While some businesses like Zac’s have both brick-and-mortar storefront locations and convenient traveling food trucks, you may just be trying to get started with the latter. But how do you start a food truck?
We’re going to tell you how to get started, and also give you tips for running a food truck so that you can break into the food truck industry.
Start-Up Costs to Consider
First off, you should know that starting a food truck is not the most expensive part of the process of owning and operating a food truck. You’re going to be spending a lot of money in taxes, fees, licensing, permits, and more as needed. But, to begin with, you need to think about those start-up costs.
It’s hard to give an accurate estimate for exactly how much starting a food truck will cost you. You need to find out the estimated costs to cover the following things:
- The food truck itself
- Ingredients, food, and supplies
- Salaries and benefits for any employees you hire
- Cost of training the employees
- Proper technology for your truck’s daily operations, such as digital thermometers and a POS system
- Marketing or advertising costs
Keep in mind that these won’t be the only costs, but they are the most common costs across the board for all food truck owners and operators.
What You Need for the Perfect Food Truck
There are five primary things you need to concern yourself when starting and running a great food truck.
1. Permits, Licensing, and Approval
One of the biggest things about running a food truck is all the legalities and red tape you have to deal with. Depending on where you’re trying to work, there are permits, licensing, approval processes, and more that you need to concern yourself with. Even after all of that, you have to keep up to date on local laws and parking regulations.
At the very least, you’ll need vehicle licensing, a seller’s permit, food handler’s permit, business license, fire certificates following inspections, and health department permits. You also need to be sure to get an employer identification number, otherwise known as an EIN. This number is used by the IRS. It helps them to identify your business and collect the proper taxes from you and your employees.
You’ll also want to get insurance for your truck, your business, and the equipment in your truck. Not that anyone wants to think about the worst possible scenarios, but if your truck is vandalized or broken into, you want to be prepared.
2. Great Employees are a Must
There are a lot of important factors for any business. Customers are arguably the most important for profit reasons, but a bad employee can drive customers away en masse. You want to make sure you find great, personable employees to help you with the daily operations of your food truck.
Try to find people that are experienced with the food industry, or the food truck industry if possible. Preferably, look for people that aren’t jaded from the experience – many people have worked in the food service industry and have horror stories about it. But if your truck is a fun, productive place to work, you shouldn’t have this problem.
If you can’t find experienced employees, make some. Take inexperienced people and make sure that they’re properly trained. This includes training them in aspects like customer service, food handling, safe operation of equipment, and more.
3. Find a Great Area to Park
A blessing and a curse of food trucks is that they’re mobile. You can work anywhere in your locality that you want so long as it doesn’t overlap with any other franchise interests, where applicable. This can be an exciting thing for many people that hate the idea of sitting in one location all day every day.
But, it also makes things more difficult. Not only do you have to mind zoning and parking laws, which will prevent you from parking your truck in certain areas or on certain streets, but you have to anticipate the best places to find customers.
This is a difficult process when you’re first getting your business started. It can be confusing if not outright frustrating.
4. Marketing and Daily Planning
Even when you’re driving around the city in a big truck labeled with your business information on it, you’re going to need to do a little bit of marketing and planning to be as successful as possible.
Plan a grand opening or sign up to participate in a local event in your community. This will help to draw in customers and will get your food truck an impressive amount of attention right from the beginning.
Your customers will also need to know where you’ll be during what times and what days, so you might want to generate a schedule for them. This can be a static schedule that you can include in your menus, or you can keep it fluid and post updates on your website or social media accounts in advance.
Along with planning a schedule, you need to plan your days properly. Many food trucks try to get to their location by 6am, even if they only operate during lunch hours. This means that you’ll need to be showing up, doing prep work, and more by probably 4am every day.
5. POS System
A POS system is a point of sale system, and it’s a much better way to keep track of what money is going in and out of your food truck every day.
Using a cash drawer or box was the standard decades ago, but with more people using credit and debit cards instead of cash, and the rise of using even cell phones to pay for goods and services, you want to be able to accept any form of payment that your customers have.
A POS system will help you manage and organize orders, accept a variety of payments, track inventory, create and maintain loyalty programs, and more. There are some POS systems out there that are designed specifically for use by food trucks, so keep an eye out for those.
Owning and operating a food truck is a rewarding but challenging experience. Many people don’t understand the struggles, planning, and cost it takes to run the perfect food truck.
If you want to try starting a food truck, you might want to start as a franchisee. This will help to take a lot of the initial guesswork out of getting started, especially where start-up costs and licensing are concerned.
Be ready to spend a lot of time, money, and effort on perfecting your business. This will lead you to the most success.