Start Your Food Truck Business | Your Complete Guide
Are you looking to start your own food truck business? If so, there are a lot of moving parts and question that every business owner has had when they started. These can be question which, if not answered properly, can help make or break a business. In this article, we will walk you through all the things you will need to know so you can create your own successful food truck.
When following a plan, opening a food truck business can be very profitable and rewarding. It can also allow you to interact with a lot of people, build relationships, make friends and a ton more. However, you need to understand that there is a difference between a food truck and a food cart. Also, even though we will cover food trucks, most of this will still relate to a food cart. So, exactly what is a food truck?
To start your food truck business, you will need a food truck which is a large vehicle converted to contain needed kitchen equipment allowing a business to run a mobile restaurant from the within the truck. This truck can then go to the customers in a variety of places rather than having customers come to a brick and mortar restaurant.
How does this differ from a food cart? Well, basically the size. A food cart is much more limited compared to a food truck and therefore cannot feed as many as a food truck can. There may also be certain mandates in the area that a food cart operates. For example, some of the food may have to be prepackaged.
Whether you decide to start a food truck or food cart business, there are always going to be areas in the business where you will learn from and tweaks you will need to make. This video will help you understand what it is like to start a food truck business along with some of the “I didn’t think about that” areas.
In this article, we are going to discuss all the necessary pieces in order so that you can start your own business. This is a lengthy article and is broken into a number of sections. It is suggested that you read this whole article and then work on each section at a time. Most sections have links directing you to a page which contains a deeper insight to that section.
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Table of Contents
Find the Right Niche to Start Your Food Truck Business
So, you have done research, watched videos on food trucks and are more interested than ever to start your own business. where do you start? Well, let’s pick the type of food you want to sell from your truck!
Deciding on the type of food you want to serve should be one of the first things to decide on. Knowing what niche (type of service) you want to be in can have an impact on finances when you start your food truck business. For example, if you want to serve seafood, the cost of food will obviously cost more than that of a coffee truck. Other reasons knowing what niche you want to be in will affect your business. These could be things like:
- Where the customers are (seafood will sell less than coffee in a town where winter is cold like Chicago)
- Seasons when food costs more
- Different mandates for different types of food
Food is not the only thing that will be affected by your niche choice. There is also the equipment that will be needed in the truck. Taking the seafood vs coffee example, different equipment will be needed for each of these. You will need stoves, ovens mixers, refrigerators, etc. for a seafood while some of this equipment will not be needed with a coffee truck. The overall cost for the equipment and supplies will play a factor on your choice.
These above examples are only a few reasons why your niche choice is important and I think you can see how deciding on a niche can be a very important first step.
Make a Plan
Now that you have decided on a niche, the next step is to build a business plan to start your food truck business. A business plan is SUPER important! This plan will AND SHOULD be your blueprint for your business. This plan should cover a variety of areas like:
- Getting a loan
- Control/Ownership of the business
- Areas of importance within the business
The business plan will help you stay on track with your business. In a food truck business, it will need to be constantly revisited and revised to make sure things are working and fix the things that are not. For example, changing the menu for low selling items or getting business licenses for a new area are just a few areas where a business plan would need to change.
A food truck business has many areas that you will need to stay on top of which is why revisiting your business plan regularly is needed. For full details of how to create a business plan to start your food truck business, visit our business plan page.
Help With Financing
You are most likely going to need a loan to get started unless you have a wealthy uncle or a business partner that is financing the business (which should also be included in the business plan). Having a business plan to show a bank will help explain everything about your business and therefore help with obtaining the loan. Without the plan, a bank will have more hesitation in securing a loan.
If you do plan on asking for a loan to get your business going, there are going to be important areas which you will need to include in the plan to help investors understand where the money will be used and when and how it will be paid back. This will all need to be included in the plan.
Help Your Business Grow with Alliances
Another area of having a business plan is for help and growth. Sooner or later, you will either need assistance or will grow and need help from others to keep your food truck business running. For example, commissary needs. You will need somewhere to prep your food and as your business grows, you may need bigger or additional kitchen areas, more employees etc. Building an relationship with others that can help will be needed, but you will also need to make sure you map out how far you can expand with those people. Will it cost too much to get more kitchen space? Will they help with prep cooks and if so, how much will it cost? these are just a few example questions to think about and include in your plan.
Hiring New Employees and Employee Training
Employees are a very important part of your business. They are the ones that will help cook, clean, interact with customers, etc. They are the ones that can affect your business. Adding a plan for employees is an essential part of a business plan. You will need to think about how a new employee will help your business grow, what they will do within the business, when and why you should hire a new employee, etc. Having an employee plan can greatly help your business out, because you will know the when and how related to new employees.
