Over the last two decades, food trucks have becoming an increasingly popular option for many culinary arts graduates looking to start their own business. In late 2012, Foodbeast estimated there were 3 million-plus trucks operating in the U.S. These roaming restaurants offer chefs all sorts of benefits, from the ability to stay mobile and target big events to allowing people to work in the city of their choosing. But starting your own food truck is more than buying a truck, whipping up sliders and hitting the open road.
“There are over 3 million food trucks operating in the U.S.”
Follow these four handy tips for running a food truck and you’ll be on the road to success in no time:
1. Consider the costs
As with opening any dining establishment, there are certain costs to getting your food truck up and running. Mobile-Cuisine explained that your budget should include a number of one-time and recurrent costs. In the former category, purchasing the truck, which can run you anywhere from $5,000 to $125,000. There are also expenses like purchasing a generator, painting and designing a wrap for the truck and regular vehicle inspection and maintenance. Your recurrent costs are not only related to food – like ingredients and supplies – but also things like fuel, commissary rent – paying money to use a special kitchen for food prep – and credit card processing equipment. It’s important to know just how much money you’ll need before getting behind the wheel.
2. Pay heed to permits
Because food trucks are considered both a vehicle and a restaurant, there are a slew of permits required to run the business. Jordan Rojo is the owner of Mustache Mike’s, which sells Italian ice all across San Francisco. Speaking with FoodTruckr.com, he said that his biggest regret was not knowing just how many permits he’d need before opening up shop. His trucks require a California seller’s permit, as well as one from the county health department, a peddler’s license from the city, a food handler’s card and certification from Housing & Community Development. Each state’s permits vary, so do your research beforehand to ensure your truck is up to code.
3. Consider the location
Finding that perfect spot can make or break your food truck. Restaurant Engine revealed that there a few places that are ideal for almost any food truck. Street access is the most obvious choice, as there is plenty of foot traffic. Just be sure you’ve parked in an area that is tailored to your audience; if you sell ice cream, for instance, a huge park on a summer’s day might be ideal. Some cities even have designated food truck pavilions. These can be great places with readily accessible amenities, but you open yourself up to nearby competition. Other popular choices include college campuses, bars and clubs, and farmer’s markets. However, as Investopedia pointed out, you must be aware of other legal limitations, like that you can’t stop within a set minimum distance of schools or the length of time you can stay in one spot.
“Food trucks must use social media to help spread the word.”
4. Ponder your social media presence
According to celebrated Austin food truck The Peached Tortilla, the most successful chefs know how to market their trucks. Because food trucks work similarly to brick-and-mortar restaurants, you can apply many of the same marketing techniques. Personal relationships, professional groups and setting up reviews and interviews with local media are all great ways to get your name out there. However, as the Peached Tortilla added, most food trucks rely on social media to help spread the word. Writing for The Muse, Kianta Key, who owns a food truck in Tallahassee, offered up a few effective social media strategies. The most effective, she argued, is location-based social media. For instance, by checking in on FourSquare and linking it to the company Facebook, followers can be alerted when the truck’s nearby. Aside from that, it’s important to continually converse and engage with followers and use the Web to tell your story.