Carving a niche in the restaurant industry is tough. The cost of opening a place of your own is astronomical. And the competition is fierce.
But there’s a workaround. And it runs on four wheels.
Food truck businesses are booming and competition only makes them stronger. And even with more than 23,872 food truck businesses in operation, there seems to be no end in sight for the success and growth of restaurants on wheels.
Starting a food truck is doable, but you need to prepare in order to succeed. Here are a few simple tips to help you take to the streets fast.
Figure out your funding
Savings are a great place to start, but you’ll need more money than that. This means you’ll need to approach traditional lenders for loans and startup capital.
And the best way to qualify for those loans is to have a detailed business plan. You want to make lenders confident in your ability to succeed. Otherwise, they won’t be willing to take the risk on your food truck.
Even with a great business plan, you might still get denied a loan. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up your business dreams. Just get creative.
Start smaller. Open a booth at a weekly market or consider buying an existing food truck business with an established track record.
Establish your personality
Food trucks aren’t like traditional restaurants. You’re allowed and encouraged to show off a bit of your personality in the service and menu.
Before you launch, figure out what you want to highlight. This is just as important as the type of food you’re serving.
When you serve it with flair and style, customers remember you and more readily come back whenever they see your truck.
Invest in the right truck
Your truck is the backbone of your business. It needs to be reliable. But unlike most trucks, it also has to have enough space to comfortably run a restaurant-quality kitchen.
This means you can’t just pick up the first truck or van you find. You need to have a vision and see how each truck can accommodate your design.
In an ideal world, you’ll find a used truck with well-maintained equipment that fits your needs and your budget. Remember, unless you have the money up front, buying a new food truck isn’t always the best option.
Used trucks are more affordable, broken in, and will do the job as well as new models that still need the kinks worked out of them.
If you can’t afford or find a food truck to buy, you can always rent one.
Get your license
You’re running a restaurant and this means you’ll need to get the right permits in order before you can sell to your customers.
Speak with your local government to see what you need to do to qualify for licensing. In most cases, they’ll inspect your kitchen to make sure it’s up to standards. Once you pass all inspections and get your permits, you’re ready to start cooking.
You’re running a mobile business. And you’ll need quality insurance to keep your investment safe.
At a bare minimum, invest in liability coverage, commercial vehicle insurance, and a general business owner’s umbrella policy to protect your operation. If you have employees, you’ll also want worker’s compensation coverage.
Depending on your operation, you might find other insurance policies that make sense. Add them as needed. But make sure you have coverage before you hit the road.
Understand the local parking regulations
Even food trucks get parking tickets. Before your first outing, familiarize yourself with local parking regulations anywhere you’re traveling.
Make sure you’re allowed to park and set up before hooking up the generator. A quick call to the local government offices will help if you’re traveling in unfamiliar territory.
Figure out your equipment needs
Kitchens are just the tip of the iceberg. You need a point of sale system to process payments, high-quality cleaning products to keep your kitchen sanitary, and a way to power everything inside.
Remember, you’re parking on the street or in parks 90 percent of the time. That means you won’t have a power outlet to plug the truck in for electricity.
Investing in a good generator is an absolute must. Check out these great inverter generators for sale. Just remember to do your research and size the generator to your truck.
Larger trucks and kitchens need more power.
Decorate the outside of your truck
Your truck is your restaurant. This means it needs to show off your brand and your style.
You have several options here. You can get a custom paint job or have the truck wrapped with custom vinyl graphics.
Vinyl graphics typically allow for better detail and more vibrant colors. As an added bonus, you can remove them should you ever want to sell the truck.
Turn to social media
Food trucks, more so than regular restaurants, thrive on word of mouth. And the easiest way to spread awareness of your brand is through social media.
Let your followers know where you’re parked every day. Share photos on Instagram and encourage customers to tag themselves with a clever hashtag anytime they take a pic of your food.
If possible, partner with local businesses like breweries, wineries, and even hardware stores to establish consistency. If you can park at the same place on the same days of the week, it will be easier for customers to find you time and time again.
Get your food truck business cooking
With all the legwork out of the way, you’re ready to start cooking up dishes and finalizing your menu.
Gather friends and family and ask for their feedback on dishes. If they love them, put them on the menu. If not, keep trying.
You’ll also want to focus on speed. Food trucks are fast but quality food. If you can’t serve customers quickly, they’ll find another truck to go to.
Remember, practice makes perfect. Get all the mistakes out of the way before you take your truck on the streets.
Starting a food truck business is a great way to enter the restaurant scene without the overhead and permanent investments traditional restaurants require. But you do need to get things in order. Use these tips to get your business off on the right foot.
For extra tips on launching a successful business, check out our recent posts.