Are you interested in starting a food truck business from scratch? Do you want to learn what it takes to run a food truck successfully? If YES, here is a complete checklist for starting a food truck business with NO money and no experience.

Okay, so we have provided you an in-depth sample food truck business plan template. We also took it further by analyzing and drafting a sample food truck marketing plan backed up by actionable guerrilla marketing ideas for food truck businesses. In this article, we will be considering all the requirements for starting a food truck business. So put on your entrepreneurial hat and let’s proceed.

Table of Content

  1. Industry Overview
  2. Market Research and Feasibility
  3. Food Truck Name ideas
  4. Licenses and Permits
  5. Cost of Starting a Food Truck
  6. Food Truck Marketing ideas

If you live in the United States of America, Canada, and Australia and in Europe, you would have come by food trucks. That is trucks that sell stuff ranging from ice cream to fast foods. As a matter of fact, U.S. and Canadian cities including Toronto, Montreal, Hamilton, Vancouver, Washington, D.C., New York, Austin, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, Calgary, Portland and Tampa, are key places where food truck business thrives the most.

Simply put, a food truck is a large truck or means of transportation that is equipped to cook and to sell food and also to sell ice cream and snacks. It is common to see food trucks engage in the sale of French fries, sandwiches, hamburgers, and fast food et al.

Why Start a Food Truck Business?

The food truck business concept is gaining more grounds in the United States. In recent years, food trucks are known to sell gourmet cuisine and a variety of specialties and ethnic menus. Little wonder food trucks, and other portable food kiosks and food carts, are on the front line of the street food industry and they serves an estimated 2.5 billion people daily.

Food trucks are no longer limited to the sale of ice creams, hot dogs, snow cones and tacos; they now sell any type of food as long as there is a market for such food. Food trucks now sell foods like sushi rolls that are freshly prepared on the truck. Interestingly, people now find it convenient and time saving to patronize food trucks because they are likely going to get the kind of food and drinks that they want to eat.

Food truck business is designed to service areas where it might be difficult to quickly construct the conventional restaurant; areas such as carnival sites, construction sites, sporting event centers, camp grounds, and beach et al. Food truck also takes advantage of places like campuses, office complexes, military bases, mechanical village, industrial parks, farmer’s markets, cinemas, and religious centers to sell their foods, snacks and drinks. They know that they are likely going to get enough customers that will patronize their services.

As the industry grows, food truck owners are becoming more creative on how they run their business. It is now normal for food trucks to be found at wedding receptions and special events. With the partnership of event managers, food trucks can be hired to service special events, such as wedding parties, crusades, community events, school events, birthday parties, picnics, retirement parties, and any other event as deemed fit by the event manager.

Starting a Food Truck Business With NO Money – A Complete Guide

  • Industry Overview

For the last seven years; from 2008 to 2015 to be exact, the truck food industry has experienced consistent growth. Despite the fact that the food truck business may not be new in the food service and restaurant industry, it is a known fact that the food truck industry is still growing in leaps and in bounds and there is still more rooms for growth within the industry. Notwithstanding the introduction of some unfavorable laws and regulations by many cities across the United States and Canada, food truck business is still flourishing trade.

  • Interesting Statistics About the Food Truck Industry

The annual food truck revenue in the United States is about $1,200,000,000 and the Industry revenue increase by 12.4% over the past five years. The total number of food trucks in U.S. is put at 4,130. Food truck Industry revenue increased over the past five years at the rate of 12.4 %.

The average revenue generated per food truck in the United States is about $290,556 and the average spending per order at a food truck is $12.40. The average amount required to own a food truck is about $85,000.

In the United States, Canada, Australia and even Europe, the percent of sales generated by food trucks based on market segments are; Street locations or street corners accounts for 55%, construction work sites and industrial sites accounts for 15%, shopping malls accounts for 12% and other locations, venues and event centers accounts for 18%.

Food trucks have been around for years, they are popular when it comes to serving construction sites, camp grounds, factories, and other blue-collar work locations. The industry is meeting a need in the society; people who don’t have the time to search for restaurants or travel a distance to eat in a restaurant find it time saving and cheaper to patronize food trucks. Food trucks are not only patronized for their affordability, but also because it saves time and it brings back memories; the business has been around as far back as 1800s.

