Congratulations! If you’ve got dreams of starting a food truck business, you’re looking at a potentially lucrative business venture. Of course, starting a food truck requires a lot of hard work and long hours, and you must stay up to date with the laws and requirements that legally allow you to serve food.
I’m going to teach you how to start a food truck business using the Lean Startup Method, which will save you a lot of money and time. The Lean Startup Method is a business startup process that was designed by Eric Reis, who in 2011 went on to write a book explaining it, The Lean Startup Method.
But before you learn everything there is to know about the Lean Startup Method, you need to understand why the traditional startup method is ineffective.
The traditional flawed business startup process
Typically, if you were to search for the traditional startup steps for starting a food truck, they would be presented like this:
- Identify a passion or skill set you can cash in on (in this case, tasty food).
- Write a food truck business plan.
- Fund your food truck business.
- Choose a location for your business.
- Choose a structure for your business.
- Decide on a business name for your food truck.
- Form your business formally: register your business, get tax IDs for your business, apply for business licenses and permits, and open a business bank account.
- Ultimately fail because this method is flawed.
It’s pretty evident why many small business owners read the steps of this startup method and feel like they’re perfectly reasonable and effective. (But most mainstream business advice columns won’t add #8.) The traditional startup method makes it sound like if you have a good food truck business plan, adequate funding, and the right restaurant location, the profits will start pouring in without much work on the part of the business owner.
Of course, this method and its projected outcomes sound nice, but the reality of the situation is quite different.
Unfortunately, it’s possible to follow all the steps of the traditional startup method perfectly and still experience the failure of your food truck. As a matter of fact, four out of every five businesses that were formed using the traditional startup method fail within their first year.
The businesses that meet this fate don’t do so because other business owners are too lazy or don’t have the drive necessary to run a successful food truck business, which might be what you’re thinking. Instead, they fail because the traditional startup method provides shaky foundations because it makes three flawed assumptions.
Assumption 1: You have deep and intimate knowledge of your market
Since you’re here to learn how to start a food truck, it’s reasonable to assume that you’re not an expert in the food truck industry yet. There are lots of important facets of the industry to learn, like complying with regulations of the local health department, obtaining business licenses, buying the right cooking equipment, and learning how much food to buy each month.
Of course, as a new food truck business, you’re not going to know the ins and outs of the industry the way the traditional startup method assumes you do. Chances are that if you’re one of the nation’s aspiring food truck owners then you’ve probably worked at a restaurant or for another food truck owner, so you probably know a bit about how to cook delicious food and get orders up quickly and efficiently. But that’s not all there is to owning a food truck business.
The first flawed assumption made by the traditional business startup method is that you have expert-level knowledge of the industry when you’re a beginning food truck owner. You simply can’t have this type of knowledge immediately. In fact, it can take many food truck owners decades to learn the industry as intimately as the traditional method assumes you do, so believing that you come automatically equipped with sage experience is a deeply flawed assumption.
If you start a food truck business using the Lean Startup Method, however, you’ll learn about the food truck industry and how to run your food truck efficiently before you even officially open your food truck business. This is a little less hectic than starting a food truck with the traditional startup method because the traditional method requires you to jump in and run your business while learning how to run it AND learning about the food truck industry all at once. Because you’re not subjected to this sort of stress with the Lean Startup Method, your business has a better chance of success.
Assumption 2: Your needs and wants are more important than your customers’ needs and wants
The goal of most businesses is to make money. However, if you’re not willing to listen to the wants and needs of your customers, your business isn’t likely to be open for very long.
The traditional startup method encourages you to think of the reasons you, the business owner, want to start a food truck. But it doesn’t ask you to think about the needs of your customers, or why they would buy food from your food truck.
If you don’t get feedback from your customers and find out what they want, your advertisements will come off as “Please buy food from my food truck,” which isn’t an efficient advertising tactic, and it could very well damage the image of your food truck business because it seems unprofessional and a bit desperate.
Starting a food truck using the Lean Startup Method involves learning about other food trucks in the area, your customer base, and what they’d like to see from a new food truck business. Do you live in a rural area, or an area that doesn’t have many food trucks? Do the food trucks in your area all serve the same sort of food? Do customers want a specific type of street food?
