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Starting a food truck business can be a good idea if you have a flair for cooking, but your pockets aren’t deep enough for a large operation. From busy streets to tourist hideaways and everywhere in between, food trucks are popular places that lend a festive and convivial air to cities and towns. As always, a business plan should come first, and you’ll need financing as well as the right permits and licenses for your locale. Then you’ll be able to buy your supplies!

Opening and Operating a Food Truck Business

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Some Things to Think about Before You Get Started

Before you start to write your business plan, you’ll want to have thought through a few things, for example, what kind of truck will you be using? This is important for a few questions, like how much interior space will you need? Where will you be located, will there be a lot of demand within easy reach? Does the city where you will operate have regulations or carve-outs for food trucks? Maybe most importantly, you should decide what kind of food will you be serving, and scope out the local competition to see how hard it will be to carve out a niche for yourself.

Business Plans for Food Trucks

Once you’ve sketched an understanding of how you want your business to look, you will need to draft a business plan. First of all this means coming up with a detailed draft of how much money it will take to begin, and how you plan to make a profit, both in the short term and in the long term. Your business plan should take into account cost of supplies, employees, registration fees, taxes, as well as who will be in charge of day-to-day operations, and also your future plans for expansion.

Although this will be a sketch to which you’ll continually add detail, it’s a good idea to include some standard elements. First, summarize your business, including your product, your intended market, and the competitiveness of the space. Then move on to describing the structure of your company, for example whether you will register as an LLC or as a corporation. Then, in the body of the plan, use three sections to go into detail concerning each of the three elements mentioned in the summary: the other companies involved in the market, the product you intend to sell, and the people you intend to sell to and the marketing techniques you’ll use reach them.

     1. Introduction

Initial Summary

     2. Body

Market Structure (Main Competitors)

Product Description

Customer Base/Marketing Approach

     3. Finances

Financial Data

Sources of Funding

     4. Conclusion

Sales Pitch

Finally, two more sections should give the fine details of how you’ll make your money, and how you intend to raise the money you’ll need to begin. As a conclusion, write a short, convincing sales pitch that you can use to sum up what your lenders and investors can expect from buying into your business.

Once you have a reasonably detailed business plan, you will be able to begin submitting loan applications to financial institutions. It’s important to note, however, that your business plan is only one of several things that banks will consider when reviewing your application. Your credit score, outstanding debt, and licenses and certificates will also be relevant.

Opening and Operating a Food Truck Business

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Costs of Food Truck Opening and Operation

Prices vary by region and area, but probably the most expensive thing you’ll need to buy to open a food truck is the truck itself. Don’t be surprised at a price of $50,000 or more if you don’t want to compromise quality. Beyond that, licenses, insurance, food & equipment, point-of-sale systems, paint & decorations, and of course your employees’ wages over time all need to be taken into consideration.

Health Regulations

Once you’re in position to begin setting up your food truck, it’s important to be aware of the governmental regulations. So food vendors must follow these regulations. Your food and drink licensure will need to be kept up-to-date, licensing fees will need to be paid, your food will need to be stored in the right place and at the right temperatures, and the kitchen and storage areas will need to be kept clean. You’ll also likely need to submit detailed floorplans, menus, and records of the food you buy. These regulations vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, so be sure you know what’ll you need to do (and not to do) in order to remain in compliance. Inspections will be made before your business opens, and from to time to time after that, to be sure that regulations are being followed satisfactorily.

Licenses and Permits

Now that your preparations are well in place, you’ll need to get your licenses and permits. This process can be quite involved depending on your jurisdiction, requiring several different applications. In Fairfax County, the website is a good place to start.

Make your Food Truck’s Brand Stand Out

Once your food truck is able to produce your product, you’ll need to increase your visibility to draw customers. Having a strong & recognizable brand is the best way to do this. One thing to keep in mind for your brand is that you’ll need to come up with a unique and attractive name and logo that immediately connects your customers’ minds with your approach to your product and the experience they will have at your food truck. The design of the name and logo of your brand should attract people’s attention. This seems intuitive, but it can be difficult to get it exactly right, so give it the attention it deserves.

Advertising Online Outreach

Once you have your brand and logo just like you want them, it’s a good idea to do some advertising. By this way you let people know you’re about to open up for business. Alongside the traditional billboards and newspaper advertisement, the online space is an easy and affordable way to get the word out. Social media buzz can go a long way for a new business, as long as you can follow through with great food truck food and a great food truck food experience.  Don’t forget your Google Business Profile, either, so that you’ll show up when people are looking for a restaurant online.

Business Systems and Money Matters

You’ve advertised your brand and worked up excitement on social media. The money is ready to flow, and as a smart business owner, you know that you need to channel it wisely (with very detailed spreadsheets). In drawing up your business plan you’ve likely gone over a lot of the details of how you’ll make your money, buy your supplies, pay your employees, keep track of your sales, and pay your taxes, for example, but now it’s time to translate that sketch into reality. Set up your card processing systems and your cash registers early. So you can be sure they’re in good working order before opening day, and find a good way to use the food that doesn’t get sold.