Food trucks have been increasingly popular in recent years. Everyone enjoys a food truck business, whether it’s in neighborhood parks, city centers, or even Food Network shows. They’re quick, inventive, and usually less expensive than a fancy sit-down restaurant.
Food trucks provide chefs and cooks with a whole new level of innovation. You can have complete control over the menu without resorting to the traditional restaurant hierarchy. The only concern you should have is keeping your clients loyal, satisfied, and interested.
As appealing as all of this may sound, many budding chefs underestimate the costs of launching their food truck. When calculating how much it costs to start a food truck business, you must factor in the cost of the truck, cooking equipment, venue rental, and even advertising. You must treat your vehicle as a business if you want to succeed.
After spending 18 months learning how to make bread and pizza, John Martin founded Spectacular Goat Food Emporium 5 1/2 years ago.
‘I had a passion for food, and the delight on someone’s face when they took a piece of something good was my main motivation,’ he says.
Martin thought there might be an opportunity to transform his passion into a business after a year of friends raving about his cooking. He created a reasonable budget based on our financial resources and worked from there.
He determined that making pizza was the way to go and that using a wood-fired oven was the best method. ‘I didn’t want to bother if I couldn’t come up with something unique,’ Martin explains. ‘It paid off for me; I was booked for the following summer within six months and searching for a second setup.’
Martin later added a 1960s VW truck to his 1950s caravan 12 months later.
Locating the ideal truck or van
A van might make life easier if you have the funds, but finding the appropriate one can be costly. ‘People want historical vans; the Citroen H Van is the king of UK street food, but you’re looking at roughly £45,000 (plus fit-out of kit) to get something with some capacity and is mechanically sound,’ explains.
The street food elite’ will consider you for their events if you have one of these, and you’ll have plenty of wedding work if that’s what you want, Martin adds. ‘Even so, think about how far you want to go; they’re infamous for being unreliable and slow.’
Another alternative is to look into used autos. For example, fitted-out Citroen H Vans and VW Camper vans may be found on eBay for £15,000 to £20,000. Of course, any renovations and possibly mechanical work must be factored into these costs before you can hit the road.
If you’re planning festivals or larger events, think about if you’ll need a van. ‘You can save money by investing in pitch fees and running from a gazebo! Depending on the type of food you wish to serve, a modern truck will cost between £30-40,000. If your cuisine is exceptional, you’ll get employment; if it’s ordinary and you’re willing to travel, you’ll get work.’
Martin couldn’t afford either of these vehicles, so he settled for a gazebo and an oven on a trailer he could tow behind his car. He spent roughly £10,000 on the oven and trailer, with the trailer holding most of what he required and the car transporting the rest of the gear and food.
Purchasing of equipment
What you want to sell is just as important as where you trade and how you trade. Martin chose a wood-fired oven, anticipating improving the food’s quality. ‘I know other pizza men who went electric because they were after indoor exhibition hall work,’ Martin explains. However, he adds, the venue will require at least 30% turnover.
A grill and a deep fat fryer are required if you plan to offer burgers and fries. Because heat evaporates quickly outside, you’ll need a high-powered electric grill, which requires a large power source, or gas, initially more expensive. Your deep fat fryers will also require a lot of power, according to Martin, because you’ll lose business if you can’t cook your food quickly enough. Buying on the cheap is always appealing, but profit is made here.
The importance of location cannot be overstated.
Where should I trade? You’ll need a permit from your municipality on the street — you can’t just set up anywhere.
Consider how busy the location is and whether you plan to visit every day or only when you have time. ‘People prefer to know you’re there every day, and the temptation to skip out when the weather is poor or if you have anything else going on will quickly deplete your usual business,’ Martin explains.
He also suggests looking at your markets to see if they have the types of vendors who could be interested in trying your style and quality of food.
Although local markets do not require a license, you must register with your local Environmental Health Officer. ‘It can be a terrific place to learn your craft because you’ll be busy enough to identify where the difficulties are,’ Martin explains.
A successful street event might earn you money and open doors to other opportunities. They’ll take a cut and a fee, but you’ll already have a clientele. Festivals are usually expensive upfront and can be scheduled up to a year in advance. ‘There are no guarantees, and you can lose a lot of money and make a lot of money,’ Martin warns. ‘Be cautious when approaching!’
Martin chose local markets, local events, and street food events before concentrating on weddings, corporate events, and a few street food events as time permitted. Low risk, good exposure, and profitable if expenditures are managed properly.
There are a lot of apps and internet sites that can assist mobile caterers in finding trading pitches if they are willing to travel. Some examples are:
- Street Food is a street food events firm based in the United Kingdom. It features a booking app that includes markets, festivals, pop-up places, and permanent pitch locations.
- StreetDots connects landowners/event organizers and street merchants with an online booking system. It also offers a vetting service so that both parties are confident in the agreement’s commercial viability.
- Feast It is an online booking tool for those looking for catering for special occasions. If you can make it onto the vetted list of providers, you’ll have the chance to be linked with the festival, street fair, and outdoor party organizers.
- FoodHawkers — A catering and street food marketplace based in the United Kingdom. Event planners can choose from the platform’s providers or post their markets, festivals, parties, and other events for traders to bid on.
- NCASS Mobile Catering offers a ‘Work Opportunities’ board as part of their membership package.
- Kerb Food is situated in London and operates as a collective for street food vendors, arranging pitches for them. It also functions as a business incubator, a food hall operator, and an event caterer.
Discover your culinary interest, whether pizza, burgers, BBQ or something else different. ‘Your passion will shine through, and clients will appreciate it,’ adds Martin.
He suggests that once you identify what meal you want to specialize in, you should polish your product and expertise by practicing with your friends and family. Decide what will work best on the street and what equipment you’ll need to succeed.
‘After you know it works with friends and family, select a good market and try it for a few weeks to build up a reputation and feedback that you can use to help you acquire bigger events in your chosen market place.’
Additional Street Food Resources
Here are some helpful resources if the preceding has piqued your interest in beginning a food truck business.
- Food and beverage trends and data are presented in highly engaging graphic ways in The Food People Infographics. Learn about the newest trendy cuisines and ‘flavour indicators.’
- org.uk — A site created by the NCASS has a wealth of information for anyone interested in beginning a street food business in the United Kingdom.
- StreetFood Live is an annual business-to-business event for the street food and mobile catering industries. Traders can source products and services, learn about the newest equipment advancements, get free marketing advice and consultations, and network with other food companies.
- Unwrapping the UK’s Appetite For Food Vans A collection of useful information about the most popular cuisines and menus presented by food trucks.