This is my next post in my food truck series. As most of you may have already noticed, food trucks have become one of the next popular trends. The very first food truck was invented by a man named Charles Goodnight back in 1866. During that time it was known as the “chuckwagon.” Charles was a cattle herder and during cattle drive he noticed how hard it was to cook decent meals. Therefore he took an old army wagon and reconstructed it by adding interior shelving and drawers to it. He stalked it with easy to preserve items such as salted meats, dried beans, coffee, cornmeal etc. There was no fresh fruit, meat or eggs available. The wagon also carried a water barrel and and a sling to kindle wood so that food good be cooked on the wagon. Fast forward 100yrs to the 1950s, mobile canteens started to become popular. They where authorized by the U.S. Army at that time operating at stateside army bases. Today food trucks have exploded onto the scene initially starting out as simple hotdog and taco stands which served construction and blue collar professions. But as the construction business was dying down there became a surplus in food trucks and at the same time many professional chefs where being laid off which natural made the food truck business the best option. And street food today has as a result become more gourmet serving foods like pulled pork sandwiches, to even escargot.
As I have mentioned before, I started having a serious interested in food trucks after the show Eat St. started airing on the Food Network. And It seems that anyone with enough passion about food can open up their own mobile food business. But do not be fooled, it is not as easy as it seems. The following as some helpful tips that I have come across if you ever want to started your own mobile business. The website links are also included since I will only cover several major points.
1. Find out about the rules & regulations.
The first thing you have to know are the local regulations of your city. The food truck business is always changing especially the licensing and permit requirements. For instance, you have to know whether your city even allows food trucks and where they are allowed to park and permitted to serve. Sometimes it takes a long time to acquire permits depending on the city. You must also stay as current as possible because the rules and regulations of city change all the time and you don’t want to be fined for not knowing new permits.
2. Size up your competition & keep it simple.
The main thing you must figure out when starting a food truck is what kind of food you’ll be serving. No matter what it is, it must be able to be served easily, quickly and sold at an affordable price to the customers while at the same time still make a profit. Therefore it is better to stick with a simple menu with a small variety of food choice rather than trying to be overly ambitious. For example after watching the show Eat St. I have noticed that the most common foods that people choose to sell from their trucks are burgers, tacos, and grilled cheese sandwiches which are all simple to make and low cost. They are also the perfect type of food for customers to eat on the street.
You also have to size up your competition. What menu items are other food trucks selling? Are you selling similar items? You have to able to set yourself from others by making your food truck unique. And it all about the uniqueness of the food. For example there is a food truck in Portland, Oregon called “Big-Ass Sandwiches” opened by a husband and wife team and they serve sandwiches loaded with all shorts of toppings from roast beef, turkey, to scrabbled eggs. But what makes them unique is that all of their sandwiches are topped off with a mound of french fries. They offer seven different kinds of sandwiches. The food must be able to make a lasting impression on the customers so that they will want to keep coming back for more. And the more unique the food is the more you will have the upper edge on the competition.
3. In today’s digital age, social media is your best friend.
Not only do locations change all the time when running a food truck customers and your relationship with them changes all the time too. Just as restaurants have customers, food trucks have followers. Social media is the best way to attract crowds and let your followers know what locations you will be serving at. Facebook and Twitter are top two methods of digital communication. Some food truck owners have even allowed their followers to help decide what goes onto their menu and their truck design. Social media is your best friend because it also allows you to build up a following even before the truck is officially up and running and it is the best form of advertising for your business.
In the end you must ask yourself, do I have what it takes to open up my own food truck? Most food truck owners would say that if you are passionate about food and serving customers it really is a rewarding experience and is less hassle than opening a restaurant. But you have to understand that there are many hardships when it comes to starting up a mobile food business such as the initial cost of buying/renting a food truck which can cost any where from $30-$80K. And most people tend to work long hours everyday from prepping, serving, and cleaning up at the end of the day t can be up to 16hrs a day. What a lot of people suggest is, don’t do it mainly for the money because you can make more in other jobs such as being a lawyer, but do it for the satisfaction of knowing you are doing something you truly love and making people happy about the food you are serving.
The following are several link if you are interested in finding out more about the food truck industry:
Mobile Cuisine (the best online resource for the food truck industry)
And to find out more about Big-Ass Sandwiches visit their website: http://www.bigasssandwiches.com/
Part 3 of series: A cool design for a food truck if I ever open one!