hand, enjoys the idea of owning his own business with his partner, Julio Ferretti. “My favorite part of this job is knowing that I’m producing something that I can be proud of and that my customers seem to genuinely appreciate what we do for them. I can’t say that about a lot of jobs that I’ve had in the past,” Chapman said.
Bakoulas has a more familial tie to the business. “My brother Pete is a co-owner and chef with me. B’more Greek Grill is a family owned and operated business. Our crew is like family to us, we keep it professional every day because we take pride and enjoy what we do. My brother and I have dreamed about being in the food business since we were young. My parents came over from Greece and wanted to pursue their dream in the food business but did not have the resources that my brother and I have being that we are first generation here in this country,” he said.
Both Chapman and Bakoulas both expressed enjoyment when asked about working on the UMBC campus. To Chapman, the UMBC environment is a break from the stressful competition that the city food truck business brings. “There isn’t much competition on the Loop, there are more than enough customers there for three trucks. The food truck business is most competitive when trucks are fighting for street vending space on public streets, which the city of Baltimore limits access to in ridiculous ways,” he said. To Bakoulas, working on the Loop is his way of thanking UMBC for his college education. “It is an honor to be back on campus. As a 2005 Alumni of UMBC and the Men’s Soccer Team, UMBC has inspired me and shaped me to who I am today. They have given me all the skills and knowledge that I needed to make mine and my families dream a reality and for that, I am forever grateful.”