Thinking of Starting a Food Truck?
The food truck industry in North Carolina is growing in popularity and gaining momentum. Everyone thinks they can operate a food truck. However, the hard work and efforts to start and maintain a successful food truck business can be greatly underestimated.
If this is not your first rodeo, make sure you, at a minimum, address the following areas before you drive up and open your window to the first customer:
- Business Plan - Have an evolving, flexible game plan. Know your why. Know what you do. Know who you serve.
- Truck - Get a truck! Establish a budget for your truck and equipment. Know your needs. Match your truck with the vision you have.
- Commercial Kitchen / Truck Commissary - Partner with or rent facilities from a local restaurant, kitchen, and/or commissary for storage of food and supplies, kitchen access for food preparation and service needs of your truck (water, sewage, etc.). Do your research and homework here! Rental rates vary. Quality of kitchens and commissaries can vary. This arrangement is required!
- Health Permit - Research the rules in your county, city, town, etc. Typical requirements to obtain a permit include: commissary permit, mobile unit application and health inspection.
- Route Plan and Locations - Schedule your stops and locations. Get approval from the property owners prior to scheduling a location! Seek events, festivals, large gathering spots, high traffic areas, etc. to gain greater access to customers. Be aware of arrangements allowing you to park - paid or free.
- Staff - Most trucks will start out with you, a partner, or family member. Whether it is you, a partner or a hired employee, be ready to greet customers and serve great food. Be knowledgeable of your menu. Be friendly. The customer will value the experience and will rave about you others!
- Menu - Do what you do best. Find your niche. Don't be everything to everybody. Test your menu by cooking for friends and family. Fine tune recipes and methods. Simplify and scale down the menu so you can be the best at what you do, can serve food efficiently, and reduce customer ordering confusion. Be unique, be different. Price your menu at a premium. You are serving high quality food, at a convenience, with outstanding service. You are not competing on price. You are providing a product customers want with an experience they seek.
- Customers / Audience - Know your customers. Find your people. Understand their behaviors, locations, and wants. Your menu and your niche will define who the customers are you seek. Find them, connect with them. Be great, and they will find you.
- Social Media - Get out there! Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. Foodies want to know where you are and where you'll be next. Market to them online and create a buzz. Promote your truck, menu, schedules and update daily. Connect with users online and converse with them.
- Network - You need connections to establish locations to park your truck. Connect with other food trucks, business owners, large companies, event coordinators, etc. Express your interest to park at their site or next event. Collaborate with other food truck owners, learn from them, share your experiences.
Thanks to Chick-n-Que for sponsoring a Food Truck Entrepreneur Workshop and for sharing the basis of the content provided here.