This article is part of our Food Cart Business Startup Guide—a curated list of articles to help you plan, start, and grow your food cart business!
The rise of the American food truck began in New York and Los Angeles in 2008. New York’s Rickshaw Dumpling Bar and Los Angeles’ Kogi BBQ brought considerable media attention to the purveyors of mobile dining. Since then, other food truck restauranteurs have followed suit, continuing to change the way people dine out. They’re also revolutionizing the food truck industry in the process.
Experts say that owning a food truck business is tougher than owning a restaurant. Many food trucks fail because the odds are against them: inclement weather, competition with other trucks for space, and startup fees are just a few road blocks for a new food truck.
Listed below are some tips for starting a food truck business. The bottom line is that a food truck owner must evolve with their customers. As technology changes, so must the food truck.
Buy Used, or Lease
Since the failure rate of food trucks is so high, many owners end up selling their trucks online for considerably less than what they purchased it for. And if you don’t want to commit to buying a truck, try leasing one.
Keep in mind that some food truck owners must also rent a kitchen space, in addition to their truck, in order to prep food. Gourmet food trucks usually have enough space to cook food on the spot, but most food trucks prepare their food elsewhere. You might be able to use your home kitchen in the first year of business, but as your business grows, so will your need for prep space.
Find Your Market
Know what type of food you’re going to serve; you have to find a food niche. New American menus, like that of Chili’s and TGI Fridays, don’t work for food trucks. A limited menu is actually advantageous for food truck owners.
Find something that a specific group of people are missing—it might be Vietnamese bánh mi sandwiches or tacos. The best way to find a niche market is to do taste tests and surveys with people from your city. This will help you find a demand and what types of food really excite people in your area.
Use Social Media
Social media is the absolute key in the success of any food truck. For people who don’t know much about food trucks, it might be difficult to approach a truck for the first time. Make your new customers feel welcome.
You also have to let your customers know where you are when you’re on the road. Use Twitter and Facebook to promote specials and food discounts. Always respond to any feedback you receive—good or bad.
Your local customers will feel closer to you and your brand when they’re connected with you on social media.
Get a Following
After you’ve found your niche market and have connected with them through social media, you should work on getting a substantial local following. Stick to a specific intersection or public area where people will expect you to be.
Since food trucks are so popular now, many will group together in a large public area downtown. This is ideal for customers who might not follow a food truck through social media, but know that it’s there for them when they are craving a certain dish.
Remember: It’s a Business
Even though your business is mobile, you still must treat it like a business. You must consider the permits and licenses that come with opening a business. Vendor permits, business licenses, and insurance are just a few mandatory prerequisites.