Fresh off the Truck: Bento Truck’s Delicious Success – Even on a cold day in early February (a 25-degree sort of day to be exact), Bento Truck has the longest line of any truck serving at the University of Utah’s library plaza. No matter what the weather, this successful truck has a line of at least 10 people waiting for some fast and delicious Japanese cuisine. It wasn’t always hungry customers and long lines for Bento Truck, though. Katsu Yamazaki started his career in the food business as a sushi chef. Eventually he wanted to own his own restaurant but switched to the idea of owning a food truck after he and his wife Tokiko were inspired by a local truck serving in the neighborhood. Back in 2009, food trucks were beginning to trend in cities throughout New York and California, so it seemed like a good idea to the Yamazakis to kick off a similar trend in their own backyard. In 2011, Katsu and Tokiko started Bento Truck and have been working hard to reach success in the Utah food-truck market ever since.
Getting started wasn’t all that easy, though. Nobody would open the door for the Yamazakis to start their business. Then they heard about the Utah Microenterprise Loan Fund. A loan from the UMLF allowed Katsu and Tokiko to purchase the truck and equipment they needed to get their business rolling.
Nearly five years after receiving their first loan, Bento Truck is a huge success! Its delicious food landed it a contract at the University of Utah providing lunch to hungry college students and anyone else wanting to give its teriyaki chicken bowl or plump gyoza a try. Throughout the week, Bento Truck serves anywhere from 250 to 300 people a day. That’s five times more business than a restaurant sees at lunchtime, served in half the amount of time and at a reasonable price.
After the amount of success they have been experiencing at the U, the Yamazakis were able to receive a second loan to get another truck that will help guarantee sales every day. They hope to have the second truck up and running this summer. Be sure to look for them in the coming months operating at new locations and dinnertime in addition to their usual spot. “The UMLF gave us the opportunity to pursue the American dream when nobody else did,” said Katsu. UMLF offers loans as small as $5,000 and provides support to new business owners in developing business plans and helping ensure the success of their business. More than 26% of loans made by UMLF are made to minorities, and more than 54% are made to new start-up businesses.
At the heart of our community are small businesses like Bento Truck and organizations like UMLF. Click here to follow the Heart of Our Community Blog and read about other small businesses that have grown from nothing with the help of UMLF. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for weekly stories.