How To Start A Food Truck – Beginners Guide


If you would have asked 10-years ago that where is the nearest food truck you probably had to get out of town, today the scene is absolutely different. The popularity of food trucks has exploded and now there are some areas famous for their food trucks.

The picture for most people even today is that how can a food truck business be a success, that just doesn’t sound like a success. On the contrary, you can definitely make a profitable business out of it if you know all how to run it properly, what equipment the food truck should include among other things.

If you’re wondering about how to start a food truck business, the cost of it, and the pros and cons compared to a regular restaurant, you should definitely read further.

What To Expect Cost-wise

Like any other business, it will cost money to get started and that is for sure. With food trucks tho, the prices vary like crazy and the average cost of starting a food truck is around $25.000 – $130.000. The price depends on many variables which we will go through shortly.

When a business startup cost is always an intimidating number to look at, you might feel better when you hear that the average food truck ears $275.000 $300.000 each year! The rewards will be generous to say the least, IF making it to success.

Food Truck Start-Up Cost

Below we have listed the basic cost that you will encounter.

  • Food Truck $20.000 – $100.000 usually somewhere in the middle.
  • Insurance $2000 $5000
  • Licenses And Permits – $1000 $2000
  • Logo And Wrap $1000 $5000
  • Register / POS (Point-Of-Sale System) $500 – $1000
  • Cooking Supplies ( Pots, Pans, Knife Set ETC) $1000 $3000
  • Uniforms $200 $1000
  • Paper/Plastic Items (Plates, Cutlery, Napkins) $200 $500
  • Website (If Wanted) Free – $5000
  • Advertising $500 – $5000
  • Repair/Unexpected Costs $1000 – $2000 (or the amount you feel comfortable with)

That is the usual startup costs price range about everything, there are of course personal preferences that you would like to add into the food truck but above are the necessary costs.

In addition to the startup cost, there are also on-going costs that need to be taken into consideration. Let us study further about those costs.

On-Going Costs

  • Commissary $500 $1500 /Month
  • Staff Paychecks $9 – $15 /Hour (Average)
  • Insurance $40 – $50 /Month
  • Fuel
  • Licenses And Permits
  • Ingredients & Beverages
  • Paper/Plastic Items (Plates, Cutlery, Napkins)

Food Truck’s on-going costs aren’t as intimidating when comparing to a normal restaurant’s, where the average rent costs are $5.000 /month + other costs.

These are the total cost you should expect. Besides money, there are more steps to it to get the ball running and we are going to take a closer look at them, so you can get a general idea of what to do next.

Next Steps

1. Research The Market

2. Choose Your Niche

3. Write A Business Plan

4. Get A Loan Promise ( Or Other Funding)

5. Get Permits And Licenses

When examining the above steps you will notice that you haven’t actually done anything irreversible yet. Make sure that these 5 steps are in order before going into the market for food trucks etc.

6. Purchase Your Food Truck

7. Buy Equipment, Supplies, And POS System

8. Get Your Social Media And Website Running / Invest In Advertising

These 8 Steps will help you get started and we are certain that if you are resourceful and take action, your business will be more than successful.

The Food Truck Handbook has been extremely helpful to other food truck businesses, take a look you might find it useful!

1. Research The Market

It’s essential to know what kind of food trucks are already in the market, which of them are performing the best and why. Start by finding out what kind of trucks are there in your area, and what are their niches. The idea isn’t to copy them but to see what is performing well, and how you can pop from the street picture even better.

Also, you can’t just park your food truck where ever you want, you will need to find out the locations where you can operate. Look for the busiest times as well when people are buying from the other trucks, so you can see the overall picture of what is working.

Food trucks aren’t the only businesses to examine, see what restaurants are trending and pulling in the most customers so you can see what is working in your area.

2. Choose A Niche

Niche, theme, concept, it goes with many names, is the essence of your business and needs to be chosen wisely. There are two things that need to take into consideration when selecting a niche, and it should be a mixture of both of them.

The first element to include in your niche is what is popular and what will remain popular years to come. After your market researching, it should be somewhat clear.

The second element and the cherry on the cake are your interests! Ask yourself what are you passionate about and interested in? The business needs to have YOU in it because you are unique and capable of doing great and amazing things. The worst thing to do is to blend in with the crowd.

This step is also where you come up with the name of the truck and the overall design. Try to be memorable, unique, and grab the attention with the name. However it doesn’t need to be overcomplicated and too specific, a good middle-ground is usually the best.

