Owners Share Secrets to Starting a Food Truck Business
By Chris in Blog
It’s always helpful to hear tips and tricks from people who are already in the food truck business. Here is great article from Roaming Hunger – 61 Owners Share Secrets to Starting a Food Truck Business. I have only taken snippets from the article and posted below, please follow the link for the full article.
“HOW TO PURCHASE THE BEST FOOD TRUCK
Your business starts and ends with the food truck itself. When it’s on the road and working great, you’re making money. When it’s in the shop for repairs or the generator gives out on you, you’re losing money. Consider the wise advice from the owners below on how to set yourself up for success from the get-go.
Ashley from Not As Famous Cookie Company
Get a truck that meets all of your needs. Research equipment and power needs to avoid taking losses.
Ken from Kebab Food Truck
Get the right size food truck. My current truck has a 15′ cargo area. I would never have another one less than 18′ and I’d prefer 20′ or 22′. And I’d find a wider body than my current 80″.
Craig from Johnny Doughnuts
Our food truck was built 500 miles away, which made it difficult to manage [the build] daily. That is the biggest lesson we learned. Build in a hefty travel budget or find a local builder.
Dan from OMG Cheesecakery!
Although our food truck has a very nostalgic look (it’s a 1972 Cortez Motorhome), because of its age it comes with maintenance problems that can prevent the entire business from moving. We probably would have been better with a trailer rather than a truck.
Andrew from Em’s Ice Cream
We actually started with ice cream carts. They were much less expensive initially and allowed us to test our concept before making the larger investment into a truck.
WHAT TO DO BEFORE HITTING THE STREETS
Getting your food truck business started is one thing, surviving and growing is a whole other ball game. Whether it’s finding locations or making it in a small community, planning and research before you hit the road can make a huge difference. The owners below give some incredible insights into what to think about and do before starting your business.
Steve from Braizen Food Truck
Research the city you want to start in. We started in Calgary. The city offers little to no incentives to small business in general, and now with over 80 trucks in a small space with no parking it’s counterproductive. We’ve turned our focus to catering.
From Linkz Express
Do research on food trucks in your state. The whole food truck movement hasn’t been in Georgia very long, so being in the first stages has been difficult.
Sean from It’s Bao Time
It is a common mistake to try and learn the ropes by trial and error. Although you can’t be afraid to make mistakes, and mistakes will definitely happen, it is well worth it to nail down some fundamental processes that will eventually form the way you operate.
Take your time to learn your customers, your own weak points, and learn your strengths as well. There is always time for innovation, but if you rush into serving food, you might alienate initial customers and never get repeat business.
CREATING THE BEST MENU FOR YOUR FOOD TRUCK
The menu is often the most important aspect to a food truck owner starting out in the industry. After all, it is the passion for food that drives them to start a business in the first place. It is also a very personal thing for any chef to share with the world.
As outlined in the advice below, creating a menu is a balancing act between complexity and simplicity, between making amazing food and making food people will eat and share. A food truck is a great way to build a business and feed your fans, but it’s not always the best way to share exotic or hard to make foods.
Alexa from Meat on the Street
Keep it simple. In every aspect, keep it simple. You don’t need all the fancy bells and whistles. If your food is good, people will talk, they will eat, and word will spread.
Dan from Cool Beans
I would have had a focus group answer some questions to help us decide on menu ideas, and also on the truck’s exterior design.
Amber from Engine 1 Pizza
Find a popular food that food trucks don’t normally do.
Shayne from Grilled Cheese Bandits
Made to order food takes significantly more time to produce. I believe we could produce a lot more orders if we weren’t making each order at the time of ordering. However, this does personalize each meal more.
Alli and Jo from East Coast Joe’s Truck
One of the biggest things we learned was not to focus on one exotic menu item. When we started East Coast Joe’s, we wanted to focus strictly on lobster rolls. When the price of lobster went through the roof (hitting all-time highs), we had to adapt and change up our menu.
Make sure when serving high-priced or exotic commodities that you offer supplemental items to help balance your food cost. We featured our spin on an egg salad sandwich, and it became one of our biggest sellers.
