Ever wanted to make the great leap and get into the food truck game? It’s a dream for many people with an entrepreneurial bent and those with a love for great food – but there are some things you should do before you take the leap.
The best way to do this is by talking to other food truck vendors about how they made the transition from bricks and mortar to going truly mobile.
When Iv’s Burritos founder Ivan Zarezkij came back from a trip to the United States in 2013, he was inspired to start a food truck of his own – but he didn’t know where to begin.
“I was only a year out of uni and I never thought about running my own business – but I really like food so I thought it was a really good way to feed people,” he told The Pulse.
While food trucks may seem to have been around forever, in 2013 Melbourne the scene was only really getting started.
Gleaming what information he could from press features and other food truck vendors, he then started investigating the different types of festivals and events he could potentially cater for.
From there, he started to write a business plan. He said the hardest part of the process was nailing down cashflow.
“I spent a couple of months doing all the research and running all the numbers but even then it was kind of sketchy trying to figure out how much you would sell and who you would sell it to,” Zarezkij said.
“No business is started without risk.”
Much like buying a car, a food truck is a pretty important investment so you need to make sure you budget, scope out the market and most importantly inspect the truck in person before you buy.
There are trucks you can get for cheaper and then renovate yourself, you can buy a food truck built from scratch, buy an existing truck, or you can start smaller.
The latter is an approach Zarezkij took when starting his business.
“I started off bare-bones – I just had a trailer rather than a full truck, and I didn’t even have a wrap around the trailer, I had a banner,” he said.
“As the business proved itself over the first few months you can start investing a bit more, and branding and things like that because you can see that it is working out.”
When it comes to your menu, bigger isn’t better. In fact, the best route to go here is to keep it minimal.
“Just do one thing well – don’t pick a cuisine, pick an individual food,” said Zarezkij.
If you have an expansive menu then a lot of your overhead is going to be tied up in food you don’t actually get to sell.
The food truck rationale is all about being agile and nimble – let your menu reflect that.
Let’s say you get everything sorted and you have a shiny new food truck and a killer menu.
You may want to make sure you can be paid for the food you cook. You can go the cash-only route, but food truck vendors will tell you card payments are the way to go for convenience and security.
One solution is to grab a PayDirect EFTPOS device, a device about the size of your phone which can process card payments.
If you’re a MYOB customer it integrates with your software, but you can even use it if you’re not a MYOB customer.
Do you have a handle on who’s going to be staffing the truck? If you’re like a lot of food truck operators you may need to hire a few extra hands to help out on specific occasions.
This means dipping into the casual market.
Aside from the technical stuff, it’s a great idea to hire people who either have food truck experience or experience in busy kitchens.
You can find these staff from a number of sources, but we’d suggest giving Jora Local a go.
The rules and regulations around mobile food vending can be a bit complex, but Zarezkij said the local council was a great place to start.
“When you first start out you need to get accredited, and that’s with the council from which the food truck parks at night and that’s where the prep kitchen is based usually,” he said.
Luckily your local council will be able to point you in the right direction on all the Occupational Health and Safety regulations you need to adhere to as well.
You’ll also need to register with the council each time you trade in that council, but depending on which state or territory you’re in there may be a state-wide registration system.
Again, the local council can help you out with this.
Social media is how you can build a loyal following of fans, and hopefully, some measure of steady cash flow as regular customers start to follow you around.
If people want to know where you’re going to be on the weekend, they’re not going to give you a call.
Instead, they’re going to head to your Facebook page to see what’s going on – so it’s important to keep in regular touch with your customers through social media.
Try offering a discount on food if customers can demonstrate that they’ve Instagrammed a pic of your food to put your word-of-mouth into hyperdrive.