3. Write A Business Plan

If you are starting your first business and don’t know what a business plan is, take a deep breath. Writing a business plan isn’t as hard as it sounds. You will get into the details of how you are going to make your business work, estimated financial costs, and what are the business’s future goals. The Food Truck Handbook will teach everything you need to know about writing a business plan.

4. Get A Loan Promise ( Or Other Funding)

When you are done with your business plan, you will request funding (if needed) from different sources by showing them your business plan. If you have savings of your own then you might not want to get other means of funding, the choice is yours.

You can request funding from a variety of places, we have listed the most common ones below.

  • Bank
  • Crowdfunding
  • Investment Partners (Personal Investors, Friends, Family)
  • Other Financing Programs (Find Ones That Are Available In Your Country/Area)

5. Get Permits And Licenses

When you have funding in order, the last step before taking real action and going for the market to get your truck, equipment, and other needed items, is to get your licenses and permits up to date.

The most common licenses and permits that you need to have before operating are

  • Vehicle License
  • Business License
  • Employer Identification Number
  • Seller’s Permit
  • Food Handler’s Permit
  • Health Department Permit
  • Fire Certificates

You will need to check your local permits and licenses that need to be in order because they will be different in each area.

6. Purchase Your Food Truck

This is it, it’s the time you have been waiting for and the dream is about to come true. There are different methods you can take advantage of when choosing your food truck.

You need to choose whether you want a brand new or a used food truck and whether you want to own it completely or lease it. These steps will determine a lot of the costs you will have. Although you probably have chosen it when making your business plan.

Another thing is that we recommend buying only from food truck dealers or someone you trust because let’s face it, there are scammers out there especially when dealing with vehicles.

7. Buy Equipment, Supplies, And POS System

When you have your truck ready to be equipped you are almost finished. There are a variety of items you will need for your truck to operate with ease. The specific equipment and supplies depend a lot on the menu you are offering and the kind of food you are preparing.

In most cases, you will need some of the following equipment

  • Griddles, Ranges, Fryes
  • Microwave
  • Food Warmer
  • Panini Maker
  • Refrigerator And Freezer
  • Undercounter Refrigerator
  • Washing Station And Sink
  • Ventilation System
  • Sprinkles
  • Coffee Brewer
  • Below you will find the most common supplies for food trucks
  • Pans And Pots
  • Knives Or Knife Set
  • Utensils And Spatulas
  • Cutting Boards
  • Containers For Ingredients
  • Tin Plates
  • Disposable Plates And Cups
  • Disposable Cutlery
  • Napkins
  • Trays
  • Trash Bins And Bags
  • Cleaning Equipment
  • Mats
  • Uniforms And Aprons
  • Menu Boards
  • Cash Register
  • Portable Credit Card Reader

You will need most of the equipment and supplies from this list but not necessarily all, depending on your menu!

We also recommend a POS System so you can accept credit card payments, not only cash. There are some food truckers that take only cash but in the modern world, there are a lot of people that aren’t holding any cash, therefore not selecting a POS System will bring you fewer customers. We highly recommend that you choose one.

8. Get Your Social Media And Website Running / Invest In Advertising

Now you are ready for business and all you need to do is let people know what you have to offer, and the business is booming. Social media is an extremely powerful tool in today’s modern world and you should at least make an Instagram page. Facebook and Twitter are powerful as well for marketing and business accounts.

If you are handy with building a website or know someone that can do it you can get one nearly at no cost. However, if you are serious about your business it might be a good idea to hire a professional website builder to get the word out about your business. The website will probably get your invested funds back multiple times over.

And last but certainly not least you should invest in advertising, at least in the beginning so you can really get the word out and people familiarized with your business. The amount that is smart to invest in advertising depends on the location and population that are in your area.

Conclusion

All things considered, if you remain resourceful and won’t give up, we are certain that your business will be more than successful and by following the steps above you are heading in the right direction.

Lastly, hundreds of successful food truck business owners have started off with The Food Truck Handbook which will go through everything from business plant to advertising and everything between. We recommend this book or other in-depth how-to information to ensure that everything will go smoothly and therefore you could minimize the mistakes and losses through the journey.

Omar Abdalla

I’m the owner of JRS and while I love working in a busy restaurant, I also enjoy more peaceful and relaxed cookouts at home.

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