Veterans Offer Wisdom to New Food Truck Owners
The mobile food industry continues to grow, especially in urban areas like Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Denver. While the concept is appealing to a variety of foodie entrepreneurs, the venture is not without its own unique set of challenges. Foodtruckr.com asked food truck owners what they wish they had known before starting their food truck business. Below is a summary of what they said plus a bonus thought.
1. Street Food Red Tape
It seems simple enough. Buy a truck, make good food, park the truck, and sell the food. It’s significantly more complicated than that. For starters, each city, county, and state has its own set of regulations for food trucks. Owners must navigate a series of permits and certifications or be fined. Red tape includes:
- A seller’s permit
- Health department certification
- Food safety training
- Permits and licenses for the truck itself (registration, inspection, drivers’ license, etc.)
- Liability insurance
- Mobile vending laws
2. Tacos al Pastor y El Baño
In some cities, food trucks are limited by toilet facilities. For example, in LA if a food truck is parked in one location longer than one hour, there must be a bathroom facility within 500 feet. Other cities have similar regulations that become a challenge for food trucks.
3. Parking for Food Truck Owners
You can’t just park wherever you want. Some food truck parks lease the spots. Others require a percentage of your sales. Often there are waiting lists for parking spots at lunch spots, fairs, farmers’ markets, and other events. It’s more than simply finding an open parking lot and setting up shop, especially if you want a spot in the most highly trafficked areas.
4. A Never-ending Grocery List
Food trucks are built with food preparation in mind, not bulk food storage. As a result, buying in bulk like stand-alone restaurants often do is impractical. Because most food trucks change locations often, ingredient deliveries from vendors are a logistical nightmare. This leaves owners or employees shuttling food from store to truck almost daily. You might argue that it would be more efficient to take the food truck to the supermarket, until you realize that the trucks may only get seven miles per gallon of gas.
You may have the most efficient system for cooking gourmet food ever known to the food truck industry, but if the weather doesn’t cooperate you won’t sell a thing. Food trucks are at the mercy of weather. Nobody wants to eat a soggy fish taco at a muddy picnic table. Likewise, only a handful of people would trudge through snow and ice to get a slice of pizza they have to eat in freezing temperatures.
You can control your food quality and your business plan. You can’t control the weather.
6. Food Truck Owners Must Be Truck Drivers
It’s not enough to keep your cooking supplies running properly. You also have to make sure the truck runs reliably enough to get you to scheduled events on time. All trucks require regular maintenance, repairs, gas, and new tires. The more you know about mechanics and automotive repairs, the better off you’ll be.
7. A Bonus Thought: Payment Methods
What forms of payment will you accept? Checks are practically obsolete. That leaves cash and credit cards. Some food trucks choose to only accept cash. This may seem to be the simplest solution on the surface, but it leaves the food truck vulnerable in a couple of ways. First of all, when crooks become aware you’re an all cash business you can become a target for robbery. Secondly, you lose any potential customer who doesn’t happen to be carrying cash.
So, you need to have a way to accept credit cards or some form of mobile payment. For mobile businesses, a mobile point of sale (mPOS) system makes the most sense. Bindo offers an iPad mPOS that is ideal for food truck owners. With an Internet connection and some minor hardware additions, you’re ready to accept credit cards, debit cards, and Apple Pay.
There are enough challenges to the culinary experience of owning a food truck. Don’t let getting paid be one of them.