Why is There No Running a Food Truck for Dummies Book?

Why is There No Running a Food Truck for Dummies Book?

If you are interested in starting your own food truck business you might have wondered why there isn’t a simple ‘Running a Food Truck for Dummies’ style book or article online? Well, unfortunately it’s because there isn’t really a simple way to break it down. There are a lot of different factors that can come into play including where you plan on having your food truck, what type of food you will be offering, and more. If you love to cook and see happy people eating your food, then a food truck can be an amazing and fulfilling career. Here is our best approximation of ‘Running a Food Truck for Dummies’.

Local Laws Vary

This is the single biggest headache for anybody in the food truck business, and what current owner/operators state they wish they had known more about before jumping into starting their food truck business. I would research this extensively before doing anything in else in terms of getting your business started. There is nothing worse than dropping $10,000 on a truck only to find out that it’s 1′ too long to legally park anywhere in your city.

Every state, every county, and every city is going to have different rules for business permits & licenses, parking permits, and health codes. This is the main reason why it’s difficult to write a simple start-up guide for food trucks, the rules can vary wildly from place to place. Some places and cities are quite food truck friendly, others are not. One owner in New York said he wish he’d known he’d be operating or not based on the whims of the NYPD that day before starting his business. A great resource for finding more information on what you’ll need to register for as a new business is available on the Small Business Administration (SBA) website, we highly recommend that you check them out.

In general, you are going to need these items to get your business running and possibly others not listed:

  • A tax number
  • A business licenses
  • Likely more than one local permit (zoning permit, signage permit, etc)
  • Incorporation number, even if you are a sole proprietor you don’t want to leave all of your personal assets on the hook in the event that someone sues you for injury or food poisoning
  • Successfully completed health inspection and health permit
  • Business & liability insurance

The health inspection and permit can vary a lot depending on what type of food you are serving, if customers are taking away or eating at tables you set out, and how much of the food preparation happens in the truck. You are at the minimum required to provide safe food storage and prep areas, hand washing station for yourself and any employees, and possibly restroom facilities. Especially with the pandemic right now, there are a lot of extra things you need to do and restrictions.

starting a new food business

There are Different Business Models

You might think ‘food truck business’ and imagine that all of the work is happening inside of the truck. And in some cases that might be true, you will do all of your cooking and food preparation inside of the truck although you will still need proper storage for food items when the truck is not in use.

However in some areas that’s actually not legal to do, or you may decide it makes more sense to use a commissary or commercial kitchen to do your food prep and storage. Generally you will rent out the space on a monthly basis, and you will have access to all kinds of prep space & equipment as well as refrigerators and other safe food storage spaces. The cost of renting out a commissary or commercial kitchen will vary from area to area, so it’s difficult to give an estimate on that. If you go this route, then you can probably get away with a smaller truck, a trailer, or even a food cart depending on what you are serving. Using a commercial kitchen may also open up the possibility of offering a wider variety of menu items.

With the advent of food delivery services such as DoorDash and PostMates, there is a new mobile kitchen model that has popped up: ghost kitchens. These are where a brand does not have a physical location of either a brick and mortar restaurant or a food truck but instead operates a delivery-only service out of a commissary or commercial kitchen, or sometimes several of them. Particularly during the current pandemic, this type of business has become more common and seen success in large cities like Los Angeles and New York. It allows brands to be hyper-focused in a way similar to food trucks: serving only gourmet tacos for example. I think the ghost kitchen idea is very interesting (hello not needing to go to the mechanics every month!) but it’s also very removed from the customer. If actually being able to see the joy on customers faces when they recieve your food is important to you then you may not enjoy this type of business.

Don’t Give Up, You Can Do This!

I know it can seem overwhelming, I would argue that running a successful food truck is in fact not for dummies! You need to get a lot of ducks in a row, work really hard, be great at marketing, and be a great chef. But if this is something you really feel passionate about, don’t give up on your dream! Nothing worth doing is ever easy, and the world needs your delicious food!