The second flawed assumption of the traditional startup method is that what the business owner wants is more important than what the customers want.
Asking your customers about other food trucks and what they want from a new food truck is encouraged with the Lean Startup Method. There are less significant financial risks with the Lean Startup Method because you’re not expected to invest tons of money in a food truck whose success isn’t certain. And the feedback you obtain from customers is helpful because it will become the basis of your food truck and help you make inventory and product decisions in the future.
Assumption 3: You have unlimited cash to burn
Most of us know this one simple truth: a lot of human suffering could be alleviated if money were an unlimited, renewable resource. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. So, business owners shouldn’t spend money recklessly if their goal is money management. Every new business will have to take a few financial risks at some point, but that doesn’t mean burning through money like there’s an unlimited supply of it.
Starting a food truck with the Lean Startup Method will likely involve selling food at booths or stands until you make enough money to buy an actual truck, which is probably drastically different from the fantasies of owning a gourmet food truck that fueled this dream.
Starting a food truck using the traditional startup method means that you’ll immediately start by drafting a food truck business plan, obtaining funding, purchasing a truck and equipment, coming up with a food truck concept, registering with the local motor vehicle department and the local health department, receiving food truck licenses, acquiring parking permits, learning to purchase food, and learning about the food truck industry—all without knowing which strategies work best for your food truck business. The traditional startup method assumes that you’ve got the funding necessary to buy your own food truck, that you’ve done all the necessary networking and made connections with other food truck owners, and that you can start a food truck right now and begin immediately making money.
Starting a food truck can cost between $75,000–$250,000. That’s a big chunk of change, and most people couldn’t afford to lose that much if their food truck failed. I’m betting it would be a crushing blow to your finances, as well.
If you use the Lean Startup Method to start a food truck, you’re able to start your business in smaller increments while also learning about the food truck industry and networking with owners of other food trucks. You’ll even start making a profit before you take any significant financial risks to cover your food truck startup costs.
If you’d prefer to own a food truck that expands and flourishes, rather than becoming another stereotypical failed business under the traditional startup method, then the Lean Startup Method is an ideal choice for you.
What is the Lean Startup Method?
The three core ideals that make up the Lean Startup Method are build, measure, and learn.
Starting a food truck business using the Lean Startup Method means you’ll conduct experiments to improve your services and test various product ideas. Another important aspect of the Lean Startup Method is choosing the cheapest, most productive ways to sell your products. You’ll immediately start gaining experience in the food truck industry, but the information won’t be thrust upon you as quickly as it is with the traditional startup method. The Lean Startup Method is more suitable because the traditional startup method all but guarantees the failure of your business by forcing you to write a business plan and stick to it before you even have a business to speak of, let alone know how to run it.
The first phase is the build phase. In this early phase you’ll talk with local customers to ask them about any problems they have with local food trucks, find a problem you can solve with your food truck business, and then design a solution that meets the needs of your customers.
The second phase is the measure phase. This is where you test the solution you’ve devised during the build phase. This testing phase provides you with a lot of information that will help you determine whether the solution you’ve created will work for your food truck business.
The final phase is the learn phase. During this phase you’ll gather important information about the satisfaction levels of your customers in regards to your menu items, service, and the customer experience with your food truck business.
The beauty of the Lean Startup Method is that if any of your solutions fail, you can trash them and develop new ones. Focusing on effective products, services, and advertising tactics will ultimately lead to a more successful food truck business for you.
If a company sold an overly expensive product and told people that it had an 80% chance to break down, malfunction, or otherwise fail within a year of purchase, most people wouldn’t buy that product. This scenario seems outlandish, but that’s basically what the Lean Startup Method does. Four out of five businesses started with the traditional startup method result in failure during their first year of business.
A business owner who starts a food truck with the traditional startup method takes significant financial risks and pays high startup costs. They don’t learn about the industry or conduct market research but instead jump right in and hope their business succeeds. But when you start a food truck using the Lean Startup Method, you’ll continually test different ideas, menu items, and services to meet the needs of your customers by making changes based on their feedback. A business started with the Lean Startup Method has an automatic advantage over businesses started with the traditional startup method because you’ll build a community for your food truck that will eventually become your customer base.
