Things to Consider Before Starting A Food Truck in Australia
Food trucks are enjoying surging popularity among small business owners and food lovers alike, and starting a food truck of your own can be an exciting, rewarding and profitable venture. Although launching a successful food truck may seem to be less complicated than opening a restaurant, there are still numerous things to be considered before your truck is on the road. Food style, marketing and branding, adherence to regulations and finding the right cooking equipment for your project are just a few of the elements requiring thorough planning if your new business is to be success.
Food Style & Complexity
Whether it’s Vietnamese or vegan, think carefully about the style of food you want to be selling and how complicated you want to make it. Receiving deliveries of ingredients can be difficult for a mobile business that’s always on the move, even more so if your menu relies on ingredients that may be difficult to source. There’s also the added challenge of limited storage space. Aim to use produce that can be sourced from multiple suppliers and is available year round.
The style of food you decide to serve will also shape the fit out of your truck. As with any commercial catering business, you will need high quality commercial cooking equipment capable of producing a high turnover of food, safely, if your truck is to be successful. With mobile catering businesses, space constraints mean you need to think carefully about what you can fit in your truck and which equipment will best serve you – is it going to be grills, gas-cookers or fryers that win most of the space?
You also have your customers to consider, of course. What food is popular at the moment without being a fad? Will you be able to cater to different dietary requirements? Will your food be easy for customers to eat without a table and cutlery? Will it be cheap but also profitable? Your customers won’t be looking for a restaurant-style experience, so putting thought into these questions is essential.
Marketing & Branding
Branding and marketing your food truck can be a lot of fun, but also requires serious thought. What is your target market, and what kind of brand do you want to be? Are you fun? Healthy? Sustainable? You also need to think about how the aesthetics of your branding will translate when enlarged on your truck – you want something noticeable and appealing, which stands out from other options without seeming gimmicky.
Food trucks with strong brands and good food often create hype and almost seem to market themselves, but this does not occur as organically as it may seem. Make sure you have not only a website but also a social media presence. Having a Facebook page for people to like and share will help you reach new customers and let people know where you are each day. Use Instagram to promote your food and come up with a unique hashtag so your customers can show off their meals. Digital media is a great tool for promoting your food truck and, if you’re savvy, can cost you next to nothing.
Build Your Customer Base
This is important for any business, but especially for a business where it takes a little extra effort to find. Food truck customers expect their food to be fast and fresh and will be unlikely to return if disappointed, so make sure you’re equipped to cater for customer expectations from the get-go. Keep people interested in your business, whether it’s through special menu items, social media promotions, loyalty cards or competitions – give them a reason to keep coming back.
Get the right tools
Your most important tools outside of your actual truck, is your point of sale system and the food prep equipment inside. Whether you plan on having one truck or a dozen, you’ll need to quickly process your customers orders and know all the details about your business. If you don’t know what combinations are selling the best or what your food costs are for example…then your really not a business owner and your food truck is just an “experiment.”
With respect to the equipment on the inside, we like to say…”You get what you pay for.” We’re used to food truckers all across the country “bootstrapping” their business but we caution you not to cut corners on the food prep equipment on the inside. Faulty or poorly designed equipment can lead to extra costs down the road or worse yet, an unhappy customer experience because the meal got botched. When buying equipment, don’t rely on a Craigslist. Seek out reputable companies that offer catering grade equipment like Nisbets.
Mobile catering businesses are subject to numerous regulations, and if you don’t jump through all the necessary hoops you may find your new business strangled by red tape. There are staff qualifications to consider, restrictions around where you can park and how long for, food standards to meet, occupational health and safety requirements, licensing laws and legislation around access to toilets, just to name a few. Research the relevant requirements in your area, find a comprehensive guide to starting a food truck, and make sure you are on top of regulations before you start serving.
Make a Business Plan
Before starting any business, it is vital that you develop a thorough business plan, and the same applies to starting a food truck. How much capital do you have, what is your break-even point, have you developed financial projections? Think about all possible scenarios and how you will handle them if they eventuate – what will happen if you break down, if you sell out too fast, if you don’t sell enough, if the weather is terrible? Be prepared for any and all set-backs and you’ll minimize any negative impact on your food truck’s success.
Get Ready to Learn
As much as you prepare, there is always going to be lessons that can only be learnt on the job. If you’ve never run a business before, or this is your first food truck, be prepared to come up against new challenges, long hours and a little bit of heat. However by working smart as well as hard, you can start building a business that will offer you great rewards and satisfaction.