Are Food Trucks Profitable? How To Get Started

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Food carts or food trucks have been around since the 17th century and this is a definite sign that it is a business idea that works – with the right business plan and menu. It was because of food trucks that the term “chuck wagon” came about. These were food trucks designed to feed cattlemen on the road. Also before the 1900s, dog carts existed that sold hotdogs and sausages to students of Yale, Cornell, Harvard, and Princeton. Fast forward to a few years ago in 2008, Kogi BBQ hit the roads in Los Angeles and help reignite cravings for more creative food for people on the move.

There are simple rules to getting a foothold in the food truck business and ensuring you pass the point of surviving the first year or two when you get to recoup your initial investment.

  • You should have at least one food item that will carry your concept and make people want to keep coming back, preferably nothing based on a trend but on excellent flavors.
  • You should be personally committed to the business and know how to cook the food.
  • Be conscious of sanitation and cleanliness.
  • Don’t price your food too high without a valid reason such as using top grade ingredients. Your customers should be getting value for their money whether it’s a sandwich worth $2 or $20.

Once you get past these simple rules and accept them, you can start planning a food truck that will make money.

It starts with having a great menu. It isn’t important to have a long menu or offer too many variations. More important is having food that you can serve the same way again and again – no quality glitches. You should also have an “anchor food item” that will best describe your food. You can’t have a mishmash of different cuisines because it will be harder to market and sell your food. People wouldn’t know or understand your concept and may not even approach your food truck. Your anchor meal should carry the food truck.

Once you have your menu planned out, start sourcing for ingredients. Stick to high quality ingredients because it draws respect and will justify a higher price. You do not have to stock up right away on your ingredients because you have first find out if you can get a permit, the route, and the feasibility of the local market being interested in your food.

You should start by making calls or finding information about local food truck and health code laws, permits, parking ordinances and prime parking areas, and how and where to set up your commissary. Once you have these, start costing your food to calculate your profit margin making sure you have an emergency fund.

The last 2 steps are relatively easier: buy or rent a food truck and market your business.  It’s easier because you know what food you are cooking, ergo, you should know what kind of kitchen equipment you need in a food truck; and the Internet which makes marketing a joy since it can be done 24/7.

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