FUNDING TIPS TO THRIVE IN THE FOOD TRUCK BUSINESS
While food trucks can be a low investment opportunity compared to brick and mortar restaurants, funding can be an issue for anyone who doesn’t plan accordingly. When it comes to starting your food truck business, cash is king.
Richard from Daddy’s Bonetown Burgers Truck
I probably would want more capital to begin with. We started on a shoestring budget and had nothing saved.
Herbert from Guacamoli Co.
I would have liked to have started my business with a lot more capital. I started with very little money and built our company from the ground up. It was a grind. Being undercapitalized is not a position you want to be in, but it is a reality for most people in any business and it contributes to many businesses failing.
Cristina from Street Foods Co.
Have a fat cash reserve to allow for any contingencies. There are so many uncertainties with a food truck, like breakdowns, repairs, weather, fees and permits.
UNDERSTANDING PERMITS AND REGULATIONS
The legal side of the food truck business is often out of the owner’s control and can be a great source of stress. Make sure you do the proper research on the city and state level. Although only two trucks that talked to us mentioned permits and regulations outright, we’ve worked with many food trucks that had to figure out how to overcome unfriendly mobile food regulations. Check out our article called “Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting A Food Truck”, where Mustache Pretzel owner Greg Golden goes into more detail about this.
From Mama’s Heros
NYC health dept food permits are done on a horrible system and it’s disgusting how much is charged to be able to get to work unlike other states that are more welcoming towards food trucks.
Jorge from Arepas House
Learn about all the regulations from the county and the fire department in order to get a food truck that’s well equipped with what you need to meet codes.
INVEST IN MARKETING
Most food truck owners believe that if the food is good, the marketing will take care of itself. While this may work sometimes, it’s not something you want to depend on when getting your business off the ground. Learn about and invest in marketing so you can jumpstart your business from the start. Just make sure your menu, staff, and kitchen are ready to handle the customers.
Eric from Not Just Q
I would have spent more money in marketing to get started. We had a slow start, which almost broke us.
Marc from Ninjas with Appetite
I would push social media harder.
HIRE GREAT EMPLOYEES
The people you work with can make all the difference. In the case of succeeding in the food truck industry, finding reliable and experienced employees will be a huge advantage. Take the time to build a team that will be passionate about building your business.
Calvin from Paddy Wagon Sliders
If I could start over. I wouldn’t have hired my close friends to work for me as it was hard to separate friendship and business.
Suzy from Stripchezze
Do not hire family. They take advantage of you.
Sean from It’s Bao Time
If I started again today, I would take the time and really find quality help. It makes a world of difference if you have a team that can be a foundation to build upon and truly grow the business with.
THIS IS A BUSINESS: EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
Believe it or not some owners are told that starting a food truck business is not very hard. In our experience that is a great mindset if you want to be out of business in less than a year. If you’re serious about it, you’ve got to roll with the punches and keep solving the problems that inevitably come up.
Sharndell from Cupcake and a Smile
I wish I knew to plan for the worst, like situations that are not controllable. For example, people don’t tend to come out in Houston, TX when it is raining and 90+ degrees. Today, we offer a car service or make pre-orders to ensure that we sell our product when it’s hot. People love excellent customer service, and what better way to satisfy a customer than to deliver to them directly?
Christine from Toum Food Truck
The food truck industry is not as easy as it looks. It’s very cut throat and you need to constantly roll with the punches. You’ll make a lot of sacrifices just to keep afloat.
Pat from Empanadas Aqui
Don’t stress about getting lunches and events on the calendar, they will find you.
AT THE END OF THE DAY, BELIEVE IN YOURSELF
To start a food truck you have to be a doer. Anyone who overthinks every single decision will get lost in all the meaningless details. As a small business owner, you have to plan, execute, and adjust. And no matter what, you have to believe in what you are doing.
Dennis from Big D’s Grub Truck
Go for your dreams, go big but do it right. Being your own boss is priceless. It’s also a lot of work!
Gilbert Villa from G’s Taco Spot On Wheels
Believe in yourself and your concept. Believe that although there are many food trucks in the area, there is only one you. Which means that the quality of your food, your customer service, and presentation is what separates you from the rest. Understand that your concept is truly up to you. There are no right or wrong ways to what you do.”