Home Small Business Tips How To Start A Food Truck Business – Step-By-Step Guide

How To Start A Food Truck Business – Step-By-Step Guide

From creating concept food to obtaining various permits and licenses, starting a food truck business can be tricky. How to start a food truck business brings you insights on starting your own food mobile van.

by Mark Stephens

Starting a food truck business can be fun and exciting. With a significant size of the young population preferring experimental food experience over conventional restaurants, the demand for food trucks is expected to grow. 

In this article, you’ll get to know:

  • How to start a food truck business
  • Food truck business ideas
  • How much does it cost to start a food truck business?
  • How to promote your food truck business
  • And more!

Let me first begin by showing you some facts and figures. According to research, the global food truck market in 2020 was USD 3.93 billion. The market is expected to rise at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.8 percent from 2021 to 2028, with the US food truck market expected to see a CAGR of 7.5 percent.

While it is true that the Covid-19 induced pandemic saw the demand for food trucks go down considerably, market gurus are of the opinion that the growing inclination for gourmet offerings among the young population will bring back the demand for food trucks globally.

How To Start A Food Truck Business - Step-By-Step Guide
A report predicting the growth of the US food trucks market.

Checklist before starting your food truck business

Be it your food truck business or any other trade: you will need to take many actions before you start any venture. While starting your own business can be a great idea, knowing where and how to set it up is the key to your success. Let us touch upon some actions you will need to think over before you begin your food truck business.

Research on food truck business ideas

Market research is the cornerstone of starting a successful business. You may have thought of a great business, but if you have not researched before starting your new venture, your climb to success may be a steep one. Thinking about the following questions will help you with your market research:

  • Who is your target customer?
  • How can you reach your target market?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • What are other food trucks in your area doing?

Do you have a business plan?

You want to get that truck ready and hit the road! But wait for a second, do you have a business plan or maybe some kind of brand guidelines to help you along the way? Well, if you don’t, it is time you sit with a pen and lots of paper. Write the following so that you are clear about your business goals even after years:

  • Key goals
  • Your aims and objectives
  • Various strategies

Select your business legal structure

Now that you have researched the market and have created a great business plan, it is time to think about the business legal structure. Is it going to be a limited liability, proprietorship, or something you want to do in partnership? All of these structures have their sets of advantages and disadvantages. You can seek the help of any online legal service or a business attorney.

I will soon write about various business legal structures, I promise.

Interesting read: 10 reasons why this is the right time to start your business.

Calculate your costs

Calculating the costs and securing the funds are an important part of any business. To keep a business up and running, you must clearly work out the costs involved. Before you embark on your exciting new journey as a food truck start-up, you must determine your costs. Your food truck business costs may include:

  • Truck
  • Cooking equipment
  • Raw materials
  • Hiring a team
  • Marketing
  • Truck wrapping

Register your business

The next step involves registering your business. As soon as you have decided on your business legal structure, it is a good idea to get your business name registered. Apart from your employee identification number, you will have to enroll for federal and state taxes.

Create a new business bank account

Separating your personal and business funds is extremely important when you begin your business. Once you register your business for various federal, state, and local taxes, you must open a new business bank account. Your new account will support you with organizing and managing your finances. 

Create your food truck concept

Your success in the food truck business lies in identifying and creating a winning food truck concept. Opting for concept-based food items allows you to work efficiently within the limited space of a truck. From cooking to managing employees, understanding the limitations of a food truck is crucial. Food trucks generally rely on concept-based food items to separate themselves from the crowd.

While devising a concept, you should keep the following in mind:

  • What kind of food do you specialize in?
  • What can you produce quickly within the limited space of a food truck?
  • What are the kinds of foods you love?
  • What kind of food do you think people will like?
How To Start A Food Truck Business - Step-By-Step Guide
Customers enjoy concept food by the beach.

How much does it cost to start a food truck business?

Apart from the truck, you need various types of equipment, including the interiors and the utensils for cooking. A new food truck with a new kitchen may cost you anything from $100,000 to $175,000. The best part of getting a new food truck is that it eliminates any hidden costs. However, if you are running low on budget, you can consider buying a used food truck. 

The price range of a used food truck could be from $50,000 to $100,000. While buying a used food truck could be tempting, the hidden costs could go beyond $50,000.

Here is a great video on food truck rental.

How to acquire a food truck?

Once you familiarize yourself with the price range of various used and new trucks, it’s time you acquired one. If you are looking to buy a new food truck, you should begin by approaching a manufacturer. In case you want to use a food truck rental service, you should approach a used food truck dealer.

After you acquire the food truck, you should decorate it. The designs you use to wrap your food truck should highlight your mission. You can use your company logo and official colors to wrap your food truck. Decorating your food truck could cost you anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000.

How much do food trucks make?

The growing demand for mobile kitchens and concept food has made food trucks extremely popular in the US. According to a study, the food truck industry is growing 1.1 percent faster than traditional brick and mortar restaurants.

According to data gathered by Food Truck Empire in 2017, over 34 percent of business owners have a gross income of $100,000 to $149,999, and more than 21 percent of food truck businesses have an annual gross income over $200,000.

As a food truck owner, you must analyze your finances on a consistent basis to keep a track of your profits. You must also keep a close look at operating costs such as food, labor, and gas among other things.

How are you going to prepare your food?

The menu is the most important element in your food truck business. Once you’ve figured out the type of truck you want, it’s time to think about the food. I have already mentioned that a food truck has limited space. Food that can be prepared quickly in the constrained space of the truck can make life easier for you.