Using the Lean Startup Method to start your food truck means you’ll have lower startup costs than people who bought food trucks using the traditional startup method. The traditional startup method expects you to be able to fund buying your own food truck and pay high startup costs. The Lean Startup Method allows you the chance to learn about the food truck industry and how to successfully run your business gradually. Without the added stress of high startup costs, your food truck business has more of a chance to survive and thrive.
How am I able to so confidently state that your food truck is more likely to succeed with the Lean Startup Method? Easy. I’ve started five different businesses during the past eight years using the Lean Startup Method. I was able to sell three of them successfully, and I still own and manage the other two to this day. I went on to help thousands of people start the businesses of their dreams, and I can help you start your food truck too!
The Lean Startup Method and the core tenets of build, measure, and learn reduce the startup costs of your food truck business and can provide you with solid foundations and the necessary tools to manage a successful food truck.
During the build phase, you’ll develop a plan and build your food truck business. You do this by identifying a problem that your community has with other food trucks and the industry at large, creating a community for your food truck, recognizing an opportunity to provide a solution, and developing that solution.
This phase is important because it provides you with an opportunity to determine whether the ideas you have for your food truck are good and whether they meet the needs of your community. Building a solid foundation for your food truck business and acquiring the knowledge and tools necessary to run a successful business are the goals of the build phase.
Step 1: Identify a problem
The first item on your agenda should be discovering a problem that a number of people have, one that you feel you can solve with your food truck.
You can’t just start selling food from your food truck and hoping people buy it because that isn’t an effective business model. There are hundreds of new restaurants on the market, and numerous food trucks in the country, and customers simply don’t have enough money to support them all. A much more effective tactic is to find a compelling reason for people to buy your food.
But finding this compelling reason can be tough.
What you need to do is find a pain point, a business term for a problem that’s common among a lot of people and causes pain or discomfort enough for them to look for a solution for it. Either the people will develop a solution on their own or they’ll pay someone else for a solution. You want your food truck to be that solution.
But it’s not as simple as adopting the menus and advertising tactics of other food trucks. You need to find a problem that local people face that can be solved with your food truck specifically. Are there not many food trucks in your area? Have people in your area been looking for a food truck with a specific type of food (Mexican, burgers, desserts)? Do all the food trucks in your area sell the same types of products? How familiar are local customers with food trucks?
Take note of the concerns that people bring up to you because you can use them to develop your business. Do other food trucks neglect to give people customization options and a variety of toppings? Would people like to see more menu variety in food trucks? Would people like to see a food truck that sells a type of street food not offered by local food trucks? Are people interested in a food truck with friendly staff and experienced cooks? Do they want creative signature dishes?
After you’ve talked to more than a handful of people you should notice a few common concerns that pop up in your interviews, and you can start adding these to future surveys. Make sure you ask customers about how much these problems affect them. When you ask about other food trucks, you’ll gain insight into the food truck industry, other local food trucks, the types of food available at food trucks in your area, events where people visit food trucks, and the service that people expect from food truck businesses. You can sift through this information to find the problem you want to focus on.
How do you choose which problem to focus on?
The Lean Startup Method doesn’t outline a way for you to choose the problem you will address, but these tips should make choosing a problem a bit easier:
- Choose a problem that affects a lot of people. Are there not enough of one type of food truck in the area? Do people want more portable food that they can eat on their walk back to work? Would people like to see new menu options from a new food truck?
- Choose a problem that can be considered a pain point. When learning how to start a food truck, it does you no good to choose a problem that no one cares about. The more agitated or distressed by a problem people are, the better an option it is for your food truck. Are there no food trucks near big businesses (call centers, construction sites, hospitals, etc.)? Do no local food trucks show up at events, forcing people to eat the typical carnival food and get bored? Are people in your area looking for new menu options to get out of their dinner ruts?
- Choose a problem that you can reasonably solve. If people want fancy gourmet meals from a Michelin-starred chef served from a food truck, that’s not something you can realistically provide. But what you can do is use gourmet ingredients and add exotic options periodically to scratch their artisanal itch.
The goal of this step is to find a problem that affects a lot of people and causes enough pain or distress in their lives that they’re willing to pay for a solution to it.