Are the Opportunities in the Food Truck Industry Increasing or Declining?

In the early days of food truck business, it is common to see food truck serve foods like dried beans, greasy cloth – wrapped bacon, cornmeal, salt pork, beef, smoked fish, and other food that are easy to preserve. They also serve coffee and tea.

Recently, there has been appreciable increase in the numbers of food truck business owners in the United States. This increase can attributed to creativity, the change in lifestyle of the average Americans and of course post – recession and economic factors. In essence the food industry is growing and the future is still bright for the industry.

As a matter of fact, the popularity of food trucks led to the formation of associations that protect and support the interest of the industry. Association such as the Philadelphia Mobile Food Association and Off the Grid Food Organization et al.

Conventional restaurant owners are venturing into food truck business because it is easier for them to attract sales when they are mobile as against being positioned in one location. For example, a food truck can visit more than two event venues in a day to sell their foods and drinks.

Starting a Food Truck Business With NO Money – Market feasibility and Research

  • Demographics and Psychographics

Although food truck business is a business concept that is designed for everybody – especially the average person on the street or on a construction site, but statistics has it that the biggest buyers of foods from food trucks are young adults and parents with children at home. As a matter of fact, people that falls within the age range of 25 to 34 are the largest consumers of snacks and fast foods from food trucks. They spend an average of $44 per month.

List of Niche Ideas in the Food Truck Industry

  • Hot dog cart
  • Hot dog stand
  • Mobile catering
  • Gourmet Cuisine Truck
  • Freshly Prepared Sushi Rolls and Organic Food Vans
  • Veg Food Truck
  • Fast Food
  • Street food
  • Ice cream van
  • Sausage wagon
  • Snacks and Drinks

Competition in the Food Truck Industry

The Food Trucks industry has experienced a remarkable growth over the past five years and loads of people are beginning to follow in love with food trucks because it saves them time and money. As a result of the increase in the patronage of food trucks, many entrepreneurs who are interested in the business or those who are already running their own conventional restaurants are coming into the industry.

With this development, the competition level in the industry is becoming stiffer; the more the competitors, the stiffer the competition. Despite the fact that there are strong performance in the industry, high competition rate and unfavorable regulatory conditions in some cities have negatively impacted the growth in the industry; it has limited the growth of mobile food vendors.

Aside from the fact that food trucks compete with themselves, they are also compete with regular bricks and mortars restaurants and fast food joints; which is why food trucks are required to park 200 feet away from any restaurant restricting the positions they are to station their food truck.

No doubt, the fact that the competition has stiffened, does not hamper the performance of some food truck businesses. Most of them know how to recreate and re – strategize to reach out or attract more customers. Creativity and many food and drinks options is key to surviving the competition in the food truck industry.

List of Well Known Food Truck Brands in the United States and the State and city that they can be found

  • Don Chow Tacos food truck
  • A Kogi Korean BBQ food truck
  • Big Gay Ice Cream Truck – New York City
  • Chef Jeremiah – Miami, Florida
  • Chi’Lantro BBQ – Texas (Austin, Fort Hood, Houston)
  • Clover Food Lab – Boston, Massachusetts
  • Coolhaus – Southern California, New York City, Austin, and Dallas
  • Template: Jersey Dogs – Los Angeles and Ventura county California
  • Don Chow Tacos – Los Angeles, California
  • Grease Trucks – Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
  • The Halal Guys – New York City
  • Honeysuckle Gelato – Atlanta, Georgia
  • Kelvin Natural Slush Co. – New York, New York
  • KIND Movement – tours the United States
  • Kogi Korean BBQ – Los Angeles, California
  • Korilla BBQ – New York City
  • Maximus/Minimus – Seattle, Washington
  • Pincho Man – Miami, Florida
  • Taco Bus – Tampa, Florida
  • The Grilled Cheese Truck – Southwest United States

Economic Analysis

Food truck business is subject to the same range of economic concerns as other food related businesses such as restaurants and fast food eateries et al. For example, despite the fact that food trucks are mobile restaurants, they generally require a fixed address to accept delivery of supplies like normal restaurants.

