The roar of the engine, the smell of gasoline, the flicker of the flame, the food truck life is calling and you’re about to heed the call. You’ve tossed around clever names, considered the menu, and thought about the festivals you’ll attend. In this very visual dream of yours, your truck window is bustling, delicious delights passed to hungry customers, as the till overflows with cash.
Not to be a Negative Nelly, but we feel the need to inject a helpful amount of reality here, because we want your dreams to come true, and for you to experience success. Which will happen – as long as you don’t miss a beat on any of these important steps to launching your booming food truck business.
And be prepared to do a lot of paperwork.
Pretty much every food truck owner will tell you that being in the biz is no drive down easy street. Every city and county has different rules around selling food from a food truck. Before you decide where your truck will be based out of, educate yourself on the necessary permits, certifications, licenses, and leases that you’ll need – there and in surrounding areas. It’s important to know what you’re in for before you start, rather than be surprised when you’re bogged down with applications.
They are bigger than you think.
Insurance, labor, truck maintenance, supplies, permits, and operations, the cost to opening and operating a food truck is expensive. It’s estimated that start up costs can run anywhere from $15,000 to $100,000. To project your costs and try to get a full understanding of the numbers, write a detailed financial plan. We have a downloadable template in The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Restaurant Business Plan, which will be helpful.
Know your truck inside and out.
Now that you’ve prepared yourself for the reality of food truck life, and you’re comfortable with the numbers, you’re going to need the most important thing – a truck! Do as much research as you can. Reach out to other food truck owners, read as much as you can online, and talk to mechanics and people who know trucks. You don’t want to invest all of your time and money into an old jalopy that’ll spend more time on the side of the highway than at a busy festival, so choose wisely.
Your partnerships and community are your key to success.
The relationships you make as a food trucker are the lifeline of your business and can make or break you. From local suppliers to your mechanic, to corporate accounts, festival organizers, and even local politicians, your success is only as strong as your worst relationship. Take your community to heart and work as hard with people you meet as you do on the food you create.
It’s a long road but can lead to much more.
It’s easy to get disheartened – owning a food truck seems like a lot of work! But like most things in life that are challenging, being your own boss, sharing your food creations with hungry customers, and roaring up that engine for a new adventure, it’s totally worth it. And remember – enjoy the ride!