Step 2: Build a community
The next step is to create a community for your food truck business. Members of your community should be the people who are affected by the problem you’ve identified. Fortunately, social media makes creating a community for your food truck quite easy. Start a Facebook group, TikTok account, Instagram, or Reddit forum. Once you’ve completed this step, you’ll have created a community full of people who are affected by the problem you’ve identified, who are interested in any solution you provide, and will eventually become your customer base. You’ll also be creating the brand and developing advertising strategies for your food truck business, as well as conducting important market research while creating your community. If you were to use the traditional startup method to start a food truck, all this work and research would take at least three separate steps to complete, but you can complete it all with one easy step with the Lean Startup Method.
Though online communities are great, you should have a number of community options for your food truck, so establishing an offline community is a good idea too. This can be accomplished by creating a club or meetup group and holding regular in-person meetings. These offline communities have their benefits, like feedback in real time, and intimate face-to-face interactions with customers. When you interact with your customers in person, they’re more likely to feel closer to you and develop a favorable opinion of your food truck.
Reasons to build a community:
- Building a community affords you the opportunity to learn more about the problem you’ve identified and gain an understanding about how it affects your community.
- It gives you a place to start developing your brand and marketing strategies of your mobile food business and test them on your target market.
- When you build a community for your small business, you’re also developing a customer base that’s primed and ready to spend money on your food truck once it officially opens. This gives you a competitive edge over businesses that use the traditional startup method because they’re forced to open their businesses and then try to pull a customer base from thin air.
- Creating a community means you have the chance to raise money for your small business before you’ve even opened it.
How to build a community:
- Start a Facebook group and gain members by sharing content about various topics of interest in the food industry. You can share interesting pieces about food truck owners, important areas of interest for food truck operators, various food truck vendors, articles about unique food truck concepts, as well as food and recipe ideas. You could even share food and restaurant memes. As you post more and interact with your community, you’ll notice it slowly grow.
- Set up polls on Twitter. People love interactive media, and polls allow them to feel like their opinions are being heard in a meaningful way. So polls will not only help you gain followers, but will also spread awareness about your new small business.
- Post pictures and videos from various events and festivals to your social media accounts. If something big is happening on the local food truck scene, post about it.
- Use your social media accounts to connect with not only food truck customers, but also food truck owners and other small business owners, as well as local officials. These relationships are massively helpful when you’re learning how to start a food truck because these experienced individuals can tell you all about the industry, the ins and outs of food safety, applying for things like parking permits and registering with the local motor vehicle department and health department, whether your food truck concept is viable, and more.
Your online community will tell you the pros and cons of local food truck operations and your own. They’ll tell you about the types of food other food truck businesses are serving, and their prices and specials,and they’ll tell you how they feel about the quality of food that food truck businesses serve and what they’d like to see from a new food truck in the area.
Building a community also gives you a platform to advertise your new small business. As members of your community interact with your posts and take part in discussions, the word will quickly spread that you’re developing a small business that uses customer feedback to influence menu and promotion decisions, and that will lead to loads of new members clamoring to learn more about your food truck.
Step 3: Identify a solution opportunity
As neat as it would be to solve a problem simply by identifying it, that’s not how it works. You now have to solve the problem.
While you’re doing market analysis and building your community, ask questions about which food trucks they’re visiting, the advertising tactics of successful food trucks, If they’ve met other food truck owners, how the local community feels about current food truck options, and about the ideas they have for a new food truck. Take this information and begin to think about possible solutions.
You should specifically ask about the marketing strategies of other food trucks. What sort of promotions are they currently running? What’s their favorite special? Have they visited the websites of other food trucks? What sort of information is on them? Can you find other food trucks on DoorDash, UberEats, or other delivery service apps?
When you learn about the advertising strategies, price points, and product offerings of other food trucks, it will help you develop your own. It’s time to sit down and brainstorm a solution to the problem you’ve identified!
Step 4: Develop a solution
The fourth step is developing a solution to the problem you’ve chosen that you can provide with your food truck. This is going to take some time and require you to think outside the box because the best solution will meet the needs of your community and please them enough that they’re willing to pay for it.
