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How to Start a Food Truck Business: a Beginner’s Guide

While in the past food trucks might have been seen as a quick way to grab a plate of junk food, but today they offer so much more.

Gourmet dishes are now served all across the world from cute, mobile trucks.

If you’re a cook or chef who wants to start their own business, you’re not the only one. Experts predict the food truck business to be worth close to $1 billion dollars in 2020.

We here to guide you through the steps required to start a food truck business.

This includes everything from crafting a business plan to choosing the right truck. Let’s get started.

What is a food truck and why should you run one?

Simply put, a food truck is a (usually mobile) vehicle used to serve any type of food.

The concept became popularized by festivals, but now food trucks are everywhere – from outside bars to random spots in big cities.

There’s a food truck menu for everyone’s appetite. The types of food can vary from bagels and donuts to Mexican/Asian fusion.

Big Wang's food truck  business website

Ricky’s Fish Tacos, Fukuburger Truck, LA Donut, Nong’s Khao Man Gai, Luke’s Lobster, and Kogi BBQ are some of the big names in the industry.

While the work is hard, there are some big advantages of owning and operating a food truck.

First of all, food trucks are generally mobile so you aren’t fixed to one location. You can bring your business to wherever your customers are.

Secondly, the operating costs for food trucks are lower than that of a regular restaurant. You don’t need to buy or rent a building or retail space to serve food.

Plus, you don’t need to hire a lot of people as waitstaff. This means your budget can go on higher-quality produce, insurance, and permits.

Last but not least, you can start small.

Prabhu Thankaraju in Startup 500 Business Ideas states that food truck startup costs can range from $40,000$200,000 on average.

By comparison, the cost of opening sit-in restaurants can range from $175,000 to $750,000, according to a survey by RestaurantOwner.com.

With this in mind, it’s no surprise that food trucks are an appealing prospect for budding food entrepreneurs.

However, bear in mind that you can’t build its success overnight. There are grueling work hours to endure, and tons of regulations to be mindful of.

Now, let’s learn how to start a food truck business of your own.

How to start a food truck business

If you’re interested in starting your own food truck business, follow these steps to get started:

Step 1. Find the right target market

The first thing research is who your customers will be.

This can be as simple as visiting your competition as a patron. Observe what kind of people visit, the time they arrive, what they buy, and how much they spend.

To gather data specific about your product, run surveys. Surveys provide insight into how much money people are willing to spend, how often they eat out, and what restaurants they prefer to visit.

Based on your research, you can start coming up with menu items and developing your branding.

Step 2. Brand your business

Now that you have market data, let’s develop your food truck brand.

Since the food truck business is highly competitive, it’s important to stand out and be memorable.

When naming your food truck business, make sure it’s catchy. The name should be descriptive yet quirky.

Zyro’s free business name generator is a great place to start.

Zyro instant business name generator

All you need to do is input keywords related to your business and the Zyro generator will come up with catchy suggestions.

You also need to consider the visual aspect of the brand.

If you don’t want to pay a designer for a logo, try using the Zyro logo maker. It’s easy to get started and the logo is free for you to use.

Another crucial building block for your business is the brand aesthetic, including color schemes, food presentation, packaging visuals, and online presence.

Step 3. Create a business plan

Writing a business plan will help you set realistic goals.

Carefully documenting your business decisions sets the foundation for an attainable vision

In a business plan, you should typically include:

  • Business summary – describing growth opportunities and future prospects, as well as the food industry in general and its impact on your business.
  • Market and industry analysis – a rundown on industry trends, target consumers, and potential competitors.
  • Management and organization – detailing how your organization is structured and how the staff is managed.
  • Product and service details – details of food production, delivery, resources, and the cost involved.
  • Marketing – branding, and marketing strategies, their costs.
  • Funding and financial projections – lay out the operating costs and set reasonable profit goals to break even.

Take time to learn the nitty-gritty of business management. You will need to understand accounting and other financial knowledge.

Never oversimplify the scope of your business to make informed business decisions, and prevent serious oversight.

Step 4. Understand relevant regulations

Never overlook the law when operating a food truck business.

Since every area has its own regulations, make sure to get acquainted with those relevant to you. Some of the standard licenses and permits you need are:

  • Business and vehicle licenses – a vehicle license isn’t enough, you need to make one for running a business too!

    Each city and state has different requirements and licensing fees, so keep an eye on them.

    You can network with local culinary establishments and associations to stay informed.
  • Employee ID – contains the employer’s identification number, used by the authorities to identify your business and collect taxes.
  • Fire and health certificates – the fire and health departments require your business to pass a test to be eligible for certificates.

    The fire department will inspect your truck and cooking area for fire safety.

    The health department will examine the hygiene and safety of your food, in-truck kitchen, and commercial food station (commissary).
  • Parking and food handler’s permits – the parking permit authorizes your vehicle to be stationary in an area for a certain amount of time.

Meanwhile, the food handler’s permit is issued to your employees after passing a food preparation safety test.

If you need to know more about legal restrictions, as well as other mandatory licenses and permits, make sure to reach out to your neighborhood officials for more information.

Step 5. Secure funding

Finalize your business plan in advance. The sooner your business plan is ready, the sooner you can look for funding.

