How to Start a Food Truck Business

If you have a passion for cooking, opening a food truck could be your next big career move. Discover how to start a food truck business with Groupon.
food truck business

Everything you need to learn about owning a food truck business:

Running a business on wheels is a dream come true for many – which should come as no surprise given the flexibility and freedom it offers. Learn how to start a food truck business and you can move around as you please and set your own hours, finding the perfect clientele, and building your brand as you go.

It goes without saying that COVID-19 has had a major impact on the food industry, forcing many restaurants and bars to shut their doors for months at a time. As a result, going mobile has become an increasingly major attraction, and statistics show that the financial side isn’t too shabby, either. 

In major cities with high foot traffic, high-end food truck operators can expect between £30,000 and £100,000 in profit per year. Entry market food trucks and those in less populated areas can still reach between £400 and £12,000 per month.1 The exact food truck profit margin will depend on your start-up costs and overheads.

If you’ve decided to embark on your own food truck business, but aren’t sure how to get the engine started, read on. We have all the essential information you’ll need to know – including food truck permits and putting together a full-throttle plan of action.

How Much Does It Cost to Start a Food Truck?

Just like any restaurant business, the total cost to start a food truck can vary hugely. Experts’ estimates place the cost of starting a food truck business anywhere between £22,000 and £90,000.2 Which end of the spectrum you fall will depend on a variety of factors, including where you live or plan to work, how much equipment you need, what you choose to sell, whether you need staff and more. Opening a food truck is undoubtedly going to attract lower start-up costs than starting a brick-and-mortar restaurant. However, that doesn’t mean it will be cheap. There are numerous start-up costs associated with food trucks, not least of which is purchasing or leasing the vehicle itself. 

Starting a Food Truck Business – the Essentials 

Step-by-step guide:

  1. Food truck permits and licences
  2. Buying a food truck
  3. Food trucks vs traditional restaurants

Food truck permits and licences 

You may have already guessed this but opening a food truck is not always as simple as decking out a vehicle and heading out to your destination of choice. There are a few food truck licences and permits that you’ll need to legally be able to start your business:

  • Business licence
  • Public liability insurance 
  • An approved HACCP plan 
  • Level 2 or 3 Food Safety & Hygiene3 
  • Street vendor licence

While these are the main licences and permits, some local councils will require others. Always check your local council’s official website to see if you’ll need anything else, such as a parking permit, fire certificate or a seller’s permit.

Buying a food truck

Before you dive headfirst into finding the most attention-grabbing behemoth on the market, there are a few things you should stop to consider:

  • Budget – The cost to buy a food truck can change quite dramatically depending on the type of vehicle you go for. A new, made-to-order truck may cost as much as £50,000. Second-hand food trucks can often be picked up for between £5,0004 and £10,000 but may require additional work before you can start selling. Rental costs will be lower the longer the lease – for a lease of six months or more, you can expect to pay between £1,500 and £2,500 per month.
  • Truck or trailer – If you want to save some cash, you could buy a trailer or cart that attaches to your car. There are pros and cons of both, with a trailer being cheaper but a truck looking much more professional. 
  • Food – The type of food you serve will have a big effect on what both the interior and exterior needs to look like, as well as the staff you employ. Keep your menu short and sweet – you won’t have as much space as in a commercial kitchen, so focus on serving a few key items and serving them exceptionally. 
  • New or used – When it comes to buying a food truck, you’ll need to decide if you want to refurbish a used food truck or have a new one converted just for your brand. Again, there are benefits to both – refurbishing an old truck can take time and planning but may be cheaper than getting a company to design it for you on your behalf. It may also allow you to start serving virtually straight away. Equally, you may have to pay out more for a brand-new truck and wait for it to be ready, but you can design it from scratch to ensure it suits your brand and needs perfectly. 

Take some time to plan out what you’ll need inside of the truck, how much you can spend and what you want the exterior design to convey. You don’t want to buy a truck thinking it’s perfect, only to have to spend a fortune decking it out in essential equipment. 

Food trucks vs traditional restaurants

Whether you’ve owned a restaurant in the past or have experience as an employee, there are a range of differences between a traditional restaurant and a food truck: 

  • Less space – You’ll likely have much less space in your prep and cooking area compared to a conventional restaurant, which usually means less staff and fewer items on the menu. Get innovative with your space to combat this.
  • Freedom to find customers – One of the biggest benefits of owning a food truck over a conventional restaurant is that you can go to the customers, rather than the customers having to come to you. You can move around more, experiment with locations and change it up when the clientele begins to thin out.
  • Inventory – Restaurants have much more space to hold stock, whereas you may have to restock your food truck regularly depending on the capacity. Keep track of your inventory so you aren’t forced to cancel orders at the last minute. 
  • Less staff – While having fewer employees may sound like a disadvantage, it definitely has its benefits. For example, you won’t have to worry about hiring waiters, as customers will wait at the truck until the food is served, which means you have fewer people to put on the payroll. However, it does mean that the staff you hire need to be especially trustworthy, hardworking and good under stress, as they will be responsible for all aspects of service when on shift. 

Creating a Food Truck Business Plan

Another point of consideration when thinking about how to start a food truck, is pulling together a trailblazing food truck business plan – an essential way in helping you stay on track with your objectives and goals. It can also be used to educate potential investors about your business, to help secure funding.

You should take some time to make a detailed plan of action, including:

  • Objectives – Detail what you want to achieve in your first year, listing out clear goals and targets you want to reach.
  • Target audience – Who do you specifically want to target? This will influence the marketing and design of your food truck. Include details like age, interests, culture, and the like.
  • Executive summary – A brief outline of your business. Include a mission statement and outline what type of food you plan on selling and where you’re planning on selling it, whether that be one location or multiple.
  • Product line – Details on what will be on the menu and any other products you’ll be selling.
  • Competitors – Are there any other food trucks in the area, or are you up against a chain of restaurants with similar offerings? Analyse a few of your competitors and what you can offer to top them.
  • Management team – Detail management roles, including their salary, duties and previous experience.
  • Financial analysis – Include details of your balance sheet, income statement, cash flow statement, operating budget and break-even analysis.

Food truck business plan template

Still unsure of how to set this out? Our food truck business plan template should give you some inspiration:

Download the full template here

Feel free to amend this food truck business plan sample however you see fit – it’s important that you put your own stamp on it, and that it makes sense for your business.

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