Leo Muñoz is one of few who have truly experienced the old adage that “for every end, there is a new beginning.”
Muñoz is the founder and owner of Paper Platez, a Latin food truck located in Mountain View. For 32 years, Muñoz’s family ran Taqueria La Bamba, a locally-prized stop for Latin food that closed down in 2020 due to COVID-19. Muñoz decided to continue the family business legacy by opening a food truck.
“When COVID hit and we were forced to close down the business, our parents were kind of over it,” Muñoz said. “I was like ‘Damn, we worked too hard to see it go away,’ so that’s when I came up with the idea for a food truck, which has a lot less overhead.”
La Bamba’s legacy lives on through Paper Platez, which opened in December 2020.
A platform for adaptation and mobility is exactly what Muñoz envisioned for Paper Platez. The ambiguous name and non-obvious theme of the truck are intended to help Muñoz switch between brands — which each have distinct menus with unique dishes.
“If you eat any street food, most of the time it’s on a paper plate,” Muñoz said. “When you hear the name, and even see the truck, you don’t know what type of food it is that I’m serving.”
With these brands, Muñoz can even run his business as a ghost kitchen– a business that fulfills delivery orders without a physical venue.
“My current business is kind of like a ghost kitchen in a sense,” Muñoz added. “I’ve created the brand Paper Platez so I can create multiple brands and menus under that umbrella.”
The opening of Paper Platez was not all that easy, according to Muñoz, especially because of when the truck went into business.
“I pretty much started during the pandemic, which was the absolute worst time to start a business, and there was a lot of overhead,” he said.
Early on in its opening, Paper Platez struggled with finding an audience.
“A good amount of customers followed us to the truck, but at the same time … it’s a new clientele,” Muñoz explained.
According to Muñoz, a majority of La Bamba’s clientele was not aware that Paper Platez was opened and that it serves a lot of the same recipes as the original restaurant.
“Not much has changed, really,” said longtime customer Rick Fisher. “The food is still really good, and you know what they say, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’”
Ironically enough, Silicon Valley’s tech sector has actually had a positive impact on Paper Platez through its invention of online food delivery services.
“These brands I’ve created, I can sell food on Uber Eats and DoorDash,” Muñoz said. “[Social media] has helped a lot, too. We’re getting a lot more catering because I will record and upload pictures, and people then start contacting me.”
Even with recent improvements, Muñoz still expressed the difficulty of working in the food industry for him and his staff.
“In this business, it’s very common to work 12 plus hours a day,” he said. “When you try to wear too many hats, it definitely gets very overwhelming.”
However, the hard work can be rewarding for Muñoz and his team.
“[Working in this industry] is not easy, but it is rewarding to talk to and see your customers because you get to really be part of the community, which is awesome,” Muñoz said.
The friendly community around Paper Platez is really appealing to customers, even those who came to the truck only after La Bamba closed.
“I first met Leo and he’s a super nice guy,” customer Dillon Casey said. “[The staff] are always super nice to customers.”
With recent increases in catering orders and the effects of COVID-19 wavering, Muñoz remains motivated and optimistic.
“Honestly man, I’m just excited for the future,” he said. “I’m a foodie, and all I want to do is put out great product for people.”
Paper Platez is open in the parking lot of O’Malleys Sports Pub at 2135 Old Middlefield Way, Mountain View, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday.