Portrait of friends smiling at counter in food truck van. Concept: how to start a food truck to expand your restaurant
Cedric Jackson
By: cjackson
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How to Start a Food Truck to Expand Your Restaurant

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Quite often these days, restaurant owners are wondering how to start a food truck business. And it’s no wonder, in the last few years, the growth of food truck businesses has been increasing exponentially. This rapid growth in the food truck industry is something you might want to take advantage of.

While you might expect the food truck industry’s increase to hurt traditional restaurants, the opposite is actually true: Food truck businesses actually help traditional restaurants.

This beneficial relationship has shown that food trucks can be a great boost to a restaurant’s revenue stream. Naturally, this is leading even more owners wondering how to start a food truck.

However, the food truck industry is regulated by a complex collection of stringent regulations and policies. Food trucks also involve long work hours. These factors lead some restaurant owners to become frustrated during the process of starting their own food truck business.

Nevertheless, starting your own food truck business does not have to be an unmanageable hassle. And we’re here to help.

If you are trying to figure out how to start a food truck, keep these points in mind to make the process simpler.

Expand Your Restaurant Business

There are a couple of things you need to define beforehand:

  • Regarding your menu, you could talk to potential customers about what they would be interested in seeing (or, in this case, eating).
  • You need to know how many open spots are in your city and what they cost.
  • You also need to learn where foot traffic is most concentrated.
  • It can help to consult other business owners in your local area too. They will know a lot about the local market.
  • Know what you are trying to accomplish by starting your own food truck.
  • Weigh how a food truck will interact with and benefit your restaurant.
  • Some business owners find they would prefer a lunchtime vending food truck while others conclude a catering service is a better fit. What works better for your business?

Cloth flags hang in front of a food truck. Concept: how to start a food truck to expand your restaurant

And don’t forget one of the most important things when learning how to start a food truck: making sure you have a fully outlined financial plan for the whole process.

What you already have will help make the process simpler

You’ll have a huge advantage over other food entrepreneurs that are researching how to start a food truck but don’t have a restaurant. Use all your restaurant knowledge and business savvy to ensure your own success.

You have an existing kitchen, which means you know how to manage one, something anyone starting a food truck from the ground up lacks.

Two people cooking and serving some oriental food inside a food truck kitchen: how to start a food truck to expand your restaurant

You can purchase supplies in bulk (both for your restaurant and your food truck) to save money. This might mean getting discounts and better costs, thus you’ll be able to offer amazing food at affordable prices. This is another thing that sets you apart from owners who lack established locations.

You can also advertise your food truck in your established restaurant (and vice versa).

Plus, your employees already know how to operate a restaurant business and make customers happy.

Be social

Because traditional restaurants are stationary, continual social media presence is not always necessary. But food trucks are always on the move, so social media communication is vital to help customers locate you. This is especially true with younger, tech-savvy customers.

If you fail to establish yourself on social media, your business simply will not compete effectively. If you already have a social media presence, you will need to make sure you use it well.

If your existing restaurant already maintains one or more social network profiles, you can promote your food truck there.

Having an established social network following takes a lot of the pressure off of a new small business. When your food truck has its grand opening, make sure you promote it well before and during.

In fact, keep your social media followers updated regularly on your food truck’s progress even if you’re still learning how to start a food truck. This helps build anticipation for its debut.

You can even ask for your followers’ insights and opinions on the menu, locations, and more.

How to Start a Food Truck

When thinking about how to start a food truck, the first point to keep in mind is that it is similar to opening up a second location for your restaurant. Starting a food truck requires a solid business plan to be successful.

Like starting any small business, you will need to crunch some numbers to find your breakeven point. Leave no factor unconsidered: cost of food and labor, truck maintenance, and fuel costs (remember that, in a food truck, fuel efficiency is minimal; you will spend a lot on fuel.)

Cute young female cook selling hot dogs to a couple of customers in a food stand. Concept: how to start a food truck to expand your restaurant

When you have done all this, keep in mind that you may need financing to help you begin. There are numerous small business loans that can help restaurant owners hit the ground running, like the ones we offer at Camino Financial.

Wherever a small business is located, regulations and laws concerning food sales will be unique. Food trucks are subject to many of the same rules as any other restaurant business.

However, permitting for food trucks can be even more complex than those for traditional restaurants, which you will discover in more detail as you learn how to start a food truck.

Documents you need

There are a number of official documents necessary to start that include:

  • Seller’s permit
  • Zoning permit
  • Tax license
  • Signage permit
  • Food handling permit
  • Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  • Vehicle license
  • Doing Business As (DBA)

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, so make sure to ask other business owners and local officials what you need to comply with necessary regulations as you learn how to start a food truck.

Regulations

Thankfully, you will already be prepared for some or all of these safety concerns because of your existing restaurant, even if you are still learning how to start a food truck.

However, make sure you still check if local regulations require you to have duplicate permits when operating a food truck. It is also possible, and in some places likely, that you will need unique permits for every town or city you operate in.

Be sure to check for any other local regulations having to do with food trucks.

Certain towns may not allow food trucks, for example, while some have limits on how long they can be parked in one location or how close they can be parked to other restaurants. In some locales, a nearby bathroom may be required. Other areas will only dispense a predetermined amount of permits annually, which may mean you need to plan to start a year or more after you apply.

Doing this research ahead of time as you learn how to start a food truck can save you many headaches later.

When designing your food truck’s schedule, make sure that it is easy to find and intuitive. While word of mouth and foot traffic are important, you should never leave your business entirely to chance.

Make sure your schedule is posted at least a week beforehand, though as much as a month before is even better.

Make sure you respond promptly to customer questions too. Keeping open lines of communication with customers is vital to a successful food truck business.

Pump the Gas on Your Food Truck’s Success

When you decide to expand your restaurant with a food truck business, the amount of research and work can feel overwhelming.

As long as you keep orderly records, detailed business goals, and learn the local regulations and market, you will go far.

Finally, one of the most important things you can do is find reliable allies in your new business venture. We have a proven track record helping small businesses expand.

By offering a number of tools and loans tailored specifically to small businesses, we live up to our motto, “No Business Left Behind.” So, apply for a small business loan to take your restaurant to new places (literally) with a food truck.

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