This article is part of our Food Cart Business Startup Guide—a curated list of articles to help you plan, start, and grow your food cart business!
Wondering how to start a food truck business?
Chilternscatering.com.au offers an extensive range of finger food and canapes to suit all your catering needs. We can’t blame you—the food truck craze is sweeping the nation. From thriving cities to small downtown areas, food on wheels is a growing trend. It’s not just drawing a new crowd of eat-on-the-street customers, it’s bringing in big bucks too. The food truck business pulls in an estimated $804 million in revenue every year, according to an industry report from IBIS World.
If this knowledge has your entrepreneurial spirit in high gear and you’re interested in learning how to start a food truck, we’ve got the tips and tricks to help you start selling must-eats from the streets. We asked two food truck owners to offer some insider secrets to get your business up and running, who can tell you what starting a food truck is all about. See Also: 39 Things to Ask Yourself Before Starting a Restaurant
Starting a food truck: Learn from the experts
Leigh Ann Tona rolls through the Delaware streets in her “I Don’t Give a Fork” truck, which as the name implies, specializes in food that does not require utensils. Her menu consists mainly of sandwiches.
Anthony Fellows takes the Southern Florida streets by storm in his “HipPops” truck, which is a micro creamery on wheels that offers homemade gelato bars.
With their help, we’ll explore whether or not starting a food truck business is right for you. We’ll go over the licensing and health inspection requirements, offer tips for success, and a list of resources to get you started.
Is a starting a food truck business right for you?
Before your create a menu and design your truck, consider whether starting a food truck business really is the right fit for you. Ask yourself these four questions:
How well do I know the business?
Before taking the food truck plunge, there’s a lot of research to be done, Anthony says. He spent hours online reading guides and articles about successful businesses. He also toured “food truck cities” to watch traffic flow and speak with owners.
Figure out how many other food trucks specialize in the kind of food you plan on offering. If there are already three sandwich trucks that frequent the business district, is there room for yours too? Try to soak up as much information as you can before making a decision.
Like any other business, you’ll need to create a business plan, find startup funds, and handle all of the administrative tasks that come with owning a business.
How will I find the right vehicle?
Both Anthony and Leigh Ann say that finding the right truck for your business is crucial. You’re not going to head out to your local dealership and buy a brand new 2014 food truck fresh off the showroom floor. Most food trucks are custom made. Leigh Ann’s truck, for example, was an old Entenmann’s delivery truck. It was gutted and fitted to meet her needs.
This process will take time and money, Anthony says. Plus, you want to find the right partner to build your truck because prices and workmanship can vary. Go in with a plan. To give you a few layout options, here are a few links:
- Food truck schematics with pictures
- Food truck floor plans
- Interior food truck video
Can I handle the schedule?
Your workday starts long before you pull into your lunchtime parking spot. You’ll need to buy food and prep it before you start putting everything together for your customers. While the weekday lunch crowd could be your main source of income, there are a lot of weekend events that could bring in some money too. Are you prepared to put in these hours?
Am I prepared to make money a few bucks at a time?
Anthony says his return on investment is based on nickels and dimes. In other words, if you’re selling a five dollar sandwich, your income will come in slowly. You’ll want to sit down and do the math. Figure out food costs, truck maintenance, and marketing expenses and see just how many items you need to sell to make the business profitable.
The technical side of starting a food truck
Creating a menu is the fun part, but there are plenty of not-so-glamorous aspects of the food truck business that you’ll need to tend to, like getting permits and setting up inspections.
Prepare for health inspections
Food trucks come with their own set of health inspection codes. These codes will vary depending on your business and its location, so you’ll want to check with your local department of health to get a complete list of rules.
While the codes can vary, here’s a look at an inspection checklist from Alameda County Department of Health in California to give you an idea of what an inspection consists of:
- Are refrigeration units, steam table, and warming oven turned on and working properly?
- Is there hot and cold water inside the truck and is there adequate water pressure?
- Is there soap and paper towels available?
- Is there a working fire extinguisher on board?
- Is there a first aid kit on board?
- Does the truck have the correct signage?
- Approved application documents from local government
- Food safety training certificate
- Current DMV registration
- Valid drivers license
- Seller’s permit
Other possible requirements:
- You may also need to provide a business plan, menu, standard operating procedures, sampling plan, example of labels, and proof of current liability insurance.
Scheduled and random inspections:
- When you’re first starting a food truck business, you’ll have a scheduled inspection to make sure everything is up to code before you start feeding the lunch crowd. After that, most health departments require an annual inspection. In addition, you should expect random inspections from time to time.