Inspired by a reality television show and missing the foods from his homeland, Siddharth “Sid” Panchal, who earned a master’s degree in computer science from Missouri S&T in 2003, opened Bombay Food Junkies in 2013. The Mumbai, India, native and his wife, Krupa, serve vegan and vegetarian meals from their food truck at St. Louis-area hospitals, industrial parks and college campuses, dishing out authentic Indian street food.
The business idea started when the couple watched “The Great Food Truck Race” on the Food Network. That was enough to spark the idea of delivering authentic street food to the people of St. Louis.
Panchal started scouring Craigslist for vehicles that could be converted into food trucks and called local food truck operators for tips and hints. After finding a truck, the couple launched a Kickstarter campaign and raised the necessary funds to get the truck wrapped in banners and fully modified. Less than two years after opening, Bombay Food Junkies took second place in a Best Vegetarian Food Truck competition sponsored by mobile-cuisine.com.
“The key to our success is finding what foods sell and where,” explains Panchal. “Our samosa chole is the biggest seller, while veggie burgers were a surprise flop. Picking the right location is important too; not all scenes are looking for a vegetarian option.”
Krupa runs the day-to-day operations of the truck, while Sid, a senior consultant for project management at Daugherty Business Solutions in St. Louis, helps out at the truck some weeknights and on weekends.
“My wife was used to driving a Honda Civic, and suddenly she had to learn to drive a 28-foot truck filled with two refrigerators, a three-compartment sink and two pizza ovens,” says Sid. “But we haven’t had any accidents yet and are still going strong. The business is now over two years old.”
Story by Peter Ehrhard
Photos by Sam O’Keefe
Adapted from the Spring 2015 issue of Missouri S&T Magazine.