Selling Your Business
Having an understanding of the who, what, when, where and why of selling your business is an important part of the business plan. This is even more true when running a business with a partner. I have personally seen what problems can arise from disagreements. Although, the terms of the partnership should be defined in a partnership agreement (discussed a little later in this article), having a defined exit point is important. Let’s face it, you are not going to be able to run this food truck business forever. Also, you may find that your truck/trucks are doing very well and may want to sell when you get to a certain income point. Other reasons could be that it is too demanding, not fun anymore or just don’t want to do it anymore. Having an exit plan will help you get things going more easily. You can also find more information on selling a food truck business on the web.
How Much Money Do I Need?
In the business plan, we discussed how it can help with securing a loan. Let’s talk further on the areas you may need a loan for.
When you first come up with the idea to start a food truck, you will most likely not know half of the costs that involved to get it rolling. From the truck itself to permits to the equipment and everything else in between, there is a ton to take into consideration. Startup costs is probably the biggest cost of starting your business. You need to make sure your research is done so you know what you will be needing money for.
You will need a truck to start your food truck business. Right? well, the cost of a truck could be a LOT MORE than you think! It can cost ten thousand up to a few hundred thousand dollars depending on the year of the truck and what equipment is needed. There are also additional expenses like:
- Vinyl Wrapping
- Licensing the truck
The overall cost can be dependent on the age of the truck as well. An older truck may require repairs before the vinyl wrap can be applied costing more. Maintenance may also cost more than a newer truck.
Everyone needs insurance on their vehicle. A food truck is no different. The cost of insurance should be accounted for as a startup cost. The last thing you need is to have a monthly insurance bill coming through before you are able to start making any real profit.
Permits and Licensing
Depending on the locale you are in, there will be certain requirements for permits and licensing your food truck. You may also incur separate fees for each county you decide to do business in. However, since you added this into your business plan (hint hint), you will have an idea of where you are going to be operating in the beginning. All you will need to do is look into the cost of permits for that county.
Whether you decide to purchase a new truck or used one, you will having ongoing costs related to maintenance with the truck and possibly the equipment. You may also incur fees for annual health inspections. These fees can add up. Having this included in your startup costs can help alleviate some of the pressure when starting out.
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Ownership of Business and to What Extent
Are you in or plan on going into a partnership with this food truck business? Well then you are going to need to define this in your partnership agreement. The last thing you want is to have a disagreement and have no clearly defined agreement. In the plan you need to define who owns what and to what extent.
For example, what happens if you are in a partnership with someone and they all of a sudden decide that they want out. They do not feel they are making enough from the business or just decide they want to dissolve the business. Without defining these terms, your partner could decide to sell the truck and business and there is not much you will be able to do without a lot of legal action. Even then, there may be not a lot you can do. This is why this agreement is so important.
Get a Truck
Renting or Leasing
You may be interested in testing the waters of a food truck business before digging in deep. To do this, you can opt to rent or lease a food truck before taking the plunge and purchasing one of your own.
There are a variety of trucks and equipment that you can rent to see if you will like the business. All you need to do is browse for the right truck and price and then get started. Make sure you view the terms and conditions on the rental site to make sure it all meets up to what you want or need out of the truck and are willing to accept. Other than that, renting a truck for long or short term can give you a good feel of the business and allow you to get started while you save for your own truck.
New or Used
So you don’t like the idea of renting a truck and have opted to purchase your own. Now you can modify the truck to your needs and not have to worry about paying for someone else’s truck which you really can’t adjust too much. Now the problem comes whether you buy a new truck which can run a lot of money or get a used one which can save, but may have issues that need repairs. There are a lot of pros and cons for either choice and is really up to you which option you decide on. Just be sure that you do your research for each option and ensure it is added to your business plan. You can also check our “How to Build a Food Truck” article for more detailed information.
Where to find a truck
When searching for a food truck to either rent or purchase, there are a variety of places you can go. You can find trucks for sale on Craigslist and eBay along with more narrowed down truck purchasing and rental websites like the following where you can search trucks or where you input your information and that website can help you find trucks which meet your needs as well:
Rent or Lease:
Where to Purchase:
Wrapping Your Truck
Now that you have your truck, you will need to give it some pizzazz and make it your own! How do you do that? The answer is by wrapping it.
Wrapping your food truck is the process of adding custom design to a vinyl decal which represents your business look. This decal covers and bods to your food truck providing a unique design for your business.
Wrapping can give your truck the appeal you are after for your business. It can help give customers a recognizable brand and give your truck a sense of identity. Wrapping your truck can be a very important part of your marketing, because without a recognizable brand, people will have a hard time relating to your business.
For further information on wrapping your truck, check out our “Food Truck Vinyl Wrap | A Complete Guide” page.
