So you think you want to start a food truck business? You aren’t alone. The food truck industry has experienced a 300% increase from 2014 to 2017.
In a world where food trucks are increasingly popular, you want to find ways to make yours stand out. And it can be pretty intimidating. There are a lot of ways that starting a food truck can go wrong.
That being said, there are so many advantages to running a food truck business. You have more flexibility and freedom than a brick and mortar restaurant. The tricky thing is knowing where to start.
Fortunately, this list has everything you need to know about how to open a food truck. These thirteen tips will lead you down the path of food truck success.
1. Start with a Food Stand
A lot of successful food trucks start as food stands or food stalls. Once you purchase a truck, all of your real expenses start. These expenses can be tough to manage while you wait for your business to develop a regular customer base.
The solution to this problem is to establish a customer base before you buy your truck. Operating for a year or so as a food stand allows you to do that.
Start with local farmers’ markets and street fairs. This will give you a weekly presence on the street. People will come to know your brand, business name, and logo.
That way, people will already know who you are by the time you open your food truck. If you start as a food stand, you are less likely to suffer a lag in business when you transition to your truck.
2. Know Your Market
Unfortunately, you can’t open a food truck just anywhere. Before you start your business, analyze your market.
Some cities, like Portland and Denver, have thriving food truck economies. The advantage of starting a food truck in one of these cities is that there are already regulations in place to make it easier to operate a food truck. You know that there are places to park, and consumer communities that support food trucks.
The downside is that there is a lot more competition in cities where food trucks are popular. So the other aspect of knowing your market is to make sure your food truck offers something unique. You don’t want to blend in with the other trucks.
3. Where to Park
Keep in mind that once you buy your truck, it will always need to be parked somewhere. You cannot park a food truck everywhere like you could park a car. It is important to find out what options you have before you purchase a truck.
After business hours are over, you’ll need a place to leave your truck overnight. If you’re going to rent a spot, make sure you factor that into your financial costs. It is better if you can park it near your home.
Either way, make sure you leave it in a secure spot. Food trucks are sometimes the targets of break-ins.
4. Write a Business Plan
If nothing else, make sure you write a thorough business plan. When writing a business plan, there is no such thing as too many details. You want to include everything, even what you think you’ll spend on certain menu items every week.
You also want to include long term goals in your business plan. Some people start food trucks for the flexibility. Others start them because they eventually want to open a brick and mortar restaurant.
Which one are you? This is something you want to include in your business plan.
A lot of future food truck owners require outside investors to cover start-up costs. So, your business plan should also include financial projections for the future. People won’t invest if they don’t know when they will get their money back.
5. Buy a Truck
Now you’re ready to buy a truck. Food trucks can vary in price. Most importantly, you want to make sure that you will get what you need out of your truck.
Sometimes, it is worth it to spend a little extra money to make sure that you won’t spend a fortune on repairs later.
6. Outfit Your Truck
Once you have your truck, you need to set it up on the inside and the outside. The outside should look clean and have your branding on both sides.
The inside should have all of the equipment and restaurant supplies that you need to be a successful and safe kitchen. Sometimes, it is worth it to buy a more expensive truck that is already outfitted with a kitchen than to try and do it yourself.
7. Licenses and Creating an LLC
Depending on your municipality, there will different licenses you will need to legally run your truck. These licenses will cost you money and time, so plan for them.
You will also have to establish your truck as an LLC and open a business bank account.
While you are at it, it is a good idea to plan for future mishaps. Buy insurance for your truck, or look for the best truck accident lawyer to address your needs. Better safe than sorry.
8. Establish Your Brand
Establishing your brand is a necessary step to success. People won’t become recurring customers if they don’t know who you are. So:
- Pick a name that sticks in people’s minds
- Design an attractive logo that you can put on everything
- Establish and maintain social media accounts
Social media is the restaurant language of the future. Frequently updating your social media accounts is essential to developing a following.
9. Get a POS System
“POS” is restaurant-speak for “point of sale” system. A lot of food trucks opt to be cash only. This isn’t a good idea if you want to optimize sales.
A good POS system might cost a little more upfront than a cashbox. But way more people carry credit cards than cash these days. Click here for a list of top POS systems for food trucks.
10. Make a Menu Board
There is no way around it—you need a snazzy menu board. More than attention-grabbing, your menu board should be clean, readable, and simple.
Don’t make the writing too small or hard to read. Your customers must know what to expect from you within seconds of approaching your food truck.
Simple menu options are generally easier for food trucks and their customers.
11. Establish a Routine
Once people try your amazing food, they are going to want to become recurring customers. So don’t be hard to find. A lot of food truck owners shoot themselves in the foot by changing their location too often and without warning.
So, the best thing to do is to establish a routine. For example, park in the same spot every Monday at lunch-time. Have a go-to neighborhood for Friday evenings.
Farmers’ markets are a great way to establish a routine. Some cities have multiple farmers’ markets every week. If you can get in the rotation for a couple of these, people will come to expect you there.
Most importantly, post these schedules and whereabouts on your social media. Make it easy for people to track you.
12. Attend Festivals and Events
Still, take advantage of all festival opportunities. Music festivals and outdoor events are great for business.
At a lot of festivals, food trucks are the only food option. You want to capitalize on this golden opportunity.
13. Join Mobile Catering Groups
Join an online community for food truck owners. There are more of them than you would think there are.
There are a lot of perks to being in these groups, especially if they are regionally specific.
You’ll be able to get good advice and recommendations ahead of the curve. If someone is vandalizing or targeting food trucks, you’ll hear about it and be on the lookout.
Plus, you might be able to pick up some secondhand gear or kitchen supplies through these groups at a bargain price.
Now You Know How to Open a Food Truck
Running a food truck business can be one of the most rewarding decisions you ever make. The freedom and flexibility it affords you is exhilarating.
But it is also a tricky process. There are more food truck owners than ever before, and you want yours to stand out from the others. Following these thirteen steps will help make it easier for you.
Now that you know how to open a food truck, get started on the process today! Check out the rest of our blog for awesome business advice.