Everywhere you look, food trucks are popping up. And while we all enjoy grabbing a quick taco, burger, or fried delicacy from our favorite food truck down the street, have you ever considered what it takes to run a profitable food truck business? It’s challenging, yet fun – difficult, yet possible. Here’s what you need to know:
1. You Have to Get the Proper Licenses
Launching a food truck business isn’t as simple as buying a van, cooking some food, and pulling up in a busy parking lot. Food trucks are treated as restaurants and must have all of the proper licenses and certifications in order to legally do business. These include city permits, health department certificates, parking permits, truck permits, and anything else your local jurisdiction requires. This isn’t meant to scare you away from starting a food truck, but it should be a realistic wake-up call.
2. You Need the Right Truck
In order to run a food truck business, you need a truck! Depending on the size of the truck, whether it’s new or used, and the specialty equipment installed, you could spend anywhere from a few thousand dollars to a few hundred thousand. For used trucks, look around on sites like CommercialTruckTrader.com or UsedVending.com.
3. Marketing is Very Important
You aren’t just going to show up on a street corner and suddenly serve thousands of customers. Sure, you might do business with a few curious people who walk past and take a chance, but there’s actually a fair amount of marketing that goes into running a successful food truck business.
If your food truck moves around from location to location, then you’ll need a strategy for informing people of where you’re going. Many food trucks rely on SMS marketing to broadcast their locations. Social media – namely Instagram – also works well.
4. Understand and Respect the Laws
“Familiarize yourself with food truck laws in your area,” the National Restaurant Association suggests. “Cities regulate truck size, vending locations and hours, sanitation and more. The laws change frequently as cities figure out how to adapt to this new business model. Be flexible in the face of changing laws and consider getting involved in the process.”
Furthermore, respect other local businesses in the area. Just because you have the ability to park somewhere, doesn’t mean you should. Avoid selling in front of a restaurant that offers similar food and don’t do business in places where conflict is likely to arise.
5. Financing May be Necessary
Unless you have the financial resources to pay for everything in cash, you’ll probably need someone to finance your food truck business. You could go a traditional route and meet with a bank or credit union, but they may not be fully supportive of your idea if you don’t have a killer business plan.
Other options include peer-to-peer lending websites, crowdfunding, and friends and family. Whatever you do, make sure you have a well-developed plan in place before getting too far along in the process. The last thing you want is to pull all of the right licenses, establish relationships, and then suddenly realize that you don’t have enough money to stay open.
Is a Food Truck Business Right for You?
When it’s all said and done, starting a food truck business from scratch will likely cost you anywhere from $40,000 to $250,000 (depending on the type of equipment you need and your location). The good news is that a successful food truck business can easily produce six or seven figures in annual revenue. If you’re willing to jump through the hoops and take the necessary steps to get going, a food truck business could be right for you.
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