How To Start A Food Truck Business – Turn Your Passion Into Business
The actual ‘how’ of how to start a food truck business might seem fairly easy.
You can start it out of an RV, a customized truck, or another commercial vehicle of your choice.
However, a food truck business is easy to start, but difficult to master. Its accessibility is its biggest strength and disadvantage.
You must learn not only how to start a food truck business, but also how to make it unique and successful.
Additionally, there are also a few laws and regulations that every food truck vendor must adhere to.
Here are a few things you can do to start a successful food truck.
1. Choose Unique Operating Hours
The mobility a food truck gives you is unparalleled. With that being said, like with every business you need to choose an operating hour range/ time in the day that you must adhere to. Why?
- They let regulars of a certain area know when to come to your food truck.
- They allow you to schedule visits to different parts of town more efficiently.
- They let you work when competitors don’t.
For example, a college town might require a unique time setup, as compared to a city.
Late night studying and socializing might require a food truck vendor to burn the midnight oil, rather than be the early bird.
2. Be Social
Food trucks let the customers directly talk to the ‘restaurateur’.
- Unlike at a sit-down restaurant, you’re often waiting for food and eating right next to the vendor.
- Unlike at a convenience store, you can stick around till your food is over and not just leave after you’re given what you want.
A food truck requires the vendor to be social. This is both a service and a gift. Conversing and forming bonds with your customers will create loyalists out of them.
You can learn how to start a food truck, but in order to run it successfully being social is a must.
3. Take Advantage Of Social Media
Not the first thought that comes to mind when one wonders how to start a food truck. However, social media can prove extremely beneficial if:
- You create a brand voice for yourself.
- Operate in a small area with loyal customers.
- Provide updates to your customers.
For example, Ken Baumgarten, who owns a hot dog food truck in State College, PA, takes advantage of Twitter by letting his customers know when he’s open for business.
Additionally, a brand voice isn’t only limited to bigger brands.
Posting your sense of humor, topics of interest to your customers, among other things can help build a loyal following for your food truck.
Starting An Online Business? Build It On .Online!
4. Keep It Simple, Silly
The KISS principle can help plenty of businesses and ventures. None more so than when you’re learning about how to start a food truck.
The unique selling point of a food truck is that it is simple, fast, and friendly. Therefore, your menu must also reflect the following things:
- A few, good food items
- Food items that can be prepared quickly and in mass
- The choice of 1 or 2 add-ons at best
- 1-2 condiments/ sauces, if any
- 2-3 beverage options
These numbers can change based on what your definition of simple is.
But, keeping things as minimalistic as possible will not only prevent any surprise orders that take time but will also allow you to save on costs.
Buying 3 things in bulk, rather than 6 things in fewer quantities will let you use a certain amount of economies of scale.
5. Choose An Appropriate Ride
You can’t know how to start a food truck, without eventually getting a food truck. There are a variety of commercial vehicles to choose from.
- However, a vehicle too large for your needs can prove to be overkill and expensive.
- Something too small might not fit your needs, or at worst be considered a fire hazard.
While the choice is up to you, here’s a tip. Why not cook remotely and sell at the food truck?
Stocking up once a day, or a few times throughout can help you save food truck costs while giving you the space to cook.
For that to be successful, these things need to happen:
- Appropriate inventory/ stock predictions
- Whether the cost to deliver is more expensive than actually cooking in the food truck.
- Whether separate food laws are being followed in the kitchen (especially if it is a home kitchen).
6. Be Mobile, Or Don’t
Choose between being mobile or not and market that. You can either be the food truck vendor who’s found at a particular spot at a particular time or be the vendor who’s always seen traveling.
Given the personal nature of the food truck, it is easy to form a cult following with a few dedicated customers. But that cannot happen if you’re inconsistent. Stick to a strategy.
Don’t not show up and don’t suddenly change how you operate. That can throw some of your customers off, which might prove costly.
7. Educate Yourself On Licenses And State & Federal Laws
You can’t know how to start a food truck, without learning about how to prevent it from shutting down.
Food trucks are subject to a variety of state regulations, designed specifically for them.
While safety and hygiene may seem obvious, how different states interpret them is unique from state to state. Look them up and make sure everything you do is up to the mark.
Being slapped a sudden closure notice is never nice, and is especially bad for food vendors.
While the romance of a mobile food truck adventure might sound fantastic on paper, there are realistic rent laws that your food truck may have to adhere to.
This can depend from state to state. If you’re in luck, you can simply rent out a parking space and start your business.
But to know where your state stands with its approach to food trucks and renting spaces, look them up.
True for every business, this applies to food trucks as well. You can’t simply start a food truck. You need a few licenses in order to even begin your food truck journey.
This includes licenses such as a business license, to licenses that are unique to food establishments. These licenses are not regulated by the FDA and depend from state to state.
101+ Business Name Ideas For Your Food Truck Business
Listed below are 101+ business and domain name suggestions for your new and existing food truck business.
6 Tips To Promote Your Food Truck Business Online
Sure, you’ve got the skills needed to make great food. You’ve got your commercial vehicle. And maybe you’ve even got an influx of customers coming in.
However, even all that may not be able to sustain your business for the long run.
Yes, you read that right. Even your initial customers may not prove more than a source of short-term income. You can change this with online marketing.
Online marketing can have many goals. For the sake of this article, we’ll keep that goal to ‘discovery’. How do people discover your food truck business and how do you convince them to drop down and try your great food?
Look at the tips below for inspiration.
1. Innovate With Playable Facebook Ads
Facebook playable adverts are interactive games that people can play and engage with. Think of the last time you played a ‘tutorial’ or ‘demo’ of a game on Facebook. Chances are that was probably a playable ad.
