The food industry is a delightfully unique sector of business. Trends in food are constantly evolving to take more fashionable, inventive and even scientific turns. It allows for a great deal of creativity and innovation, but it also presents a challenge to restaurateurs who must always stay alert to the changing tides of consumer tastes.
One of the biggest shifts that the industry has seen in the last few years has been the surprising growth of food trucks. Restaurants all over the country are trying to capitalize on the public's love of food-truck dining by adding mobile units to complement their flagship stores.
There are many benefits for restaurant owners who take the steps to break into the food truck market, but it also comes with challenges. Proper planning and coordination is essential for making this venture work to the best advantage for entrepreneurs who are eager to expand.
"The food truck industry increased its yearly revenue by 12.4 percent."
Food truck popularity
From small towns to big cities, it seems residents can't walk down any main street at lunch time without seeing a line of trucks serving hungry customers. There are food truck festivals and even a National Food Truck Day (celebrated on October 11, according to Food Truck Holiday). Mobile Cuisine reported the food truck industry increased its yearly revenue by 12.4 percent from 2010 to 2015. In total, food trucks are worth about $1.2 billion in the U.S.
Now is an excellent time for restaurateurs to break into the mobile food industry. Trucks are in high demand, but the market isn't oversaturated. The source reports that there were just 4,100 registered trucks in 2015. Enterprising business owners should consider capitalizing on food truck popularity in 2016 while there is still plenty of room for more vehicles in the market.
How to start a food truck
There are many factors to consider when starting a food truck. Some people may choose to begin their culinary careers with a restaurant on wheels, which will require a lot of the same startup steps that traditional restaurants have, like hiring a staff, designing a menu and finding vendors.
But even established restaurant owners will need to do some introductory work to transition to the truck. Truck kitchens will be smaller and have different equipment. Space will also affect how many supplies can be stored, which is why most food trucks only specialize in a few signature dishes and not a wide, sprawling menu. Meals need to be prepared quicker for standing customers who are usually on the go.
For new restaurateurs to industry veterans, designing a truck concept and testing the menu is essential before getting into the logistics of starting the business. It's important to understand and feel confident in the product before taking the next steps to start serving customers:
1. Find out license requirements. Money Crashers recommends starting by getting the legal work out of the way. The last thing an entrepreneur wants to do is sink money into starting a business only to have the proper permits delayed or denied. Register the business and find out the qualifications for licensing the truck and parking and vending information.
2. Acquire equipment. Owners will need to acquire a truck, of course, and they'll likely also need to get additional equipment. Even trucks that come kitchen-ready may be lacking appliances that a specific cuisine will need. They need to be sure to follow through on the legal research they looked up earlier – this is the time to go ahead and get the truck registered and buy insurance.
3. Design for better success. Food Republic stated that the layout of the truck is an important and all-too-often overlooked step in preparing a truck. Before opening to the public, owners should test their truck's kitchen to make sure it's easy to move around in and stations are located for the most efficient meal assembly. The overall aesthetic of the truck is also important for drawing in diners. They should stay on theme and look inviting.
What are the costs of running a food truck?
Financing cannot be overlooked in any business. Mobile Cuisine reported that the average cost of a food truck start up is $90,000 between essentials like the vehicle, safety equipment and inventory. The source also stated that the average annual per truck revenue is more than $290,000. If restaurants can create a secure business plan, they can expect quite the return on their investment if all goes well.
Hospitality and restaurant industry piece brought to you by Marlin Equipment Finance, a nationwide provider of commercial lending solutions for small and mid-size businesses. Marlin's equipment financing and loan products are offered directly to businesses, and through third party vendor programs, which include manufacturers, distributors, independent dealers and brokers in the security, food services, healthcare, information technology, office technology and telecommunications sectors.