So you’re thinking about starting a food truck business? Yeah? Well, I’ve got both bad and good news for you:
The Bad News – You’re not exactly ahead of the curve. Back in 2008, a Le Cirque pastry sous chef took street food and sweets to a new level by launching a mobile food vending business…and many entrepreneurs have jumped to the ‘food truck’ bandwagon since then.
The Good News – People love to eat and sample new dishes. The demand will always be there! You can take a slice of the pie and make a killing…provided that you start your mobile restaurant business right.
And that’s what this brief guide is all about!
Backing Up Your Ideas With Financing
As with any entrepreneurial endeavor, great ideas alone won’t get your food truck business to the top…securing and backing them up with financing should be on top of your to-do list.
Consulting online food truck forums; talking to individuals who’ve ‘been there and done that’; and browsing through sales websites will help you get a clearer picture of how much financial fire-power you need to get your food truck business rolling.
The total costs of food trucks vary radically. Used hotdog-style carts are usually within the $2000-3000 price range. On the other hand, a used truck that’s been overhauled and revamped for driving and vending can cost a whopping $40,000!
You don’t want to spend too little or break your bank account when starting a food truck business. So my advice: sit down with your partner (if you have one); create a list of what you think you need to get started; and thoroughly and objectively analyze each item.
If you’re in New York or Los Angeles, going for a used food cart or truck is HIGHLY recommended for two reasons.
1. Food carts and mobile restaurants are VERY popular in these two cities so it’s very easy to find a previously-owned truck that’s in good shape…ready for vending and driving.
2. Priced at $75,000 to $100,000 (according to New York Magazine’s market analysis), tell me: do you really want to spend that MUCH on a new food truck? And we’re not even talking about retrofitting the truck (ex.: installing new vending windows; electricity; retail payment system, etc.), which is another significant expense.
Get The Paperworks Done
As a food cart or mobile restaurant owner, the permitting and licensing process you have to go through is NOT as stringent compared to a brick-and-mortar business. That said, there are paperworks and other costs you need to consider. Here are some:
Acquisition Of Permit / License: This varies based on the state or location you plan to operate in. For example, in New York, a food truck owner needs to get a Mobile Food Vendor License. His vending truck, on the other hand, needs to have a Mobile Food Vending Unit Permit.
Be warned, however, that getting licensed can be tough. This is especially true for cities like New York and Los Angeles where there’s a cap for the number of food truck licenses they issue at any specific time.
According to Street Vendor Project, it’s very identical to liquor licenses whose waiting list can extend up to 10 years!
Insurance For Your Truck: While it shouldn’t cost more than standard vehicle insurance, you should take the time to keep your insurance provider “in the loop” when it comes to other risks your truck might pose (ex.: propane tanks; open flame; etc.). Ask what coverage they provide or if you need to upgrade your insurance plan to get those covered.
Storage And Nighttime Security: In some cities, local health departments oblige food trucks and mobile restaurants to be parked in state-approved locations when not on duty. If your city imposes such regulations, you’ll have to shoulder the parking, electricity, and refrigeration costs.
Use Social Media To Your Advantage!
Buzz and hype – these two are indispensible when it comes to your food truck’s success. After all, regardless how mouth-watering the meals you serve are, if other people don’t know about them, no one will buy from you!
But thanks to social media, you don’t have to pay for expensive local TV, radio, and newspaper ads to spread the word about your newly-launched food truck business. Nowadays, a simple tweet or Facebook status update is all it takes to keep your current and would-be customers updated with your daily specials; menu for the day; and locations.
And speaking of location, you should be careful where you set up shop. If you’re new in the industry, steer clear from brick-and-mortar food businesses as much as possible…or at least until you earn that reputation as a regular ‘crowd drawer and pleaser’ that could help local food establishments gain more exposure and business.
Some Ideas On Using Social Media:
Aside from tweeting your locations and daily menu, here are other social media marketing ideas you can use:
– Crowdsource menu ideas from fans and followers.
– Hold an online poll for a new truck design.
– Conduct user satisfaction surveys through Twitter and Facebook.
I’m sure you can think of other ideas, but here’s the bottom line: you want to use social media at every opportunity to interact and build a better relationship with your followers and customers.