Down the street from work, at street festivals and concerts, you see food trucks everywhere. It is a booming industry and you want a piece of the pie. Besides a passion and a talent for food, here are the top food truck requirements for starting your own food truck.
1. Buying or designing the perfect truck for your needs
Whether you are buying a used food truck or custom building one on your own, it is essential that the truck you pick is laid out in way that is conducive to what you need and that it is has all the cooking and safety equipment you will need to run a sanitary food truck. What this looks like will depend on what you will be serving out of your truck. If you are just serving coffee and pastries for the morning rush, then your requirements are going to be a lot different than for someone who is cooking made-to-order burgers out of their truck.
A few of the basic things you will need include a refrigerator, deep fryer, freezer, heat lamp and storage space. Once you know all the equipment you will need, you will need to figure out which set up is going to help you work most efficiently on your food orders. A poorly designed food truck could cause a lot of time to be wasted.
Here is a check list for making sure your truck is ready to rock-n-roll safely:
- Proper electrical wiring and plumbing for your needs
- Large enough service window. Typically they are about 4 x 3 feet
- Strong enough air conditioning system to keep the truck cool even when you are cooking in the summer heat
- Make sure the wall behind the cooking line is made of nonflammable materials like 100% stainless steel sheets
- Large enough gas/propane tank to last you at least a few days at a time
- A properly installed interior hood for ventilation
- Enough equipment tables and cabinetry for storing and preparing everything
- A refrigerator and freezer to store all the food and the proper temperature
- A powerful enough generator so your food truck doesn’t run out of juice at the most inappropriate times.
Also consider the size of the truck and where you mostly likely be parking when shopping for a food truck. If you want to run a food truck in a big metropolis like New York City where space is at a minimum then a really large vehicle might not do so well.
It is not just what is in your food truck that matters however. There are other food truck requirements you should consider.
2. Find a commissary
In most cities, food trucks are required to have a commissary where they can store and prepare food for their truck. It can be a catering kitchen or a restaurant kitchen. Besides being able to prep food, it should be a place you can dump dirty water and load food into the truck without exposing it to the natural elements. Check with your local food truck community for recommendations. If you buy a food truck from a franchisor then they will typically help you with this step.
3. Get your licensing and permits in order
Each city and state has its own health codes and sanitation regulations so it is important that you follow all regulations and that you have up-to-date-permits and licenses to operate your food truck. This can be tricky if you tend to cross town lines with your food truck so make sure you stay on top of this. It is also important to be aware of regulations that dictate if you need to park near a bathroom or if you have to be a certain distance from any restaurants. All this will factor in to the locations that you choose. If you are unsure about these regulations, contact your local health department. It is also good to talk to other food truck owners in your area. Put out feelers to see how food truck friendly your local government is. The important thing to remember is that you can’t just set up anywhere and just start serving food.
4. Be able to handle the long hours
It is really important that you don’t start a food truck as a quick get rich scheme. It takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears to run a successful food truck. Typically food truck owners work 10 hours a day and rarely get a day off. Besides the hours on the truck serving customers, you need time to shop and prepare your food and squeeze time in for marketing and advertising, scouting out good locations as well as paying bills and handling all the permits and licenses that you need to run your business. And don’t forget the cleanup. Unlike brick and mortar restaurants that have full crews of employees doing the work, as a food truck owner it may just be you or one or two other people so you will have to wear many hats every day.
5. Location, Location, Location
Just like with restaurants, location can be a big factor in how successful your business is. Does a particular location get a lot of foot traffic? Is it easy for people to stop and wait in line for food? Is your type of fare popular in this neighborhood? Which is a better time to be in that location, morning, afternoon or early evening? The great thing about a food truck is that if a particular location isn’t working out then you can easily try out another. Common places to park include office parks, empty lots, shopping malls, festivals and events and popular tourist locations.
6. Have an overall vision for your food truck
Finally, for the best success as a food truck owner, you should have an overall vision or concept for your business just like you would for a restaurant. What type of food are you going to sell? What makes yours better than the rest? Do you have a logo or brand that your customers will easily recognize?
If you buy a food truck from a recognizable franchisor like Zac’s Burgers then you will already have a brand and a menu that will draw the customers in. Get in touch with your local food truck community for more helpful food truck requirements for starting your own food truck.