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Start Your Business Startup Basics

10 Things to Do Before Opening a Food Truck

10 Things to Do Before Opening a Food Truck
Kim Kim BBQ food truck parked in downtown Boston, Massachusetts. (Oct. 7, 2015) / Credit: patrimonio designs ltd/Shutterstock

Food trucks are popping up everywhere these days, so it's no surprise that many aspiring foodie entrepreneurs are taking their restaurant ideas on the road. But if you think a food truck is an easier alternative to opening a traditional, brick-and-mortar restaurant, think again — it's not easy to serve meals on wheels. Running a food truck comes with its own separate requirements, complications and rewards.

Business News Daily asked food truck owners and small business experts for their advice on starting a food truck. From choosing the right location to investing in the right technology, here are 10 things you must do before you get cooking.

"If you have the startup capital, start building your truck in a newer, well-maintained vehicle. Your business will constantly be at the mercy of the mechanical soundness of your truck. Treat it with care, and give it lots of preventative maintenance. When your truck goes down, you have to deal with the expense of fixing it, in addition to not being able to be open for business during those days the truck is in the shop." – Adam Sobel, founder, The Cinnamon Snail and author, "Street Vegan" (Clarkson Potter, 2015)

"One important thing you need to do before starting a food truck is to think about what your target audience will be. Maybe you already have a certain food in mind that you want to serve — who will your food appeal to? What demographic are you targeting? These questions will help you with other important food-truck decisions, like what the style and design of your truck should be, what locations you should park at to reach your target audience, etc." – Megan Marrs, founder and blogger, Boston Food Truck Blog

"When starting a food truck, be prepared to focus your business beyond street service and into private-event catering. Food trucks are the perfect solution for catering public and private events, so plan ahead and make sure your menu and operating plan are set up for off-premise catering opportunities." – Ross Resnick, CEO, Roaming Hunger

"Work in the industry before you start a food truck. Both my husband and I worked in restaurants before starting our truck, and [we learned] the food truck industry is its own beast. For example, a customer might wait 15-20 minutes for a dish at a restaurant, but on a food truck, you have to design a menu and train your team to execute dishes in less than 5 minutes — customers expect very fast service." – Diana Lamon, co-owner, Peaches' Smokehouse & Southern Kitchen [10 Unique Food Trucks Serving Up Business Inspiration ]

"Consider the technology you'll need to make your business successful. Running a mobile business is logistically very different from brick and mortar. You need a POS solution, for example, that's flexible enough to go where you go, ringing customers up from inside and outside of your food truck. Furthermore, it needs to be reliable. If Wi-Fi goes down during a busy time, the technology you're using needs to enable you to have off-line capabilities so you don't lose time and money." – Chris Poelma, president and general manager, NCR Small Business

"Navigating all the regulations and requirements to run a food truck can be a challenging process. Be sure to research your city's permitting and licensing process well in advance, because they can sometimes take months to secure. Also remember that permits can vary dramatically by city, county and state. So make sure you know how different locations may affect your business plan." - Danielle Custer, co-creator, Mobile Mavens

"Once [entrepreneurs] figure out which route they want to take [with] their food, they need to know their customer segment really well: what they will pay, and how often, branding, how much to spend on a truck — [this] all falls in line with what they choose to do. [If you have] cheap branding but good food, [you] can get away with being a cheap lunch truck, but really nice branding and a good-looking truck will be essential to one-time customers. One can never know how people will respond to a concept, but ample market research and testing your food with friends, foodies, industry experts, etc. can really help evaluate a concept." – Ian So, owner, The Chicken & Rice Guys

"I think the one thing that a person must consider before opening a food truck is how to use social media to promote it. One must get to know the best social media ways to spread the word about a food truck and get a basic understanding of social media. There are many ways to do it, such as Instagram, [where you're] uploading photos of foods and locations; Twitter, [where you're] tweeting locations with a specific hashtag so it will be easy to find; and of course Facebook, so people know where to find up-to-date information. A mailing list would be a creative way to start and keep a relationship with customers, as long as the email would only be sent once a week with a list of locations." – Keren Brown, social marketing strategist and author, "Food Lover's Guide to Seattle" (Globe Pequot, 2011)

"The three rules of real estate apply to mobile food service: location, location, location! If there isn't a critical mass of people circulating in the vicinity of your truck, you won't succeed. Even with that critical mass, it's important to have a set schedule so that people can count on you for their meal. While you may get some casual passersby, many folks have planned their meal in advance and want to be able to count on their vendor to be open, just as they rely on a brick-and-mortar restaurant." – Jason Savedoff, principal, RVA Advisors

"The old saying, 'To thine own self be true,' couldn't be more important when starting a food truck. First, ask yourself if you are ready for this kind of commitment. I'm up and out at 6 a.m. every morning, working until 10 or 11 every night, nonstop. It's the food life and a constant hustle. Be ready." –Kent Graham, owner, Field Dog Kitchen

Brittney Helmrich

Brittney M. Helmrich graduated from Drew University in 2012 with a B.A. in History and Creative Writing. She joined the Business News Daily team in 2014 after working as the editor-in-chief of an online college life and advice publication for two years. Follow Brittney on Twitter at @brittneyplz, or contact her by email.