You can get financing by taking out a bank loan. You might also Check with truck suppliers to see if they offer lending programs.

Having a good credit card score and money for a downpayment should be arranged before approaching a lender.

Find willing investors or launch a crowdfunding campaign. There are plenty of success stories of people using such platforms as Kickstarter or Gofundme.

gofund me website that you can use to crowdfund you  food truck business

Alternatively, you can get sponsored by angel investors. These are wealthy individuals who are willing to invest in startups in exchange for equity.

You can self-fund or bootstrap your food truck business. It’s a pretty straightforward way to finance your operation. This is typically a longer-term solution that takes discipline for saving money.

Step 6. Invest in a food truck

Now that you’ve got the funding, it’s time to buy a food truck.

Prices for a second-hand truck range from around $4,500 up to $75,000, while a brand new truck is around $62,000 $140,000.

You can also opt to lease a truck for about $1,600/month.

Make sure the truck you choose fits your business requirements in terms of budget, size, and maintenance expenses. New trucks come with warranties that can spare you repair costs down the line.

After you buy your truck, the next thing to do is to furnish it with equipment and appliances.

The arrangement of your kitchen area will vary depending on your needs. However, there are some items that any food truck must own:

  • Generators to power your cooking, heating, cooling, and lighting.
  • First aid kit and fire extinguishers – in the event of personal injury and accidental fires.
  • Food storage – to refrigerate your ingredients and store food supplies.
  • Running water – preferably hot and cold.

Above all else, your food truck should adhere to all industry standards.

Step 7. Secure your business

To manage risk, get your truck and employees insured.

  • Business owner’s policy – an insurance bundle that typically consists of general liability insurance and commercial property insurance.
  • Commercial auto insurance – provides coverage for car accidents, medical treatments, as well as collision-related liability claims.
  • Product liability insurance – coverage for the possible situation when a customer feels harmed by your product and sues you over it.
  • Worker’s compensation insurance – covers the medical fees of your employees when they get injured during work.

All these insurance plans might seem like a lot to pay at first. But, it’s always better to be safe than sorry when protecting your assets and your business.

Step 8. Create a marketing plan

For effective online marketing, you can carry out a series of social media campaigns through Instagram and Facebook.

Make sure to create posts that show your food and brand in a positive light, and don’t forget to engage with your followers.

Don’t forget to create a website for your business too.

A website will help you raise brand awareness and stay relevant. By implementing SEO techniques, you’ll rank higher on search engines, get more traffic, and ultimately do more business.

With Zyro you can create a website in just a few minutes, without having to write a line of code.

The website builder is packed with useful tools to help build your brand and ensure the success of your business.

All you need to build a beautiful website is to choose your preferred template, then edit it to your liking.

zyro website builder has a lot of responsive website design templates

All of Zyro’s price plans offer free hosting and an SSL certificate.

Another important component of online visibility is a domain name. It should be easy to remember and brand representative.

Zyro domain generator can help find the perfect domain name for you.

For offline marketing, you should consider attending events and festivals.

It’s a great way to expand your customer base while also giving you more networking opportunities.

Hand out flyers, coupons, and business cards while you’re at it!

Bonus tips for starting a food truck business

Now you know how to start a food truck business. Let’s explore some pro tips that will help you to be ahead of the competition.

Stay up to date with your industry and audience

Always keep an eye on the industry trends to keep up with the ever-changing food-service industry.

Even if you’ve already found a niche you’re comfortable with, there’s always room for improvement.

Opportunities to innovate might just be lurking around the corner. Don’t miss them!

Being aware of the changes in your niche, you’ll be able to spot how and what to improve in your food truck business.

Keep an eye on your competitors

Be wary of the advantages your competitions have over you.

Since the mobile food business is still a growing industry, there’s no shortage of competitors, and your customers can easily switch to the next service window.

When you start a food truck business, make sure to take notice of how and what your competitors are doing better.

At the same time, acknowledge the things you’ve been doing well. Do your best to constantly improve.

Maintenance is important

Besides the technical aspects of your business operation, don’t forget to take care of your truck.

Make sure to read your truck manual. It’s easy to take it for granted until something breaks and you’re not sure what to do.

Take the time to get to know your vehicle better. Don’t dismiss your dashboard’s warning lights, as it can indicate a car issue that needs immediate attention.

Make sure to bring your truck in for regular servicing. Keep a maintenance log to help you track what needs fixing and what needs replacing in the truck.

Keep your supplies and equipment in a sanitary condition. Cleanliness is a non-negotiable aspect of the food industry!

Recap

If you love the idea of cooking for a living but don’t want the same risk associated with opening a storefront restaurant, now you know how to start a food truck business.

It’s flexible and not overly demanding in terms of costs and investments compared to a traditional restaurant.

However, success in the food trucking industry does not come easy. You need to persevere and put in a lot of hard work. Most importantly, you need to be driven.

Before buying a food truck, make sure to research the industry and come up with a solid business plan. Take your time and plan an effective marketing strategy.

When everything is ready to start cooking, insure your business and tools – this will help avoid financial loss.

Starting up any business can be exciting and intimidating at the same time. Follow these steps to get your food truck business on the road to success.

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