Food trucks are becoming increasingly popular into today’s food service marketplace. Major cities such as New York, Washington D.C. and San Francisco are experiencing a tidal wave of public following for gourmet food trucks. Entrepreneurs considering the mobile restaurant approach should build strong foundations in place before shifting the business into drive.
Create A Concept
Consider the kind of food are you going to sell. If what you are selling is a new or avant-garde approach to a familiar dish, then host several taste tests with a variety of judges to develop a menu that is marketable, tastes good and is affordable for you to carry and for the consumer to buy.
Visit Food Trucks
Find food trucks in or near your area. Focus on visiting food trucks that have food concepts that are similar to your menu. Visit these food trucks at different times of the day and on different days of the week to get a good idea of the business ebbs and flows.
Your start-up capital and daily operations will require a few key financial investments; most noticeably will be purchasing a food truck or a cart. Starting small is often a key word of advice from seasoned food truck professionals. Beginning with a small cart is an economically easier start-up option as it costs far less than purchasing a truck.
- Purchasing and retrofitting a truck can be a major expense. Some operators choose to buy a used step van as its initial cost is lower. If you choose this route, be sure to consider the additional costs of bringing the van's interior up to health code specifications as well as organizing the cooking space and tools needed.
- Carts are easier to store, but they also keep operations minimal as work space is limited. Consider how your equipment will receive power. You may need access to an electrical outlet to keep refrigeration or other electrical components running smoothly after hours.
- It is crucial to secure insurance for the truck or cart. All of your invested time and money can disappear in one unexpected moment. Keep your assets aligned with the right coverage for your mobile business.
- Applying for vendor licenses and health permits often have fees. Another added cost could include applying for license and permits in multiple cities.
- Gas and parking are two unique business expenses to food trucks and carts. Figure in the cost of fueling a large and predictably low gas-mileage vehicle into your monthly budget. Many parking areas require payment as well this includes parking meters and private lots.
Finding Your Customers
Learn about the demographics that will mainly consume your product. Find out where they are and go to them. Partner up with other local businesses that also attract your targeted audience such as, bars, theaters or office parks. Go to potential parking spots and scope out the following logistics:
- Amount of foot traffic
- Parking spaces and parking needs such as meters
Market Your Business
Use social media to inform customers of your presence in the area. Create a buzz around your menu’s concept and advertise times and locations for where your truck will be. Invite customers to follow you on Facebook, Twitter or any other form of Social Media that performs well for your demographic.
Know Your Permit Requirements
Educate yourself with the local vending, zoning and permit requirements.
- Be aware of regulations
- Know the parking laws
Operating a mobile food service business may look liberating, but the concept of bringing the restaurant to the customer requires a strategic approach. Create and stick with a business plan to keep finances in check. Develop a clear theme for your menu concept and streamline your inventory needs. Keep customers keen to your whereabouts and utilize the low to no-cost method of social network marketing. Work with solid market research tactics and get your food truck ready to roll into business.
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