In some cases or cities, they are required to prepare their food in a commercial kitchen that can be inspected and not on the truck. These factors contributes to increase in the running cost of the business.

In addition, there are a number of permits that is required to run a food truck business, and of course there are also public health codes to observe. Other cost that should be considered during planning and budgeting are overhead cost; labor cost, supply of raw ingredients and foods, and fuel and maintenance costs.

It is important to try as much as possible to cut down on overhead costs when making plans to start a food truck business and also to operate in cities where you can be allowed to cook and prepare your food inside your truck. Well for now it is only in Chicago that food trucks aren’t allowed to cook their food inside their truck.

  • Starting a Food Truck Business from Scratch or Buying a Food Truck Franchise

Good enough food truck business is one of those businesses that sells franchise. Any entrepreneur, who is considering starting a food truck business, has the option of either starting from the scratch or buying an existing franchise.

There are loads of factors that should be considered before choosing the option to follow. Some of the factors to consider are the cost of starting from the scratch or buying a franchise, your financial capacity, your vision, and your business skills and experience.

If your intention of starting a food truck business is to grow beyond one city, if you want to have presence in key cities in the United States and Canada, then starting your food truck business from the scratch is your best option. But, if you just want to start a business with the aim of just making profits and you don’t have the required finance and experience to build a business from the scratch, then it will pay you to buy the franchise of a successful food truck business.

Threats and Challenges of Starting a Food Truck Business

If you decide to start your own food truck business in the United States, Canada, and Australia or in Europe, you are sure going to face some challenges and threats that is peculiar to food truck business. Some of the challenges that you are going to confront is finding your way around government regulations.

There are several laws out there that you are expected to follow if you want to run your own food truck business; some of the laws are unique to each states in the U.S. For example; if you want to start your food truck business in Chicago, then you must be ready to also secure a commercial kitchen. Food trucks are not allowed to cook their food inside their truck, they are expected to cook and package the food in a commercial kitchen.

Another challenge is the fact that food trucks are not allowed to operate or park less than 200 yards from a regular canteen. The threat that food truck business is likely to face might just be economic downturn; usually economic downturn affect the purchasing power of the average man or women of the street. Of course the arrival of another food truck in same location where you usually operate will pose a threat to your sales. Other challenges to expect are:

  • Unfavorable government policies (fiscal and economic policies)
  • Competition
  • Finding a good place to site your truck
  • Maintaining high quality
  • Lack of startup or operating capital

Writing a Business Plan for your Food Truck Business

Writing a business plan can come across as cumbersome. However, truth is that it something that you can surmount- whether you choose to write it on your own, or if you want an expert to help you out. To successfully run a food truck business, you would need to have a good business plan in place.

A Business plan is the blue print that is needed to successfully run a business; with a workable business plan in place, you will reduce the trial and error approach of doing business. You will be able to approach your business with purpose and perhaps precisions.

So, if you want to start your own food truck business, you are required to write a detailed business plan that can pass reality test when subjected to it. The whole idea of writing a business plan is not just for the sake of having a business document in place; but a detailed guide on how to effectively run your business. Your business plan should outline and cover strategies on how you intend to manage your food truck business.

The rule of thumb in writing a business plan is to try as much as possible to be realistic and never to over project when putting figures on income and profits et al. As a matter of fact, it is safer to underestimate when writing a business plan so that you won’t be so disappointed when reality sets in. These are the key areas that should be covered in your business plan;

Executive summary and Company’s descriptions; here, you are expected to write about the concept of your business, descriptions of your company, your company’s vision statement, mission statement and where your company will be located.

Other key components that should not be missing in your food truck business plan are product offering, SWOT analysis, competitive analysis, marketing and sales analysis / strategies, pricing, costing and financial projection, publicity and advertising strategy, budget and start – up capital generation et al.

Choosing a Suitable Location for a Food Truck Business

Indeed a lot of street food lovers line up at food trucks across the United States searching for local, fresh and unique menu offerings. Even though food trucks and food carts aren’t new to America, they are exploding in popularity. We believe that a lot of food trucks connect with their customers via Twitter.

Researchers used Twitter to determine that more than 4,000 food trucks are operating in US cities. The difference between restaurants and these food trucks boil down to one thing – LOCATION. Some industry experts believe that in this business, location is even more important than your menu.

