Launching a Food Truck Business

From the Korean tacos of Kogi BBQ in Los Angeles to Boston’s Cookie Monstah, food trucks are heating up all over the country. This mobile business opportunity gives you the chance to change your location frequently to find your customer base, and save on the cost of buying a brick-and-mortar restaurant space. But it isn’t always easy to start a food truck business — here are a few basics for getting started.

Look into permitting requirements.

Before putting too much time into planning your dream mobile food business, you’ll need to find out about your city’s permitting requirements for food trucks. Some make it extremely difficult to operate: In New York City, for instance, city regulations lead to some food truck businesses getting ticketed almost every day, costing them thousands of dollars, while other cities are far more lenient. Check in with your local government to find out about how to get a permit and what regulations are enforced.

Get all your gear.

Once you’re satisfied that permitting won’t be an issue, you’ll need to buy a truck and all of the equipment you need. It may not be cheap: Investopedia estimates that even retrofitting an existing truck for mobile food service could cost as much as $80,000. Plan out your menu in detail so that you can decide what kitchen appliances you’ll genuinely need and what you can do without: If you’re selling lobster rolls, the meat will be prepped in advance so you won’t need a stove; but if you’re selling fresh-made pizza, you will need to spring for a pizza oven, so be realistic about your expenses. Also, consider how you want to process payment: Will you stick with cash-only, or accept credit cards? If you want to accept cards, a smartphone or tablet-based point of sale system could be a convenient option.

Seek funding if you need it.

Make sure your business plan matches your budget. If you need some start-up funding, consider reaching out to a local banking institution for a SBA-backed loan, though the process may take several months. If you’re in a hurry and don’t need to borrow more than $150,000, the SBA Express can provide loan approval within 36 hours. Reaching out to family and friends, or launching a Kickstarter campaign, may be other viable options.

Build your brand.

Once you’ve got your permits, equipment, and the money you need to launch your business, it’s time to get the word out. Invest in colorful, memorable signage and logos so that your truck will be easily identifiable. Sign up your business for accounts on Twitter and Facebook — you can use the social media services to share your location on any given day. And, of course, spread the word among all of your friends — it shouldn’t take long for the excitement about your restaurant on wheels to grow.