This is really old news, so I guess I’m just writing this for the few LIK readers out there who haven’t heard the tale of Taco de Mayo’s demise!
Things were good in the spring… the food was right, repeat customers started popping up at regular intervals, and I had the routine down to a science. And then BAM! One of my kitchen workers decided to stop showing up for work. Turns out she had some kind of family thing that required her to basically move to another city for a couple of weeks, but the dumbfuck never bothered to tell me. So I reacted by sending her a text message in Korean that basically said “I’m disappointed in you”, and to her it was like I had just stabbed her in the face. How dare I have anything to say when an employee inexplicably disappears on me! I didn’t tell her “get your ass back in the kitchen”, I just said I was very disappointed.
So I was down to one kitchen person, who happened to be the absent worker’s friend, and one kitchen person isn’t enough because prepping 50-60 burritos and 80-100 tacos is definitely a two person job. So I struggled to keep things afloat by working the kitchen during the day and the truck at night, and things got tougher when my remaining employee quit due to her friend’s absence.
On top of being shorthanded, the cops seemed to come around more often as it warmed up and they got pretty hardcore at times. They even started showing up with people from Seoul’s immigration office just in case anyone needed to be deported! Things came to a head on a very dark and stormy night when I was waiting for my usual parking spot to open up. The Moroccan Sandwich guy came up to my truck in a panic and said “You go! You go now!!” I was like “huh?” And he was like “You go!!!!” So I went. He wasn’t trying to get rid of competition, he was trying to do me a favor, and a big favor it was because rumor has it one street vendor that night got fined $20,000 or something. I know, right? WTF!!!!
And then came the rain. And more rain. It rained for over two months straight, and even though I had hired new kitchen staff the rain just killed business.
And in the middle of this mess, I came to the realization that I HATE WORKING IN THE FOOD SERVICE INDUSTRY! I could have overcome everything and stuck it out if I’d really wanted to, but I didn’t. I just hated it. So I shut it down.
The death of Taco de Mayo wasn’t entirely due to bad luck and bad employees; I made numerous mistakes from beginning to end that ranged from bad spending decisions to bad menu decisions. I refused to serve shitty half-Korean Mexican food, and as a result I had a product that cost too much to make for a street food market that had too many cheap, greasy options from other vendors. My food was definitely popular and I did increase prices a couple of times, but the production cost was more suited to a restaurant than a street situation.
If I could go back in time and do it again I’d sell something else. Maybe pizza. Buying pizzas from Costco for $2 a slice and reheating them for $4 a slice would have been way easier and I could have fired two employees. But hey whatever… something tells me I still would have hated it!