Business News

On the Geaux

by Kari Walker

Lafayette entrepreneurs find creative ways to get into the restaurant business on a dime.

Lafayette entrepreneurs find creative ways to get into the restaurant business on a dime.

Photos by Robin May

Crowds gather at E's Kitchen Lafayette Round Up at Parc Lafayette the first Saturday of each month.

Fine cuisine can be found rolling to a neighborhood near you thanks to an expanding group of food trucks popping up all over Lafayette and the surrounding area.

So you live where there is more pasture than curb? Not a problem. You too can get curbside grub at the monthly E's Kitchen Lafayette Round Up at Parc Lafayette. Paul Ayo, owner of E's Kitchen, started this event on the first Saturday of each month because he loves what these chefs are doing. "They are making some of the best food in the area and making some really creative dishes," says Ayo.

The increased food traffic in Parc Lafayette during the Round Up has also brought an economic boost for his business and neighboring shops. When Ayo started the Round Up in September 2012, four trucks participated. This month, 16 trucks met the growling bellies of a hungry crowd. It's an event that provides a fun family outing and the ability to experience some creative dishes along with traditional favorites. Price points vary, but it's often cheaper than dining at a brick and mortar restaurant. You give up the ambiance of restaurant dining, but gain a laid back experience among oak trees and dancing water fountains.

It's easy to understand what it is about this concept that appeals to proprietors versus a brick-and-mortar restaurant: less financial constraints and increased flexibility. Paul Gibson of Pane & Vino is the only food truck owner who runs both a full-service restaurant and food truck. He knows what it takes to get both types of businesses off the ground. "A restaurant can cost about $100,000 to get running. And that's just a decent spot needing a coat of paint," Gibson says. His truck cost about $40,000 to outfit.

Most local trucks are owned and operated by their chefs or staff on the trucks. Newcomer Hibachi Hero is owned by four men who have known each other for years through the Lafayette restaurant scene; their camaraderie is the driving energy for the truck. Anthony White, co-owner, loves how they can work with their current concept and, should they scrap the idea, can easily rebrand the truck with a re-wrap of the logo for a few thousand dollars. Low-budget advertising on social media and word of mouth is what these vendors rely on for generating business.

Paul Ayo, owner of E's Kitchen

Veteran food truck Viva La Waffle sends out Facebook and Twitter posts to followers on daily specials and to let them know where it will be parked for lunch service. An added bonus is its free app available for iPhone or Android, making signature sandwich The Rosceaux even easier to savor. Working in a tight space means everyone wears multiple hats: a sous chef must also know how to take orders and deliver with a smile. These trucks are filled with exuberant spirits sharing their passion in an unconventional way that is also effective at providing small business growth for up-and-coming epicureans.

Unfortunately, not everyone in the Lafayette community shares this belief. After the April Round Up, word got out via Facebook that someone is trying to shut down the monthly Parc Lafayette event.

"It's a business who does not believe the Round Up is a good thing," Ayo says, declining to identify the person making a fuss. Ayo urges community members to join his efforts on spreading the word that the Round Up is good for not only small businesses but for anyone who delights in this free, tasty, family event. Visit for updates.