Starting a Food Truck? Follow These 7 Tips
Food trucks have quickly grown in popularity in recent years. Now, you can order mobile meals practically anywhere, from county fairs to weddings. If they’re in the right place at the right time, these movable kitchens can turn a serious profit.
Perhaps you’ve even thought about starting a food truck yourself. If so, you’re likely aware of the benefits of owning such a vehicle, but how familiar are you with the potential hang-ups. Prepare for potential pitfalls and design the most successful business with these essential tips.
1. Create a Business Plan
Like any other business, your food truck needs a written plan that summarizes, analyzes and projects its future success as a small business. This plan will put your concepts on paper so you have something solid to show investors and loan officers.
Having a plan for profitability will also help you start off on the right foot and understand how long it might take to actually turn a profit. How do you envision your food truck to start, run and grow? Include the details in your business plan so you can reference them and track your progress when you finally put the pedal to the metal.
2. Find Funding
Food trucks can cost a few thousand to a few hundred thousand dollars depending on a myriad of factors. Regardless, most people don’t have immediate access to the kind of capital it takes to purchase the truck and start a business simultaneously. Thus, financing your truck will be an essential step.
Some sellers will loan you to purchase the truck while others might require you take out a personal loan. The latter option is a good one if you have a decent credit score. However, you might also use private investors, microloans and business credit cards to fund your endeavor.
3. Separate Personal and Professional Finances
Regardless of startup costs, it’s a good idea to separate your personal and professional finances to improve organization, savings and money management skills. Track your saving and spending with an app like Mint or Freshbooks. If your business plan includes social media marketing, an app like Buffer might help, too. This one streamlines your strategy to schedule campaigns, drive engagement and easily build your brand from the ground up.
Open a business bank account to physically separate your cash, too. This account will hold business-related funds which you can use to reinvest in your success. They’ll also help pay permitting, licensing and other necessary fees.
4. Design or Buy an Efficient Truck
Of course, you could simply purchase a new or used food truck. This option is easiest, especially if you’re handy with tools and can perform minor repairs. However, if you have the skills and funds to design and build a truck from the ground up, there’s little stopping you from going for it.
Design the interior based on efficiency. Where will you prepare food? Shouldn’t the trash bin and sink be nearby? Will you stock the food on shelves behind you? On which side will you serve customers? Visualizing your workflow will help you create a more productive space so you can dish up more food in less time and boost your bottom line.
5. Research Rules and Regulations
You’re serving food on wheels, which means health, zoning and vehicle requirements all come into play when you own a food truck. On top of getting a commercial driver’s license, you may also have to meet emissions and overnight parking regulations. Health regulations will also determine what kind of equipment your truck must have, which permits you and your employees need and whether you need a licensed commercial kitchen.
Remember to research rules and regulations before you start selling food. Otherwise, you could run into serious trouble with the law — in more ways than one.
6. Invest in Bold Marketing
Because your food truck won’t have a permanent address, it’s difficult to put up traditional ads to promote your business. Billboards and business cards won’t cut it. That’s why your business plan should include bold marketing strategies that make your truck central to your overall success.
Invest in a bold menu board that’s legible, appealing and visually engaging. Make an eye-catching logo and plaster over the back and sides. Create a website that showcases your food and places you frequently park. Social media accounts are a great place to start because they feature live sharing and direct customer engagement.
7. Get a Mobile POS System
You can run your food truck on a paper ticket system and cash drawer, but automating the transaction process will make your life a whole lot easier. Manage your bookkeeping digitally with point-of-service systems designed specifically for mobile vendors.
Additionally, consider using a mobile POS system so you can accept credit and debit cards directly from your truck. Accommodate all kinds of customers, regardless of payment method with systems like Square, SpotOn, Toast and TouchBistro. While they do charge fees, you’ll quickly make back the difference if you’re busy and serve plenty of customers.
Committing to Starting a Food Truck
Starting a food truck isn’t for the faint of heart. If you do commit to the process, you’re bound to face plenty of challenges along the way. Whether it be local competition, long hours or constantly changing zoning laws, the business can take its toll on your spirit and your success. However, if you’re ready to put in the hard work and commit to long-term growth, you’re sure to experience mobility, flexibility and myriad other benefits that come with owning a food truck.
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