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Updated Feb 28, 2024

10 Things to Do Before Opening a Food Truck

Help ensure your mobile eatery's success with these tips and best practices.

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Written By: Brittney MorganStaff Writer
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This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.

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It’s no surprise that many aspiring foodie entrepreneurs are taking their restaurant ideas on the road. Running a food truck comes with its own requirements, complications and rewards. Food truck owners and small business experts shared their advice on starting a food truck. From choosing the right location to investing in the right technology, we’ll explain 10 things you must do before you get cooking.

Tips for opening a food truck

Before starting a food truck, ensure the market isn’t already oversaturated with trucks offering similar fares. Beyond that, consider the following tips.

Invest in a good truck.

“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  

Consider your potential customers.

“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 

Read our reviews of the best restaurant point-of-sale (POS) systems to find a mobile POS with the functionality your food truck business needs.

Prepare catering options as well.

“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 

Get experience in the industry.

“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, former co-owner, Peaches’ Smokehouse & Southern Kitchen 

Think about technology.

“Consider the technology you’ll need to make your business successful. Running a mobile business is logistically very different from [running a] brick-and-mortar [operation]. 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 offline capabilities, so you don’t lose time and money.” – Chris Poelma, CEO and board director, PCS Software Inc. [If you’re looking for a POS system for your food truck, check out our review of Toast and our TouchBistro review].

Did You Know?Did you know
A mobile business requires a quality mobile POS system with offline functionality that can take over if your Wi-Fi goes down.

Make sure you have all your permits.

“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

Test your concept.

“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 

Get social.

“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 

Choose the right locations.

“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 consultant for Filament Business Advisors 

Make sure you’re ready.

“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, former owner, Field Dog Kitchen

Before starting your business, create a business plan for your food truck venture and understand your startup expenses and funding options.

Food truck business FAQs

Doing the necessary prep work is the most important part of putting your food truck in the best position to succeed. First, choose your business location wisely. Research the area you want to work in and ask yourself, is it a good location for a food truck? Is it a city that's filled with people? Consider what you're offering. Do several other food trucks in the area serve the same cuisine? To have a successful food truck, plan ahead to ensure you set up your business for success.
A food truck can bring in significant income, but sticking with it for the long haul is crucial. According to a survey of 200 U.S. food truck vendors, the average annual gross revenue was more than $100,000. So, depending on your costs, it can be a profitable business. Buying quality equipment for your vehicle is essential, so you don't waste money on fixing things. Tip: Increase profits by accommodating your customers' payment preferences, including NFC mobile payments and other popular payment methods.
For food trucks to be successful, they must be in high-foot-traffic areas. Street parking near construction sites or malls are great locations, but there are also designated areas for food trucks, called food truck parks. If you decide to operate in a food truck park, it is crucial to consider the specific spot where you set up. For example, if you're a grilled cheese spot, try not to set up shop near another grilled cheese truck. Instead, rest your wheels between a sushi truck and an empanada truck. Parking in business districts, near nightclubs and on college campuses is also an easy way to run into swarms of hungry customers.
While a food truck is a great entrepreneurial business idea, it isn't foolproof. A lack of research and planning is a big reason some food trucks don't make it. Your location and brand must support each other. Another reason for failure is that food truck operators often enter an already crowded market. Remember that you're competing against other trucks and restaurants serving your same cuisine. Check out the competition beforehand and be prepared to explore different food offerings if your city already has several established food trucks serving your intended offering.
Besides the truck, you will need equipment for cooking, food prep and serving. These items may include microwaves, toasters, grills or fryers, depending on what you're making. You will also need utensils, plates, cups, pots, pans, skillets and blenders. Cleaning and janitorial supplies are also essential. You may also need mobile POS system equipment and credit card processing hardware.
In some ways, a food truck is only as good as the community around it. When done right, it can also be a major boost to a neighborhood's economy. Street food can increase tourism and cause more foot traffic. It can also introduce different cultures and cuisines, which can add diversity to a community.

Opening your food truck

The above steps provide an excellent footprint for opening a food truck. From investing in the right truck to securing the proper permits, there are countless boxes to check before launching your food truck business. Once you build a solid foundation for your endeavor, you’ll feel more equipped to deliver the best service and address common challenges. Ensure you do everything possible to connect with your local community, as they will be an integral part of your growth and success.

Sammi Caramela contributed to this article.

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Written By: Brittney MorganStaff Writer
Brittney Q. Morgan is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor, as well as a graduate of Drew University, where she majored in History. Her work can be found all across the web at Apartment Therapy, HuffPost, and more. You can also find her on Twitter at @brittneyplz.
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