How to develop your solution:
- Think about solutions your food truck can feasibly provide. If people complain that other food trucks don’t offer enough of one option (such as portable food options that they can easily eat on the go or food they can quickly and easily eat at their desk), that’s the first thing you should add to your menu. If customers consistently tell you that they’d like to see a food truck with friendlier staff, that’s what you should develop your brand around.
- Ask people for feedback about your food truck idea. You need to find a solution that most of your community agrees solves their problem and is something that your community likes. Now is a good time to reach out to other business owners and food truck owners to find out whether your idea is viable.
- Create and develop the MVP, or minimum viable product, of your company. This is the service or product that costs the least to make, is easiest to provide to customers, and brings in the most profit.
You’ll know you’ve found the best solution idea when you find one that meets the needs of your community, has low production costs, and is easily supplied to customers. The creation of your MVP means that your production and food costs will be low, and the removal of that financial strain will lead to greater success for your food truck.
Next is the measure phase. Think of the word “measure” in the scientific sense of the word, synonymous with “test” or “experiment,” rather than measuring with a ruler or measuring cup. This phase involves conducting a series of tests to determine whether you’ve chosen a winning solution.
Step 5: Test your MVP
By this time you’ve developed a solution, found that your community is happy with it, and created the MVP for your business. Now it’s time to take your MVP for a test run. Running experiments is one of the key elements of the lean startup process, so it’s something you’ll repeat a lot over the years.
Creating your MVP involves many factors, including choosing the right recipe and ingredients, obtaining a business license, and applying to set up booths or stalls. But the best part of the Lean Startup Method is that if you choose an MVP that doesn’t work out in the end, you can just toss it and develop a new one.
It may seem a little convoluted to you to test your MVP before starting your business, but it actually makes sense when you look at it from a business standpoint. If you worked at a bank and were tasked with choosing to fund one of two different businesses, one who had created a community of customers, conducted market analysis, and shown beyond a doubt that its products would sell, and the other that came prepared with only a business plan and a dream, which would you fund? Most banks would choose the first business in that scenario.
Testing your MVP can potentially seem scary at first, but it’s pretty simple. It’s an important part of the Lean Startup Method, and it will help advertise your business.
The easiest, most effective way to test the product of any food business is to prepare your food, set up at a stall or booth at a farmer’s market, flea market or local event, then hand out samples. If you’re making burritos, cut them into sample-sized slices. Instead of handing out whole corn dogs, hot dogs, or cheeseburgers, consider making miniature versions, or cutting the entrees into smaller servings. Be sure to come prepared with sample servings of your sides, desserts, and any unique or signature drinks you’ll be serving at your food truck.
Pick your venue carefully. If you know for a fact that several other cheeseburger vendors will be at an event, then maybe that’s not the event for you—unless you’re offering something that no one else has to offer, or it’s a cheeseburger festival of some sort. On the other hand, if you’re serving some unique street food that other food trucks at the event aren’t serving, then you’ll stand out.
Ask people questions about the food and drinks they sampled. Do people like the food you’re selling and the specials you’ve created? How do they feel about the flavor combinations? If you’ve introduced them to a new type of cuisine (like Cuban or Greek food), did they enjoy it? Do they like the quality of your ingredients? Do they have any recipe suggestions (maybe less garlic next time)? Have you made a profit selling food from your food truck? What’s your best-selling menu item? And most importantly, would they come back and buy more?
You’ll be able to determine if this test was a success by the number of people that come to your stall and sample your food, giving you rave reviews. This test didn’t go so well if you didn’t pass out many samples. The truth is that if you’re handing out free food samples, then people should be lined up at your booth, excited and intrigued to try something new.
Step 6: Sell your MVP
After testing your MVP and gaining some firsthand experience in the industry, it’s time to sell your MVP. Of course, when you use the Lean Startup Method to sell your MVP, it doesn’t look quite as fantastic as the daydreams you’ve had of selling food from the food truck of your dreams. Not yet.
This step is crucial because it’s the last one before you obtain feedback about your business and then proceed on to get funding for your own food truck. When you complete this step, you’ll have a marked advantage over businesses started with the traditional startup method because it proves that you can sell your product, that your business is a success, and that your business is worthy of the funding needed to expand to an actual food truck.
