Food trucks seem to be a good business because they are comparatively low-investment and low-risk. And if the business doesn’t succeed in one location, it can always move and try its luck in another.
However, running a food truck business is not as simple and easy as it may look at first. Getting permits to park and knowing where can be very tricky. Like any other food business, you need to plan it carefully. You need to make a good market study to find out what will click with your target customers. And, most of all, you have to be prepared to work very hard.
Here, experienced food truck entrepreneurs share the insights and lessons they learned from years in the business:
Prepare for the unexpected
Always prepare for the unexpected; truck breaking down, selling out too soon, preparing too much. The best advice I can give is just like any other business you venture into, “Do your homework and write a solid business plan!” There are so many trucks that rolled out that didn’t do the proper R&D, financial projections, break-even and capital requirements. Without this essential piece you are setting yourself up to fail.
– Juan, Miho Gastrotruck
Consider legal permits
I wish I would have known what all went into the permitting process and how involved it is so that I could have been more prepared and ahead of the game.
– Bollywood Zing
Study what customers want
One thing thing I wish I knew, I still do not know. What EXACTLY do my customers want? I have come to realize that customers themselves hardly know what they want. I can take the advice a customer gives, like stocking a different item, just to have that same customer never purchase the item once I have it for sale. Go figure.
– Felix, Gillian’s Italian Ice
Food truck as advertising vehicle
The truth is, my food truck serves more as an advertising vehicle for other revenue generating channels, such as catering, food delivery and cooking classes. Though we do make money with the food truck at special events, the daily grind is just not that profitable. Luckily I have been able to diversify with various revenue streams to make my company viable financially.
– Leah from Baby Cakes Truck
Time away from the truck
A few months into starting the truck, I realized that in order for us to grow, I needed to remove myself from the truck to have time for answering emails, booking stops, developing new menus, promotion and marketing, etc. But with doing that, I had to pay about three people to replace me, and I noticed that the quality of product and service dropped. For instance, sometime menu items would be served that were under my standards or we would open our doors for service later than we had on our schedule.
– Stephanie, Seabirds Truck
Need to network
We have learned that this industry relies on the cooperation of other food truck owners, local businesses and suppliers. There is more to the back end of the business which we didn’t realize before starting it. There is networking, finding reliable suppliers and food preparation, lots of food preparation. Basically owning a food truck is your life.
– Kenneth, Devilicious Food Truck
Long, long hours
I wish I would have known that it’s an endless cycle of long, long hours day in and day out. There are tiny margins and way too many people to deal with. And what I’ve found in this industry is that the most successful truck operators are the ones who 1) have a passion for food and 2) love people and interacting with them daily.
– Nick, Slider House Burger Company
Photo: From Shawarma Bros Facebook page