Although food trucks really started in the 1800s – the lunchwagon was a popular version back then – they’ve become more and more common. Rather than serving multiple different types of food, today’s food trucks often have a single specialty. They’ll serve high-end French fries; one or two types of tacos, or even Polish pierogis. Food trucks have an interesting history that turned into a gourmet trend over the last few years. It shows no signs of stopping, making them an interesting niche industry to get into, especially if you love to cook. Before you start your food truck business, you’ll need to spend some time planning everything out properly. This is important since the most successful businesses are well-organized. Food trucks are no exception!
Planning Your Food Truck Business
After deciding to start your own food truck, the first step involves purchasing the truck itself. These trucks are specially made, as they consist of several different parts. Obviously, there’s the truck section, which has two front seats (one of which is the driver’s seat), a windshield, an engine, and all of the necessities to make the truck move from one place to another. Then there’s the back section. This is where the grill and cooking implements are located. These trucks usually have a sliding counter space for serving customers, as well as a cash register or some sort of payment system for collecting money. Since these trucks are customized, you often have to buy a new one, although you might get lucky and find a used food truck that fits your needs. After you have the truck in hand (or technically, in your garage), you next need to find your food niche. Since food trucks have a limited amount of space, you won’t be able to serve a full menu. Instead, you’ll have to narrow that down to two or three options, most of which will be related to each other. What type of food do you want to serve? If it’s gourmet hamburgers and cheeseburgers, you’ll need a side dish. You can also serve up high-end sandwiches, or a type of ethnic food, such as the previously mentioned pierogis. Since your options (dish-wise) are limited, you can focus on only using high-end ingredients and making your food taste fantastic. Once you’ve decided on your food niche, you’ll need to come up with a business name. This can consist of some version of your name followed by the type of food you’re making, such as “Jim’s Cheeseburgers!” or it could be a play on words based on one or more of your ingredients. You want something that’s short and catchy, yet at the same time, descriptive.
Taking the Next Steps
The next steps to starting a successful food truck business involve licensing. There are two different types of licenses. The first is obviously the one for the truck itself. You’ll need to get license plates for it and have properly registered. Depending on the size of the truck, you may need to get a commercial driver’s license, which is quite different from the standard variety and requires some driving classes and exams. You’ll also need a business license. This is done through your state, and the amount of paperwork involved varies quite a bit. Once it’s completed though, you’ll have a business tax identification number and everything else that’s required. After all of the official paperwork is completed, you’ll be ready to make another big decision – do you want to run the truck yourself or hire a dedicated chef? There are no main requirements either way. It all depends on your cooking abilities. If you feel that you’re qualified to run a food truck and cook meals quickly on demand, then go for it. However, if your skills are lacking, you might find it easier to hire a professional. There’s a third option here as well – you might be the professional. There are plenty of culinary schools located throughout the U.S., and attending one, even just for basic cooking courses, can give you the skills that you need to succeed. Lastly, there are health inspections. There’s no way around them. An inspector will have to examine your food truck to ensure that you’re adhering to the correct protocols. The interior of your truck will need to be properly cleaned, your appliances need to be in good working condition, and you’ll need to adhere to all other conditions. Only then will you be allowed to operate.
Publicizing Your Food Truck
Once the big decisions are made, it’s time to start marketing your food truck. There are three main things that can help you with this – your logo, website, and advertising. Your logo needs to reflect the type of food that you’re making and should have your business’ name on it in a creative way. You can also include small details, such as images of your food or anything else that will help you stand out. When designing it, you need to keep in mind that your logo will go on your business cards and your website, and will be used in all of your advertising. It needs to be catchy and creative, yet make it clear that you’re running a good truck. All of your advertising efforts – from your website to your social media accounts – will help you find customers. Or rather, it will help your customers find you since you’re mobile. Joining in on local events will also open your business up to new clientele. Look for local festivals and events that are food truck friendly and then sign up.
As you can see, running a food truck business requires careful planning. There are state and local requirements that must be met, and decisions to carefully weigh. But above all else, your food needs to be good. Without that, you won’t have repeat customers. Food trucks rely on good reviews and word of mouth, as well as well-placed advertising, to spread the word about their business. You need to keep your customers happy!