To serve food, you’re going to need a food license, as well as various business licenses and permits. You’ll also need to follow the guidelines of the local health department. To start, you could initially test out a limited menu. This is easier not only for the customer, but for cashiers, cooks, and everyone involved as well. You can set up a stand at a farmer’s market or flea market, or start selling your food at local events. (Or all three!) Another option is finding a great location and setting up a stationary stand. There are several advantages to this, some of which include people being able to easily find your business, and, more importantly, come back.
When you sell your MVP you’re able to learn through a hands-on approach what works for your business, as well as marketing strategies that work for you and the local laws and regulations you have to follow. You’ll also gain loyal customers who love your food.
The last of the important principles that make up the lean startup process is the learn phase. After completing the build phase to build your business, then the measure phase to find out about the products and marketing strategies that work for you, you need to gather feedback to learn how people feel about your solution.
Step 7: Get feedback on your product idea
You’ve now created and interacted with a community for your food truck, identified and chosen a problem that impacts your community, provided a solution to the problem, and then created, developed, tested, and sold the MVP of your business. Completing this whole process will provide you with important information, like which strategies work and financial projections for your business. The last step is getting feedback about your solution. Here’s how to best use community feedback to learn about your business and achieve continued success:
- Ask your community questions to find out which menu items they like best, specifically what they like about them, how they compare to competitors’ food, and any additions to the menu or specials they’d like to see.
- Take notes on the feedback you get. Are customers happy with the sales and customer service experience at your business? Do they like the taste of your food? Are they impressed with your unique flavor combinations and recipes? Do they like your entrees, sides, or desserts more? What’s your best-selling menu item? Is there one request that keeps popping up in your comments section? How does your food truck compare to other food trucks in the area?
- Use the feedback to improve your business and services. Making changes based on feedback means that your business and menu will eventually be customized to the needs and wants of your community, which will make customers happier with your food and your services.
You can get a lot of feedback from social media. Create polls on various social media platforms, or design a survey to display on your website or landing page. Be sure to read online reviews for your business, as well, because they’re teeming with information about how you can improve your food and service.
After you’ve received enough feedback and thoroughly studied it, and you feel like you have a good grasp on what changes will make customers happy, it’s time to start making some changes to your services inspired by the feedback you’ve received. Making changes to your menu and your business based on customer feedback will lead to happier customers, and happy customers will result in a more successful business.
Pay close attention when your competitors employ new marketing strategies. Each new advertisement or promotional sale is an attempt to solve a problem in your community. So if you notice that an advertisement or sale flops, you’ll know to avoid that strategy. But if something is working, you should explore the problem that’s being addressed with it and then apply similar tactics to your own business.
The feedback your community provides you with, along with the research you’ll do, will help point you in the right direction to grow and expand your business. It will also massively help you when it comes to competing with other food trucks, which will contribute to the overall success of your business in the long run.
Now you’ve proven that you can run a food business, conducted market research, and received feedback from your customers about your products, which is all attributable to the long-term success of your business. It’s time to consider expanding and upgrading. It’s now time to start the process of obtaining a business license, state sales tax permit, a commercial driver’s license, parking permits (so you can park your truck overnight), and following the laws of your local and state government to achieve the food truck of your dreams. Luckily, the knowledge and experience you’ve gained using the Lean Startup Method to learn how to start a food truck will make it easy to draft a good business plan, choose a business name and get the funding you need to buy your truck and all your supplies.
But once you receive funding to cover your food truck startup costs, you still have a lot of work to do.
You’ll need to hire employees at some point, so you’ll need to obtain an EIN, or employer identification number, from the IRS. You should also consider opening a business bank account for your food truck during this time.
Another important thing you should decide on is the business structure of your food truck. You have several options, including a corporation, sole proprietorship, partnership, and limited liability company (LLC). If you’d like to know more about LLC formation, read How to Start an LLC.
You’ll also need to consider what’s known as a “registered agent.” This is a person or business entity that will accept mail, legal documents, and service of process on behalf of your company during business hours. If you’d like to know more about the services a registered agent can provide, read the Best Registered Agent Services.