That can work for your food truck business as well. Here are some ways you can promote your business with these ads:
- A game in which players can assemble items in a food truck to create a dish. The end Call to Action (CTA) can be ‘Want this for real? Come on down to…’
- A 2D Super Mario-like game in which players jump to collect food items that are available in your food truck business.
- A jigsaw puzzle game in which players assemble an 8/16 Bit version of your menu.
- A gamified ‘hunger meter’, which tells players how hungry they are. The answer is always the same, but the game can have different options/ challenges.
These are just some fun ways in which you can use the feature.
2. Build A Brand Voice On Twitter
Twitter is one of, if not the best platforms to communicate with your customers directly. It is also a great place to build your brand personality. This involves you choosing how your brand replies, what it says, and when it says it.
Building a fun personality around your brand is a great way to get a good online following that eventually translates to offline customers. Some great social media accounts you can look at are:
Given you’re a solopreneur, your brand will probably speak like how you do, just exaggerated. If you’re ever looking for inspiration on how to exaggerate your personality for the media, look no further than Nathan For You.
3. Show Your Cooking Skills Off On Instagram Reels
People love watching food content. Instagram is the prime example of that. The platform was initially used by people to show off their food.
Instagram may have expanded into all sorts of content since its inception, but its users’ love for food content has not withered down.
Reels, by Instagram, has become wildly popular and can be used to promote your content. The most direct way to do that is to show off what you cook and how you cook.
Add a bit of swag, some good music and you’ve got 15-30 seconds of great content.
Other things you can do on Instagram Reels are:
- Trends: Look at what the rest of the internet is doing. There’s always a viral dance, game, or activity every week.
- Memes: Memes rule the internet. Tap into a cultural insight and people will flock to your account for future content.
You don’t need to make your content funny. Choose a theme and stick to it. There’s an audience for just about every type of content and they love giving feedback, which you can use.
4. Create A Blog With Recipes
Running a food truck may mean that you can’t be too diverse with your food. Customers in a hurry and lack of space are just two concerns that come to mind. However, that does not mean you can’t take your other recipes to the internet.
Create a blog. It can be on a separate website, on a recipe aggregator like Yummly, or on Instagram. Do that and make the call to action by visiting your business’s social media profile or your food truck business.
Here are some ways you can blog:
- Create A Vlog: Vlogs are great if you like being in front of the camera. Video recipes give an extremely accurate portrayal of how a technique is performed.
- Create Tabletop Videos/ Photos: Tabletop content is a tentpole for when you’re working with food. It is one of the ‘pioneer’ content pieces on Instagram and it works.
- Create Written Content: Blogs like Yummly run on written recipes. The fact that they’re printable makes them very attractive and it always helps if you add in information about your food truck business along with the content.
- Create Snackable Content (Pun intended): Reels, short videos, and food ‘porn’ are just a few ways to make short videos on food that work.
5. Invest In Targeted Google AdWords Adverts
Targeted Google ads can prove very effective in putting your food truck business’s name out there. They are intended to make sure that the right people see the ads at the right time.
If done correctly and when paired with great food, Google-powered ads can get you, regular customers. But here are things you’ll have to keep in mind:
- Search Engine Optimization: The truth is, you’re not the only one investing in Google AdWords. To make the ads most effective, you’ll have to invest in Search Engine Optimization. You can opt for a free self-service website like Soovle or hire an SEO expert from websites like Fiverr. Keep in mind that SEO is a must.
- Geo-targeting: The wider your geographical radius, the more likely you are to get stakeholders who can’t even come to your food truck. Choose a specific town or suburb you want to target. Don’t get too specific (like choosing a street), since not too many people will be able to see it.
- Demographics: Who are your customers? Busy office workers, who want a quick meal? Students on the run? Tourists? Knowing this will not only help you logistically but also creatively when you write your ad copy.
6. Create Online And Social Media Coupons
Coupons for tasters and entire dishes are a great way to attract new customers. This is especially true if your target market is young or runs on tight budgets. Think students, young adults, entry-level employees.
There are a few ways you can create coupons for your food truck business:
- Put up coupons for your stories: Create coupons for your stories and ask your customers to screenshot and send the pictures to you. The first X senders can redeem their coupons for a free meal.
- Provide coupons to those who can get you followers: A common marketing trend on Instagram, you can put up a post asking people to follow you and tag their friends in the comments. Those chosen at random (and maybe even the friends they tagged) can get a free meal or more for their efforts.
- Gamify your social media: Put up pieces/ fragments of a coupon on your social media and hide them, either as part of your creatives or hidden in carousels, etc. The first X to send you an entire image can get discounts/ free meals.
- Put up coupons on coupon websites: You can use coupon aggregators and search services like Groupon to reward locals and visiting tourists with discounts on your food items.
The above points are six very effective ways to promote your food truck business online. However, this list is far from exhaustive.
There are a plethora of things you can do online that will help spread the word for your business.
Once you’re done with the ‘discover’ phase, you can focus on customer retention and awareness of new food items for recurring customers.
You’re the best judge of that and only you’ll truly know if your food truck business has the attention it needs.
Still more important is the everyday editorial content you put up on your social media pages.
Without it, your followers and potential customers aren’t going to stick around. So, get cracking!
A food truck business can be lucrative, low on investments, and a great main or side hustle, if done correctly. Interacting with happy customers can be a great value add.
However, learning how to start a food truck business is not as simple as buying the biggest truck in the car lot and whipping up a menu of your favorite recipes.
The preparation and maintenance part requires time, patience, and thinking. This article covers the essentials of those things.