Business 101

Your first goal, as with any entrepreneurial venture, is to secure financing. How big or small you want to start will determine your costs. If you want to start with a small, used hot dog style cart you’re looking at about $2,000 to buy it. However, a used, refurbished food trailer can cost up to $70,000.

So, before you can actually decide on what kind of truck you want to buy, you must establish your business needs. Do you need a full kitchen in the truck or just a few appliances to heat and sell your food products? Do you need the stand to be mobile on its own or are you willing and able to tow it around? When you’re designing your truck you’ll have to decide whether you’ll be cooking most of the food-on-the-scene, or simply using the truck as a retail and storage space.

The most difficult task after you secure your mobile food business’s funding is to get your paperwork and permits under control. A mobile food stand has a much different permitting process than a brick-and-mortar establishment. Although there aren’t the traditional rent costs, food truck businesses have other costs and logistics to consider. 

First, let’s look at insurance. Although this shouldn’t run you up much more than regular vehicle insurance, you’ll have to make any additional risks your truck might pose clear to your underwriter. Next, you’ll have to consider permit acquisition for your catering truck. Although necessary permits vary based on locality, it is likely that you’ll need a Mobile Food Vendor License and a Mobile Food Vending Unit Permit. Securing a food trailer permit can be tough – again, this depends on locality. Certain areas, such as New York, have a cap on the number of permits that can exist at one time. The waiting list can run more than ten years, according to the Street Vendor Project.

After you take care of costs and permits, you’ll need to determine the following items: cooking and preparation facilities, truck storage and evening security, and parking in general. When choosing a location, vendors need to pay special attention to exceptions in vending rules on local park property, and be careful to avoid competing brick-and-mortar restaurants.

Lastly, you’ll need to build your food truck’s following. You can do so by utilizing social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, which serve as free marketing tools to businesses. If you decide to be a highly mobile vendor, these sites will help you to tell your fans and customers where you plan on serving food that day. Your best option, whether you move around a lot or not, is to create a schedule at the beginning of the week and stick to it.