Choosing the location for your business is important. While you’re not choosing a brick and mortar location, you’ll still need to account for things like foot traffic, visibility, and legal considerations (like zoning). Because you’re running a mobile business, you need to take these factors into consideration for each location you choose to park and serve customers.
Here’s a list of some of the activities you’ll need to take part in to ensure the success of your business:
- Hire employees. Theft and inventory loss is a pretty common and well-known issue in the food industry, and when you add the extra factor of a mobile restaurant to the equation, your business could be even more vulnerable. Furthermore, one foodborne illness or several bad reviews could cause calamity for your restaurant. That’s why you need to hire competent, experienced, trustworthy employees. Here are some positions you should consider hiring for: food truck manager, service window attendant, kitchen prep, chef, cooks, and a cashier.
- Follow state requirements. It takes a lot more than a good food truck concept to succeed in the industry. There’s a number of business regulations, food safety and food preparation regulations, and food truck permits, as well as other business permits and licenses, that food trucks must abide by and obtain.
- Invest in security. If you’re going to park your truck overnight, it’s a good idea to invest in a good security system with cutting-edge cameras and technology. You’ll also want to invest in inventory-tracking software, and maybe hire an inventory specialist. A food point-of-sale, or POS, system can track inventory and make this job easier.
- Get the right equipment. Buying the proper food truck equipment will go a long way toward helping your food truck succeed. In addition to the truck itself, some of the food truck equipment you’ll need includes: an oven, ranges and grills, ventilation, microwaves, coolers and freezers, food prep surfaces and equipment, knives, cutting boards, ice maker, food processors and blenders, pots, pans, bowls, utensils, storage containers and shelves, gloves, aprons, sanitizer buckets, rags, gloves, sinks, first aid kits, napkins, utensils, plates and clamshells. You’ll also need a good POS system, or point-of-sale system, which will make sending orders to the kitchen and tracking inventory a breeze. It’s a good idea to invest in a quality truck wrap to attract customers, as well.
- Find the right vendors. Food ingredients can be quite expensive, especially with rising inflation. But finding the right vendor doesn’t simply involve finding the cheapest products. The right vendor will offer you quality ingredients at great prices.
- Switch on the utilities. If your food truck is stationary, it will be more cost efficient to switch on the utilities than to simply rely on the battery power and water storage of the truck. This means you’ll need electricity, water, gas, heating and air conditioning, and Wi-Fi.
- Business software. Good business software in conjunction with a quality POS system, or point-of-sale system, can do everything from managing your employees to tracking sales and inventory, as well as managing payroll and taxes. For more information about business software, read Best Business Software.
- Get legal advice. There are lots of regulations involved with owning a food truck, and dealing with legal issues and customer complaints could be catastrophic for any business in the food industry. But online legal services can safeguard you against a lot of legal issues and clear up any confusing compliance regulations. For more about what online legal services can offer, read Best Online Legal Services.
- Experiment with your menu. Even if people rave about your food, there’s no good reason that your menu should be set in stone. If you offer new products and specials, you’ll introduce your customers to new flavors and experiences, and it might just lead to a new best seller. Periodically serve up new menu items so that your menu doesn’t get old. You can offer up new specials or items on a weekly, monthly, or seasonal basis. Then if one of these promotions or menu items takes off, you can think about making it a permanent fixture on your menu.
Congratulations! Running a food truck requires a lot of hard work and long hours. Learning how to start a food truck is even scarier when you consider that four out of every five businesses started with the traditional startup method will fail within their first year. Choosing the Lean Startup Method instead gives your business a competitive edge. Here are the steps to starting a business with the Lean Startup Method:
- Identify a problem.
- Build a community.
- Identify a solution opportunity.
- Develop a solution.
- Test your minimum viable product (MVP).
- Sell your MVP.
- Get feedback on your product idea.
You’re not done once you’ve completed the last step, however. You’ll complete the steps of the Lean Startup Method multiple times during the life of your business. Completing the build, measure and learn phases will lead to the long-term success of your food truck.
Whichever startup method you choose, starting a food truck is a difficult endeavor. But if you’ve got dreams of becoming a food truck mogul and you’ve got the passion and drive to back that dream up, then the Lean Startup Method will give your business a better chance of succeeding well past its first year.
Congratulations again, and good luck with your food truck!
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