Small business: Tracking down A Bao Time

I am late to the food truck fascination, but after eating a chickpea bao from A Bao Time, I get it now. I envision myself becoming a food truck groupie, following my favorites on Instagram and making my plans based on their location.

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David Mahr, 30, owner of A Bao Time, serves Taiwanese street food, something he grew up eating on Long Island, N.Y. He started cooking when he was 19 years old. Although not formally trained, Mahr has extensive knowledge of the restaurant and food business. He was a chef at a Carrabba’s on Long Island where he learned a lot about managing people, then hopped around to gain experience at other types of restaurants.

Mahr worked for Whole Foods for about five years. That position led to a transfer to Charlotte in 2014. He missed the restaurant industry and decided to open his own mobile kitchen.

A Bao Time opened just six months ago.

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A Bao Time is the first mobile kitchen to offer made-from-scratch traditional baos (pronounced like “take a bow”), steamed buns, in Charlotte’s food truck market.

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Come find us on the road this week, we added two new locations! Choose your favorite spot in Charlotte and enjoy one of our delicious steamed buns! @abarigamebar @unknownbrewing @birdsongbrewing @freerangebrew #abaotime #thebaomovement #cltfoodtrucks #clteats

A post shared by aBAOtime (@a_bao_time) on May 4, 2016 at 11:05am PDT

Mahr answers five questions for C5’s small business series:

(1) How did you come up with the idea for your business?

“Traditional baos have been something I have been eating since I was a child growing up in New York. I wanted to bring baos to Charlotte with a new creative twist. We are the first bao truck and only two-to-three restaurants in Charlotte serve a side of baos.”

(2) What are some of the obstacles that you have encountered?

“I have worked in and ran brick-and-mortar kitchens for most of my career. The transition to a mobile kitchen has posed different obstacles like finding locations that work well with our crafty and creative food concepts. We like to cater to foodies who like to try new things.

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“Another obstacle for me was learning the marketing side of the food truck industry. It is a little different than a stand-alone brick-and-mortar restaurant. We have to go to our customers.”

(3) What characteristics are essential to succeed in your own business?

“Communication, having the drive, building a good team, knowing that you can’t do it all by yourself.”

(4) How do you finish your day?

“We listen to music as we clean and organize the mobile kitchen. We get it ready for the next service. We ‘close to open.’ After serving my menu and interacting with satisfied customers, it drives me to wake up and do it all over again. That’s a good feeling.”

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(5) What is your vision for the future?

“My vision is to grow into the Charlotte food industry. A brick-and-mortar restaurant is my goal to create another level of culinary journey.”

Family history and my own fascination with people and their motivations prompted me to begin this series about Charlotte’s small business owners. Industry, situation and questions will vary. Have a suggestion for a small business owner or entrepreneur to interview? Email it to with the subject line “Small Business Series.”

Photos: A Bao Time