Food truck business thrives in heavily concentrated vicinities in urban areas-particularly in the central parts of large cities. If you are considering starting your food truck business in the U.S., then you should look towards operating in cities such as L.A, Portland, New York, Austin and San Francisco. From recent survey, it was observed that food truck business thrives in those cities mentioned.

The idea of starting a food truck business is to sell food and drinks on a mobile truck in areas where people find it difficult to access a restaurant, areas such as carnival sites, construction sites, sporting event centers, camp grounds, and beach et al.

Food truck also takes advantage of places like campuses, office complexes, military bases, mechanical village, industrial parks, farmer’s markets, cinemas, and religious centers. This should guide you in choosing a location for your food truck business.

  • Street Parking

We believe that street parking is the logical choice for your truck, but not always the easiest to find. It is also hard to decide on your target customer. But if you can study the demographics and psychographics of your customers, you can find a venue they frequent.

For instance, if you hope to focus on lunchtime diners, you will have better luck on a street near a bustling business district. But if your decision is to specialize in cold, sweet treats, try side-street parking near a park full of hot, hungry youngsters. Target your audience and you will have a successful food truck operation.

  • Food Truck Parks

A lot of entrepreneurs believe it is a bad idea to sell next to your competitor, but this isn’t always so. We believe that the food truck revolution has exploded, and a lot of owners have decided that working together is good for all. We suggest you create and maintain a professional relationship with competitor food trucks so you’ll get invited to “their” food truck park.

Note that food truck owners meeting in a single location on a consistent day and at a consistent time will surely attract much faces than a single food truck. Have it in mind that in a food truck park, diners have more choices, so it’s easy for a family to find menu items to satisfy different tastes.

Successful food truck owners often find their sales increase when their chosen location is a food truck park because diners want to sample a bit of everything. We also suggest you sign up for events that include trucks from non-competing menu categories. For example, if you sell ice cream, you’ll get a great profit parked next to a burger truck, bistro truck or a beverage cart.

  • Business Districts or Large Office Buildings

First and foremost, you need to find out if the city allows it. If they do, then you can park near major offices and business locations where the 9-5 workers can easily reach you during their lunch breaks. We also believe that your city’s downtown area is a great place too.

Successful food trucks incorporate marketing into their location choices. Also, try to contact businesses in large office buildings, seeking permission to park in their lot and provide food to their employees. You can also drop off flyers showing when you’ll be at their location and what you’ll be serving. Be flexible enough to entertain employees with your offerings. The businesses might let you park outside their offices every day or once a week.

  • Farmers Markets

We believe strongly that a Farmers Market location works better for some menus than others. For instance, a lot of successful trucks parking at Farmers Markets offer locally-sourced foods such as home grown meat and picked-that-day produce. We suggest you test the market as this location can supply a recurring and ample supply of foot traffic.

  • Bars and Nightclubs

We all know that people get hungry after a late night out in town. A lot of people will be starving, and they are always willing to pay for delicious food. We suggest you target your city’s entertainment district or your local, popular night spots.

You can start by introducing yourself to the bar/nightclub owner, always come to his establishment and nurture your relationship to make sure he allows you on his property to earn these night time profits. Also of you don’t mind working late at night, you’ll find you only need to stay open for a few hours. We also suggest you ensure to park your truck close enough to entice patrons with the delicious smells from your offerings.

  • Festivals, Events or Sports Venues

From studies, we’ve been able to note that mobile vendors have a history of success when selling food at festivals, state fairs or large events. At these places, you will find a ready-made audience with money to spend on food and drinks. If you can’t afford to rent the space, you’ll still catch a lot of traffic entering and leaving the event if you park on a street leading into the event venue.

  • Gas Stations

In your city, you will surely find a busy gas station/convenience store during lunchtime hours as people will be purchasing drinks, hot dogs and sandwiches with their fuel. Note that if there was a better option just outside the door, a lot of those customers would appreciate the convenience and surely better menu from your food truck.

Have it in mind that if you park at a gas station near a highway or interstate, you’ll serve hungry travellers too. But before you park at a gas station, we advise you seek approval from the business owner. This is because your truck will draw more business to his gas station, but you need to make sure he is okay with everything.

