Have you been thinking about changing your career entirely, or are you trying to start a business of your own? Are you a talented cook with recipes you want to share and a head for business? All of these qualities could make you majorly successful as a food truck owner.
If you’ve never seen a food truck, or know what it is, then we feel a little bad for you but are happy to share the knowledge of America’s most interesting new food scene. It’s the mobile future of foodservice that we’ve been waiting for and have now received along with the utmost quality of food. Nowadays, we’re changing how we run businesses in addition to the way we eat.
If you’ve always wanted to start your own business, are a major foodie, and are not sure that the brick and mortar restaurant owning model is for you, then rest assured that there are other options if you want to serve customers delicious food and take your cooking skills to the next level. It might seem like a far-off dream, but starting a food truck business could be the logical next step in your career.
Food carts are extremely popular nowadays, with millennials choosing fast-casual restaurants to dine at as opposed to sit-down restaurants or even fast-food. Food carts started as mostly a west coast business endeavor, and now have pods all over the country (weather permitting). Food trucks are a way of the future, and while there can be quite steep competition, there are also many ways in which you can set your small business apart as well.
If you’re looking to start up the second phase of your career, go out on your own in a big way, serve delicious and innovative food to your community, and do this all well, then you'll probably need some help in getting there and a majorly good plan to start. Starting a small business is no small feat, and you’ll want to be prepared for what’s to come.
Once you have a solid plan and a solid menu, then you’ll be ready to make a name for yourself in the food truck world. And once you do, you’ll have people lining up to try your food.
What’s Your Plan?
Any good business starts with a good business plan. What’s yours? If you’ve never had to create one before, and creating a business plan for a food truck will be a little different than drafting one for a stand-alone restaurant, then you might want to take some suggestions from another professional in the field, and you can always consult the trusty internet as a resource.
What’s Your Vision?
Before we get to the all-out plan associated with the development, menu, and running of your food truck, you could do with defining what your vision is in addition to your plan. Most of us have a dream or goal for our life, and this food truck should be no different. Think about your biggest dreams, and figure out how to make them a reality, but as realistically as possible.
In addition to your actual practical plan, you should be thinking about your idealistic vision. What kind of food do you want to serve the most? How do you want your customers to feel after they eat your food? And what do you want to be associated with your brand?
For example, you could want to serve healthy, farm-to-table dishes, you could want to serve the greasiest and most authentic fish and chips dish in the Pacific Northwest, you might even want to bake the tastiest red velvet cupcakes for miles around. Whatever your aim, make sure that you’re thinking about the best-case scenario and what a business like this would mean to you and your community.
Research the Food aka the Competition
Before you’ve drawn up your business plan in its entirety, you’ll want to make sure that you have a grip on the competition around you. In some areas of the U.S., there are tons of “pods” of food trucks, meaning that there are areas designated entirely to them. While this is exciting in that there is definitely space for your food truck to be, it also means that there is a ton of competition that you and your food truck will have to face.
If you’re in an area where food trucks are scarcer, that might be a seemingly easy endeavor. However, you may struggle with finding a customer base if you’re out on your own. You’ll also want to be close to a major pedestrian throughway to get your potential customer’s attention. You’ll also need the marketing skills needed to make sure that your food truck stays relevant in the food scene.
One great way to see what you're up against is to go to the most popular pod or most popular food truck and see what they are serving and gage why they might be popular. It’s likely a combination of things: branding, marketing, service, and food quality.
Not only should you research your stiffest competition, but also just other food trucks that you like. What have you liked eating or experiencing as a customer? What keeps you coming back? These are things you want to think about when it comes to your customers. What will keep them coming back, and just as importantly, what will have them recommending your truck?
Don’t Forget About Your Concept?
Once you finally start to draft your plan, you’ll want to think of a logical and exciting concept for your business. What food are you interested in serving? How will what you serve to be different than what the competition is serving? How will your food be interesting, as well as tasty? How will you be able to market it and to whom?
It helps that you have a story behind your concept. Why did you start this food truck, and how was it a personal project for you? There are so many ways in which you can go about this, but try to be authentic as possible, your customers will appreciate it.
Make sure that you’re sure about what kind of cuisine you’re choosing. When you’re starting, it’s probably best to choose quality over quantity. You will want to have an awesome menu to start with before branching out. You’ll also want to make sure that the food can be made to order without taking a very long time.
What’s Your Name?
Another important aspect of the food truck world and its branding is in the name of the food truck. This is the primary way in which customers will be able to find you on the internet or otherwise.
Make sure that your food truck’s name is something that is recognizable, quick, and representative of your food and brand. You’ll also want to name your food truck something memorable so people will come back to it when they’re hungry and in the area.
Once you figure out a name, you can better understand what the best marketing techniques will be for your food truck in the future.
You’ll Need a Logo
Something that is almost as important as the name in the branding of your food truck is the logo associated with it. Your logo can be playful and fun, but it can also be a great representation of your brand. This is also something that will help you out if you get into printing merchandise like shirts, stickers, mugs, and the like (which you definitely should).
All the Serious Stuff - Licenses, Registration, and Permits
One thing that you will need above all are all the things you need to actually run a business. For example, you’ll need to decide if you want to outright buy a truck or start by renting a commercial mobile kitchen. You’ll want to look into both options to identify affordability.
When you’re researching your competition’s food and branding, you’ll also want to look into how much space is available in a pod, or if you need to set up your food truck somewhere else that’s legal. Researching legal issues will save you a ton of time and money in the long run.
You’ll also want to make sure that you have a business license and registration. This will cost you some money and take some time to establish, so don’t think that you can start up your food truck in the matter of a few months. Starting a business takes time and careful planning.
Some of the most successful people in business know how to draw the line between fun and business. Working too hard or having too much fun are the extremes you don’t want in your life, but make sure that the food truck is just as much your passion as your business. That passion will show through to your customers, in your food, and will keep people coming back.