Like with any business, research and planning are the cornerstones of any successful operation. With all the hype about food trucks these days, it can seem like an easy way to become a successful business owner and chef, but there are a lot of behind the scene challenges you need to be aware of if you are going to do this the right way.
This Beginner’s Guide on How to Start a Food Truck will help you start your business off on the right foot.
Make sure this is the right fit for you
Before signing any papers or making any sort of initial investment, your first step should be to make sure this is the right avenue to take. There a lot of different ways to become a business owner and each path has its own set of challenges. Get to know the challenges of the food truck business and talk to current food truck owners to get an honest picture of what you need to do to get your own truck up and running as well as what the day to day running of a food truck entails. The food truck business can be really lucrative for the right people. You just need to make sure you have the right personality, knowledge and skills to make your food truck a success. Your current financial situation is important too. Will you have enough money for all the food truck startup costs and pay your daily expenses until your truck starts bringing in money?
During this stage you should be doing lots of research so you can have a realistic picture of what being a food truck owner entails. Once you know that you are up for the challenge, it is time to start making concrete plans.
Create a solid business plan
The first step for any new business is the creation of the business plan. In your business plan, you will need to lay out what products you plan on selling and what makes them different from other similar products. It also needs to include a market analysis as well as any plans for marketing and advertising and most important your financial projections.
In your food truck startup costs make sure you include the following:
- Permits, licensing and insurance which can run from anywhere between $500 to $1,000
- Cost of truck (expect to pay around $80,000 for a good one)
- Inventory (food and supplies) which can be $1,000 or more
- Commissary fees which can vary but plan on at least around $400 a month
- Upkeep and maintenance of the truck which can vary.
Unfortunately, lack of funds can be a real deterrent, but don’t give up hope just yet. If you don’t have the funds now, consider getting a business loan or barring that just give yourself more time to accrue the needed seed money. Timetables can be adjusted as long as you hold on to our dream.
Buy your truck
Got the funds? Now it is time to shop for your truck. There are a lot of different ways you can go about getting your truck. You can buy or rent one. And if you buy one, you can buy used to save money or put out the extra for a custom-fitted brand new truck. There are pros and cons to all of these options so you need to consider your financial situation and figure out what is the best option for you. The most important thing is to make sure the truck is in good condition so it is not constantly breaking down on you and that you have all the equipment, storage and cooking space you need to be efficient when serving your customers. This a big investment so don’t rush into it. See if you can get on board some other food trucks so you can see how they are laid out. It will help you decide what you like and what you don’t like.
Choose point-of-sale options
While many food trucks just accept cash, as our society is becoming more credit based and a lot of people don’t carry cash around as much, you might want to consider giving your customers more options. If money is tight in the beginning, start with just a simple cash box, but then later offer a credit card paying option.
Set up a commissary
All food trucks are required to have an off-site kitchen where they can prep food, clean all their equipment and store food properly. Find one that is in a good location and has all the tools you will need at a reasonable rent.
Get your food safety certification
Your food truck is required to have a food safety certified employee on board at all time so make sure you and all your employees have been certified before you hit the road.
Fill out all the paperwork and dot all your “i’s”
You will probably be surprised by all the paperwork that goes into getting your food truck on the road. The first thing you need to do is find out all the food truck laws in the area you want to operate in and fill out the application with your local health department to get all the necessary licenses and permits. A health inspector will also come out to inspect your food truck and your commissary.
Stay up-to-date on all regulations and zoning
The food truck industry is still growing and so constantly evolving and different cities and counties have different regulations and zoning ordinances that you will need to follow. This can get tricky if you cross county or even state lines with your food truck so it is important that you always know where you are allowed to park, how long you can stay there and what rules you have to follow while there. For example, in some places you can’t park near a restaurant and if you are going to be in one place for more than a couple of hours then you need to be situated near a bathroom.
If you are taking your food truck to an event, there are also rules and regulations for that too so always know exactly what licensing and permits you need and what regulations you need to follow before you set up shop at any location.
While there is a lot that goes into starting a food truck, it can be a fun and rewarding business if you truly have a passion for it. Don’t be afraid for going for your dream.