The food truck business continues to boom! And with an estimated 3 million trucks currently operating in the U.S. and more being added every month, it shows no indication of slowing down. An accepting public, reality TV shows and an instant gratification mentality have all added to the popularity and maturing of the business. There has been a 197% increase in the number of food trucks nationally from 2001 to 2013 according to Business Insider.
Food trucks, which started out more as a place to run to on the corner for a quick lunch have become much more mainstream. Going to a restaurant can be frustrating at times – waiting for a table, crying babies, waiting for your food and inefficient wait staff who are expecting a 20% tip. Food trucks eliminate a lot of these issues. And then there are those gourmet food trucks that take food to a whole different level. You can find them day and night, alone or in “meet ups” in office parks, empty lots, shopping districts, popular tourist areas, sporting events, festivals, conferences/conventions, parks, beaches, bus/train stations, college campuses and areas that have night life and music but not much in the way of anything more than bar food.
According to Business Insider, the top five cities based on the number of food trucks:
- Los Angeles 269
- San Francisco 127
- Miami 140 (Chefuniforms’ hometown)
- Austin 156
- Washington D.C. 172
And what are they serving? EVERYTHING! From the basic burgers, hot dogs and pretzels to dishes that cater to the more sophisticated palate like coriander-braised duck, pork belly in numerous ways, bahn mi, French take away including escargot lollipops and frog legs, ice cream sandwiches with flavors like Pistachio Black Truffle and Red Wine Reduction. There’s Cajun, B-B-Q, Korean, Japanese-Mexican fusion, Hawaiian and even a truck in Washington D.C. that serves Indian food in a carnival atmosphere from the fictional location of Merlindia.
If you’re thinking about starting a food truck business, one of the most important things to keep in mind is that it is a business – your business. Here are some things to take into consideration:
- Like any new business, you will need a business plan – so do your homework in advance. Research the demographics and cost of doing business in your area
- You will need to do all the research for permits, licenses, certifications and insurance needed in order to operate. They vary from state to state, county to county and city to city. And they are constantly changing and can be very confusing. Check here for an example.
- Check out the competition. How many trucks are operating in your area? Is your product unique? Can you price your menu competitively?
- Research locations in your area. Check with promoters, farmers markets etc. Some have long waiting lists or give exclusive parking to only one truck with a certain type of food
- Do some soul searching – will you be able handle the disappointment and stress of the unexpected: truck breaks down, you sell out too soon, you prepared too much, torrential rain on the day of a huge festival and the list goes on
- How are your time management skills? The food truck business is not just about your passion for food and cooking ability. There is networking, finding reliable suppliers and ordering, marketing – especially in social media, employee schedules/issues to handle. Can you commit to hands-on ownership, long days, working 6-7 days a week and giving up vacations?
- The industry relies a lot on cooperation – with other food truck owners, local businesses and suppliers – so you want to earn the respect of these people
We love food trucks here at Chefuniforms.com!
If you own a food truck, what do you wish you had known before starting out?