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How to Start a Food Truck Business
How to Start a Food Truck Business
by Lorri Mealey


food boothA food truck is like restaurant on wheels. It has several distinct advantages over a traditional eat-in restaurant. A food truck can go to where the customers are. It has pretty low overhead, compared to a restaurant, and requires far less staff. However a food truck is still a business that requires a lot of work and attention- especially in the first couple of years. Food truck owners put in long days and have similar problems as restaurant owners, such as slow seasons, bad weather, and sluggish economy. Read on to find out how you can start your own food truck business.

Here's How:

  1. Find out if a Food Truck Business is Legal in Your Neighborhood. This may sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many places don’t allow food trucks or put a cap on the number of food truck permits allowed at any given time. Case in point – both Los Angeles and New York City are two of the busiest areas for food truck businesses and both have caps on the number of permits allowed.

  2. Find out Where You Can do Business. Assuming your city or town allows food truck businesses, next you need to find out where you can do business. Depending on local ordinances you may not be able to park in the busy downtown area. Before you set up shop in a busy tourist area or business park, make sure its legit.

  3. Choose a business name. Okay, you now have a solid plan for where you are going to sell your food. Now you can do fun part- decide on a fantastic food truck name. Much like choosing a restaurant name, the name of your food truck business should reflect your food, theme, or concept. Check out these tips for choosing the perfect restaurant (on wheels) name.

  4. Write a Food Truck Menu. Even if you don’t have the standard plastic sleeve menus that a brick-and-mortar restaurant have, you still will need a menu board and to-go menus for customers to take. You will also have to decide if your menu will be the same every day or rotate with daily specials. Read on for the do’s and don’ts of writing a restaurant menu.

  5. Find Financing for Your Food Truck Business. The good news about a food truck business is that is significantly cheaper than a sit-down. However, you will still need financing from a bank or private investors. A used food truck can cost between $20,000 - $40,000. A new food truck can be as much as $100,000. If you are looking for a truly economical way to start a food truck business, consider a food cart. An ice cream or hot dog cart may not be the most glamourous option, but it certainly the most feasible for many people. Read on for tips of writing a great restaurant business plan you can adapt for a food truck.

  6. Stock Your Food Truck. Even if you land a modestly priced used food truck, you will still need to make sure it is going to meet your particular needs. If you plan to serve hot food, such as pizza, French fries or other fried foods, you will need a oven and fryolator. If you plan to sell pre-made sandwiches, then you will need ample cooler space. Outfitting a food truck is much like designing a commercial kitchen.

  7. Get the Word Out About Your Food Truck Business. The good thing about a food truck is that it's a rolling advertisement on wheels. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do some advertising and marketing of your business. Social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter are perfect for building a good customer base. You can twitter in the morning where your food truck is heading, to let followers know ahead of time. Read on for a step-by-step guide for advertising for a new restaurant (on wheels).

  8. Create an Emergency Fund. This is true for any small business. Equipment repairs can be costly. Or a freak rain storm could drive down business in an otherwise busy season. Be prepared for the unexpected by having some cash set aside.

  9. Have Clear Goals for the Future. Maybe a food truck business is step one toward owning your own restaurant or full service catering company. Decide where you want to be in a year, five years, 10 years. Having clear goals for your food truck business will help keep you motivated and focused.
  1. Think small. If you don't want to invest a lot of money, a food cart costs a fraction of a food truck with many of the same benefits.

  2. Be prepared for emegencies. Start saving money for equipment repairs or other unforeseen events.

  3. Get ready to work long days. You may only serve food during lunch, but you need to prep all that food and clean up, plus do bookkeeping, ordering and other mundane chores.
What You Need:
  • Permit or License
  • New or Used Food Truck
  • Clear Restaurant Food Truck Concept
  • Fantastic Food Truck Menu
  • Unforgettable Food Truck Name
  • Financing
  • An Emergency Fund
  • Clear Goals for the Future
* * * * *

Lorri Mealey has nearly over a decade of restaurant experience, including owning and operating her own restaurant in Western Maine. Lorri offers advice on all aspects of restauranting, and has extensive experience in catering as well as restaurant management.



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