When deciding the kind of food you will make and sell, you should also think about when you are going to prepare it. Will it be good to prepare your food ahead of time, or should you prepare it at the location? The recipe for a successful food truck business lies in making food that is unique and consistent in taste.

How To Start A Food Truck Business - Step-By-Step Guide
Food trucks are gaining in popularity because of their unique menu.

What are the food safety considerations for food trucks?

When you think about the various points of how to start a food truck business, food safety seldom makes it on top of the list. While you are eager to hit the road with your food truck, you should first consider the points below.

  • Employee hygiene: The importance of hygiene is of paramount importance—it is food after all! You will be traveling, and so will the food, which is why it is crucial that you keep a check on the food and employee hygiene.
  • Check expiration dates: Just like maintaining personal and employee hygiene, keeping a check on expiration dates matters. You should be swift on disposing of anything that has reached its maximum time limit.
  • Check for contamination: Keeping the truck and the kitchen area clean, keeping cooked and uncooked food separated, cleaning the refrigerator, and giving away unsold fresh food for consumption by the poor is a sure way of keeping contamination under check.
  • Correct waste storage: Waste should be stored and disposed of correctly. If there is a leak in the storage there remains a possibility of food contamination.

Point to remember: Disposing of waste before cooking a fresh meal is the best way to maintain hygiene on your food truck.

Licenses and permits

The next in line is to obtain the necessary licenses and permits. You will require various permits because a food truck business involves food, truck, customers, and cooking. Licenses and permits will vary depending on the state and the city. New York, for example, has a limit on the number of truck permits they issue at a time.

Hire employees   

You have your truck ready with great design wrapped around, the menu set, and the business bank account created; it is now time to hire your staff.

Initially, you could start your food truck business with your partner or friends. With the right concept, your food truck business should grow in no time. You could begin hiring employees as soon as you feel that you need more people working inside the truck with you.

In order to legally cook and serve food on your mobile food van, each employee will require a food vendor badge. From the application process to receiving the badge, the entire process takes four months, which is why it makes sense to hire a few employees right at the beginning.

Where will you park your food truck?

The benefit of a food truck is that you can go where your customers are. While chances of a traditional brick-and-mortar restaurant failing remain high, the mobile element of a food truck increases the chances of it becoming successful. You must figure out where you can attract a lot of customers, and just as important is to know where you cannot park. Making a list of places you can park your food truck will keep things running smoothly.

Here is an interesting video on working on a food truck.

Operations and supplies management

The right staff and technology are of paramount importance when it comes to managing the daily affairs of your business. Here are a few ways to ensure effective food truck management.

Payments

In addition to cash payments, you should have a system in place that enables you to accept credit and debit cards, mobile transfers, and online banking. Having a proper system of collecting various modes of payments will ensure you never miss out on a sale.

Interesting read: How to launch your first ecommerce business — a complete guide.

Food truck inventory

Imagine running out of vegetables or an essential ingredient in the middle of a busy workday! Keeping track of ingredients and other essential commodities is crucial in keeping your food truck up and running. Inventory management software such as Oracle Netsuite and Zoho can assist you in keeping track of your inventory.

Point of sale for food trucks

A food truck is going to be a very busy place, which is why it is crucial to have an uncomplicated and easy-to-use system in place. A point of sale (POS) for a food truck must make life easy for you. The square POS is an intelligently designed system that can work perfectly for your food truck business.

Promote your food truck

Promoting your business actively is what will separate you from your competitors. Having proper marketing strategies in place will ensure that you reach customers and potential buyers quickly.

Here are some effective marketing strategies for your food truck business.

Social media promotion

In this day and age of digital supremacy, it would only make sense to prioritize digital marketing strategies.

The young population lives and breathes in the digital world. You can leverage the power of social media to reach a wider segment of the young population—a significant part of  your customers. You can create an effective Facebook business page or a Twitter profile to attract customers, along with hiring ‘digital nomads’ to help you with your marketing efforts.

User-generated content

Customers are your best brand ambassadors. Once they love your products or services, it becomes easier to establish your brand identity. The food you serve could be your best marketing tool. Having food items that can tickle the customers’ sense organs will help you get the word around quickly. The idea is to get your customers to take photos and share them on social networking platforms.

Review page

Review pages are vital for any business to thrive. Customers quickly go through a Google review before buying a product or service online or directly from a shop. Additionally, listing your business with Google or Yelp, along with getting SEO services to appear on the top of any search list on the internet, can benefit you immensely. While these may sound like a costly affair, especially due to the economic pressure created by the Covid-19 pandemic, tapping into digital services such as SEO and online ads will help you recuperate from the current scenario.

Build your website

Having a professional-looking website greatly contributes to promoting your business. Any digital marketing strategy becomes more effective when you have your own website. You can drive traffic to your website from various search engines and social networking platforms to your website, which in turn can affect your sales. 

How To Start A Food Truck Business - Step-By-Step Guide
A professional-looking website can take your food truck business to the next level.

Contact food bloggers

Contacting food bloggers can do you a world of good. Food bloggers with a good following, particularly in your area, can generate the buzz you are looking for. Apart from bloggers, you could reach out to influencers who specialize in creating videos and podcasts related to food.

Use the power of promotions

“Buy one get one free” or “Taco Wednesdays” or “Happy Hours” could help you drive your business. You could use discount coupons and other promotional strategies to keep the customers interested.

You can make the most out of your marketing budget if you test and analyze the various aspects of your business regularly.

The bottom line

Learning how to start a food truck business will take some time, but the rewards are surely great. Be it a small-sized van or a monster truck, be it concept foods or cheap lunch, your success as an entrepreneur lies in carving out your niche.

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