How to Start a Food Truck.
Reasons to open a food truck vary:
- You’ve got a great concept.
- It’s less money than opening a brick-and-mortar.
- How hard can it be?
Well, we’re here to give you the facts about starting one up. Whether you’re a food truck in Miami, a truck in NYC or a luxe lonchera in Orange County, everybody has to make the same decisions. For example, will you rent a food truck or buy a used lonchera? Have you considered seeking a food truck manufacturer and completely customizing?
There’s so much to consider. We can’t possibly cover everything, but we can get you thinking about some of the basics. To help, we’ve enlisted a couple of our favorite truck owners from The Burnt Truck and Falasophy for their advice. Because who else is better to give out advice than people who know?
A Business Plan
In order to fully understand your business, it’s best to first write it down. Tell us about your idea. What are your short and long-term goals? Articulate how you intend to reach them. Explain your truck’s concept in as much detail as possible. This gives you something to refer to when questions arise. Your food truck business plan isn’t static; it can change over time. This is really a test. If you are serious enough about starting your own business, you will have a legitimate business plan in place. If you’re got that done, we can move on.
Creating a Menu
While your idea might be original, it may not be what diners are wanting. Before moving forward with plans, take a hard look at your market. What is your target demographic? Is it 23-39 year-old married males who work a blue collar job, or 24-36 year-old single women working in high rises? Determining these attributes will steer the creativity and price of your menu. Look at your competition and figure out where your idea fits in. How will you differentiate yourself from the rest? Once these questions are answered, you’ll have an easier time determining what you’ll need to outfit your truck.
Sourcing Food Truck Equipment and Supplies
According to Minh Pham of The Burnt Truck, “We always need products. We’ve been buying from Chefs’ Toys for years. We once tried an alternative vendor, and soon realized it is so much easier working with a reputable and knowledgeable company with great prices.” Typical equipment you’ll need on any given truck includes a refrigeration unit, fryer and flat top cooking space. If you’d like assistance sourcing supplies for your next truck, just ask the team at Chefs’ Toys. It’s what they do best.
Certification and Insurance
Costs that you probably don’t think about until you’re in the home stretch include certification from your county’s health department. Reaching out to them early in your process will help address any concerns now instead of later. Without their blessing, you’re off the road before you even get on it. In addition, hiring a food truck as a caterer is more common than ever. Current paperwork, including business license and insurance documents, are required to work these events.
While the focus should be on social media, never underestimate the power of a website. Have your menu up (without pricing, so you don’t have to worry about adjusting). Give contact email/phone information. Provide your schedule for the week. Share a little about yourselves and your idea. Think of it as a resume; you want to impress people who haven’t met you yet. Even the basics will help potential customers when they’re wanting to learn more about you.
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are all current forms of communication. Here’s the way we see them: Twitter is short and concise; send a blast about where you’ll be. Instagram is a photo album of still (and video) moments to catch your attention. Snapchat disappears within 24 hours, so feel free to show your truck in action. And Facebook is a little bit of everything. Hire someone to help you out, or focus on two methods to get started. This will build your brand and the personality that you want projected.
Planning for the Unexpected
You get a flat tire on your way to the next stop. The fryer breaks. Your generator decides to take the night off. Someone calls in sick. Anything can happen, and it will. You need to accept that things occur that you have no control over. However, you can think ahead and have contingency plans. Know your contacts for repairs, additional staffing and the nearest restaurant supply store. Have the numbers stored on your phone. Learn how to fix a tire. Be prepared to send out a blast on social media that you have to cancel. Just think “What if?” and have an idea as to how you would respond to it. This will keep you cool-headed when stuff happens.
Advice from Those Who Know
We reached out to our friends at Falasophy for some first-hand knowledge about the business. Here are a few thoughts from owner Rashad Moumneh.
- Talk to as many food truck owners as you can to understand the industry and make sure this is something for you.
- Select a commissary (where you’ll be parking your truck when it’s not on the road). Things to consider when selecting are proximity to where you plan to operate, price, how well it’s operated and organized, and available storage if your menu and business need it. They are also great resources for information.
- Invest in branding and design; it will pay off.
- Do your research and spend the time figuring out the type of equipment you need. Work with your builder and an equipment consultant to create a layout that works for your operation. Things to consider are refrigeration space, line flow, amount of power needed and selecting a generator that can easily handle it, any dedicated cooking equipment, any dedicated prepping equipment and where to store or install it.
- Unlike a restaurant, customers don’t come to the food truck; the food truck goes to customers. The owner/operator has to be constantly hunting for stops and events to book the truck. Make friends within the food truck community. They will lead you in the right direction, and eventually you will develop your own clients.
Thinking about the Future
Long-term goals should be something in the back of your mind. Do you want a fleet of trucks? Maybe a brick-and-mortar is in your future. Whatever the next goal is, take the time to learn more about the industry and consider your options.
Need help planning or supplying your Food Truck? Stop in at Chefs’ Toys or give us a ring. We’d be glad to help.