FANTASTIC! You now have almost all parts in place for your food truck business. However, now you need to know where you can and cannot park your truck. There are limitations to where you can park your food truck. You need to find the commercial zones in which you will be allowed to park your truck to prevent any fines. Each area has its own limitations so it’s best to check with that city or county administrator to find out these limitations.
The best place to start finding out these laws are at your city’s local Chamber of Commerce, Health Department, and Small Business Administration. Many time they will have the answers to your questions online, but can also assist by giving them a call. A few quick calls can result in saving fines.
Get a Website
The last important part of starting a food truck business is your website. This is the place where many people will look to find your menu, prices, locations, contact, reputation and more. Having a good website can help drive in more business through contact forms and marketing. Below are some of the areas you will want to look at when building or getting your website built.
Build Your Own or Getting One Professionally Built
Starting out, you have a lot to focus on. A website may not be the type of thing you want to learn how to build. However, if you have the knowledge or want to learn, there are many website builders like Wix, Weebly and WordPress.com that you can use to build a free website. However, there will be associated costs to be able to add features. For example, if you want a branded domain name like thefoodtruckguide.com, there will be a monthly fee. The same goes for many other features like email marketing etc.
My personal preference is to get your own web hosting and build a WordPress website. There are tons of free themes and plugins to help you on your way and can get great inexpensive page builders to help with creating an even better design.
If you are planning on hiring a website designer, I suggest doing your research and asking questions to make sure the design company will build a sit which meets your needs and can help in all other ares like the ones mentioned below. If you need help with designing your website, contact us and we can help you out.
Ranking is an important part of a website. You need to understand that a website is no different than your business. If you do not advertise and make yourself known, no one will no you exist.
The same goes for your website. Starting out, you will be on the one-billionth page of Google with little chance of moving up in ranks. There are techniques that an SEO expert can help with to build your rank and be ranked much better. The better you rank, the more traffic you receive. After all, how many times have you searched for something in Google and went directly to page 11? For that fact, how often have you searched off the first page? I think you can see where I am going with this. Ranking well can bring more business in.
Depending on your business plan and operations, you may want/need a schedule integrated in your website to allow people to schedule an event or see if a certain day is available. within your website, you can have something like this which can even link up with your Google Calendar so you will not need to login to your site to see your schedule. This can be a big advantage when someone calls you. You can quickly look at your calendar to help the customer out.
Your website will need constant attention to be and stay successful. If you create your own site or have a designer create a WordPress site, you will need to make sure this site stays updated with security fixes. You will also want to make sure you update your events and push out new content. This can be time consuming, but is essential to keep people up to date and know where you are going to be next.
Social Media Management
Almost every business has a Facebook business page. Having social media accounts can help drive traffic and interest to your business. Accounts like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. can help show people who you are and help build a brand for your business. Just note that having these accounts are not enough. You must keep adding content to the accounts too.
Automating with Chatbots
Chatbots are the latest thing for websites and Facebook pages. They can do a variety of things from answering basic everyday questions to capturing information for marketing and more.
Like the website, you can get a chatbot free with limitations or paid with a variety of options. Pricing varies for each bot company and may be limited to just a website or just a Facebook page. Some offer a bot for both. You have to shop around to find the bot that meets your needs and pricing requirements.
We suggest “InnovativeChatbots.com” for your Chatbots. They provide a variety of options, can make a bot for both your website and Facebook and are very reasonably priced.
If you have any questions about your website or any of these areas, please contact us so we can help.
Although these next areas are not necessarily a need for your business, they are highly recommended. Making connections with businesses are always recommended. Having connections can help you find new opportunities and assistance when needed. They can also help you grow your business.
Having good connections can help with commissary prices and locations. Plus, it may help with the parking aspect of your truck as some counties require that you park your truck at the commissary you are associated with.
Other Food Trucks
Some may think that having your competition as a connection is not good. However, think of things this way… If you have a burger truck and also have a good connections with other burger trucks, when that truck cannot make an event due to scheduling or have a lead and cannot fulfill the date due to other engagements, they may pass the lead your way. This creates a good connection between you and you will end up doing the same for them when the same issue arises.
Related to the above, catering can be a big income earner. However, what happens when you cannot attend an event on the date a potential customer needs? You can work with your competition and sell or give them the lead so this potential customer gets their wants fulfilled and helps build reputation between both you and your competition. Win Win Win for all!
Well we are finally to the end. I hope this article has been super helpful! I am always looking to expand areas of this guide so if you see anything that may have been missed, please do not hesitate to reach out and let me know.
Also, if you are interested in a complete, more detailed guide, I ask that you look into our Complete Food Truck Business Guide eBook. It has this whole article with much more detail and is only $15.99. Click the button below to get it now.
Thank you and Best of Luck in your new food truck business!
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