  • College Campuses

This location can sometimes be overlooked by entrepreneurs in this line of business. Note that very successful trucks know that college students look for different, unique and quick dining experiences. But don’t forget you will need a permit to park on a campus, so you have to ensure you get it first. Consider setting up during lunch and dinner hours or at football and basketball games.

Best Places to Start a Food Truck Business in the United States

Just like a lot of other popular trends, food trucks are the latest version of a long-standing American and world culture, yet the street-food industry has never enjoyed so much publicity or notoriety. The best cities to start this business in the United States using facts like City population, City growth predictions, Population demographics (age and income), Weather, Current size of the local food truck industry, Licensing costs, Freedom to operate under existing food truck laws, Acceptance of small business entrepreneurs by local politicians, and strength of Food Truck Organization may include:

  • San Antonio, TX
  • Tampa, FL
  • Raleigh, NC
  • Albuquerque, NM
  • Indianapolis, IN
  • Nashville, TN
  • Lexington, KY
  • Charleston, SC
  • Louisville, KY
  • Sacramento, C4A

Starting a Food Truck Business With No Money – Technical & Manpower Details

Starting a food truck business means that you will have to acquire a truck that is suitable for the nature if the business; a truck that has the required facility. In other words, the key equipment that you need to start your food truck business is a standard truck that has a kitchen, cooling facility and space for storage and dispensing food.

You can acquire a new food truck if you have the financial capacity. If you intend cutting down your start – up cost, then you should consider purchasing a fairly used food trucks; it will still serve the same purpose. Purchasing a food truck is the major expenditure you will make.

You are also expected to purchase pots, pans and other cooking utensils. You are expected to micro wave ovens, fridge or freezers et al. When it comes to hiring workers, it is important to note that most food truck business owners try as much as possible to cut down on the numbers of employees they can hire per time.

Basically food truck businesses hire Manager, Cook, Cashier, Truck Driver and Assistant Truck Driver. Everybody on board the food truck is expected to handle additional job description. For example; the assistant truck driver can be assigned to assist in packaging foods, moving stuffs, washing and cleaning dishes et al.

On the average, a food truck business is expected to employ about 5 full – time staff per time. Except larger food truck companies that has fleets of food trucks and also run their own commercial kitchen.

The Production Process Involved in a Food Truck Business

There are several processes involved in different business. Just like it is with others, so it is with the food trucking business. Food truck business is all about making foods, snacks and drinks available to people in areas where they may find it difficult accessing restaurants. In essence food trucks are mobile canteen the normal production process for food trucks is similar to that of bricks and mortals restaurants. The productions process is as follows;

List of foods and drinks to be sold on the truck are listed, the raw materials are bought and different food and snacks are prepared and packaged. The foods and drinks are loaded in the truck (especially when they are prepared in a commercial kitchen and not on the truck) and then sold to customers.

After the day’s job, the truck is cleaned, plates, pots and pans are washed and cleaned and positioned for the next day’s business. Accounts are balanced and lodged in the bank. The process continues the following day. In summary, the process to follow are:

  • Preparing and serving food from a mobile truck
  • Preparing and serving beverages from a mobile truck
  • Preparing and serving dessert from a mobile truck
  • Serving prepackaged food and beverages from a mobile truck

Tips for Running your Food Truck Business Successfully

The day to day running of a food truck business is slightly different from the day to day running of the conventional bricks and mortars restaurants. Running a food truck business involves itemizing the menus and drinks you want to sell for the day, purchase raw food and food ingredients, prepare the foods, package the foods and snacks, load your truck and then drive to the location where you intend selling your foods and drinks.

After the day’s sales, the books will be balanced, the truck will be cleaned, plates, pots, and pans get washed and kept safely and lastly the truck will be packed appropriately.

In Conclusion

The food truck business is a fantastic trade to delve into, provided you and your team have what it takes to whip up great meals; much more than the zeal and enthusiasm to start and run a successful food truck business. There should also be a place for acquiring the skill; the skill of knowing how and what meals to whip up is a major determiner, as far as this business is concerned. This is because it takes one who knows what obtains in the trade to run it successfully build it to an enviable state.