Food trucks are on the road and driving straight toward success. These curbside canteens are a far-cry from your childhood lemonade stand. Starting a food truck business takes a physical, emotional and financial investment. If you are ready to roll around town in your own restaurant, here is a step-by-step guide to starting a food truck business:
Check the law
Opening any business requires different levels of government approval. State (and often city) legislation regulates food trucks. Many states require vending or business licenses, as well as food handler permits. Note that some cities place a cap on the number of licenses approved for food vendors, so check the waiting list period before you make the huge leap of buying a truck. If you do buy one, your truck may need to pass health, fire or smog inspections before hitting the road.
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Certain localities have established parking limits. For example, if you start a deluxe ice cream truck, you may need a permit from parks and recreation before you can start selling near a park. Food trucks are often explicitly barred from particular zones, and trucks might have to be stored in authorized locations. To figure out which laws apply to you, check out your state’s website via the U.S. government’s official web portal.
Plan a menu
In many major cities, the market is saturated with food truck staples like hot dogs or chicken and rice. A successful food truck is usually a first mover in the industry, so creative cuisine should lie at the center of your business plan. Passion is the most essential ingredient to composing your menu. Figure out the foods you love to eat and what you can cook perfectly. Ask yourself which spreads are the most popular among your family and friends. You may want to market a family favorite or start offering street food that you tasted while traveling. When dreaming up a menu, use all of the culinary experience in your arsenal and never limit your imagination.
Buy and Beautify a Truck
While trucks are significantly cheaper than their brick-and-mortar counterparts, a traveling kitchen can still cost you a pretty penny. Look out for used food or catering trucks, which can have many important parts already in place. When planning your budget, keep in mind that refitting the truck to serve your purposes will probably cost more than the actual vehicle. You can cut costs if you avoid outfitting a truck with an entire kitchen. If your meal can simply be frozen and reheated on the truck, you will save a lot of capital.
Trucks are essentially moving billboards, so an eye-catching design is key for drawing a customer base and establishing brand loyalty. Use bright colors, a large-scale graphic design and appealing fonts with your truck name. You want customers to recognize your truck from a mile away.
Map your route
A fairly regular route means customers will know when to anticipate you and where to find you. You want to park your truck in the most densely populated areas, where big crowds gather to come out for a bite. Unfortunately, these same areas are usually the most difficult places to find parking. In especially competitive (read: lucrative) spots, you may have to send a car beforehand, and leave it parked there until you arrive. If possible, try to avoid parking near competitor restaurants.
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Build a customer base
Food trucks understand the modern eater. Truck restaurateurs are in dynamic locations, they make food fast and the smart ones keep up with social media. Twitter is the best tool for letting people know where you are at any given moment. While they may not drive across town to see you, potential customers nearby might come outside if they know you are around. You can also tweet pictures of people enjoying your meal, which will drum up some cravings for the future. Once you are on location, free samples always pull in a crowd.
For additional revenue and publicity, offer catering or event services. You are guaranteed to reach a big crowd, and you will definitely get paid at the end of the night.