Nowadays they are more and more popular and have real class: food trucks are the souped-up snack of yesteryear. Want to fulfill your dream of owning your own food truck? Then here's a guide for you!
Step 1: Food truck permits and licenses.
There are many things to think about for this. For example, with which legal form you want to operate your food truck. There are different options, e.g. as a sole proprietorship. But you can also choose a GbR as a form of business.
For the foundation you need:
- Police clearance certificate
- Tax clearance certificate
- Membership in the professional association for food and hospitality
In order to sell your food on the street without any worries, there are some permits and licenses that you should take care of beforehand. You need to know if you want to stay at one location with your food truck or if you want to tour all over Germany. In this case, you will need a travel trade permit, which you can obtain from the local authorities. You will also need the usual permits that are required for all start-ups in the food and restaurant industry:
- Restaurant training certificate, which you obtain by attending a course at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IHK)
- Health certificate and hygiene instruction (by the health office)
- liquor license, if alcoholic beverages are also to play a role in your car.
- Food hygiene training and the training according to § 43 of the Infection Protection Act (IfSG)
- Commercial insurance
But for a food truck, there are other permits that come your way that you don't necessarily need in the restaurant business:
- You must submit an application for outdoor catering.
- Depending on where you want to stand with your truck everywhere, you may also need a permit for standing in public places, which you can apply for at the road construction office.
- Permit within the framework of the Immission Act, which is also issued by the Public Order Office.
- And depending on the state, you may need a contract with a catering rental kitchen to prepare your food.
Step 2: The business model
From all the bureaucracy, it's on to working out a business model. This is where you think about how you want to set it up. A good business model is the be-all and end-all of a successful food truck.
In the end, many factors come together that will be decisive for you. Location of your food truck: The environment surrounding you and your food truck should influence several decisions you make. Is there a lot of competition nearby or not? Are there walk-in customers, or do people have to come by specifically or stop in their cars. Are there seating options next door? Are people more likely to come for a quick snack or for a longer break (more urban strolling or in a work-intensive environment?) Are there restaurants nearby or no other food options far and wide? What time of day might people in the location be hungry (e.g., for clubs/pubs nearby, nighttime might be a suitable time).
These are all questions that can influence your offer. If there are already five food trucks in town offering burgers, you might be able to score with a different culinary specialty. Depending on whether you have a fixed location or want to move freely with your food truck, possible locations for you could include flea markets, concerts, music festivals, food truck festivals, or seasonal festivals such as summer festivals or winter markets. You could also inquire at school events or charity functions and offer the food there. Or maybe even at events like big birthdays, weddings, etc. so you could take over catering with your food truck.
One advantage of the food truck is that there are no geographical limits to you. In summer, for example, you can also set up at a busy park. Of course, you always have to agree on the location with the public order office/building authority. Also the stand fees can vary strongly and you must weigh up whether the costs per location are worthwhile for you.
For the location it is worthwhile to carry out a market analysis. This will give you an overview of what kind of food trucks already exist, which ones don't yet and where they are located.
Step 3: The design of your food truck
Once you have found a suitable location, it is time to start designing your food truck. It can't hurt to design your food truck creatively. This will make you stand out from the crowd. Overall, your design concept should be coherent and coordinated. This way, customers can see what's waiting for them from afar, which attracts potential customers.
Since you only have limited space, it makes sense to design the outside of the truck in a colorful way. You need the interior for cooking and you have to arrange this area as practically and well organized as possible. Overall, all doors are open to you in the design, you should just make sure that you have a common thread in the concept and match it to your dishes. Also, a creative and concise name can certainly stay in the head and motivate so perhaps for repeated visits.
Keep in mind that customers can follow your every move and see exactly how you prepare the food. Here it can be nicer if you move food etc. that is actually wrapped in plastic into stainless steel cans, so that it looks nicer for the guests. Make sure your cooking area always looks clean, when it comes to interior design sometimes less is more. You can sometimes decorate better with a few herbs than a lot of colorful frippery.
Step 4: Food truck dishes
For the dishes, less is sometimes more. Since you have limited space and also limited time to prepare your orders, preparation is even more important. It's also helpful to have dishes that you can prepare a lot of ahead of time to avoid a long line forming at your food truck. Simple dishes cooked right can be so good and so simple. Or you can establish foreign specialties.
Try them out with friends beforehand. If you are unsure if your dishes will be successful: There are also pop-up restaurants or fully equipped food trucks that you can rent for a short time. You can try your hand there.
For food, beyond the cost (purchase price), you should consider how and where to store it, how to refrigerate it in the truck, and what cooking equipment you'll need.
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Step 5: Cost of a food truck
In order to keep an overview of your finances, a business and financial plan is advantageous. With the help of this, you can also determine the calculation of prices, so that you sell profitably. First of all, you need to clarify the crucial issues related to your location. Do you have access to water and electricity? If not, you need to equip your car accordingly. Equipment includes fixed costs that you will incur every month/ more often and one-time procurement costs.
One-time procurement costs include first and foremost the food truck itself. Also the kitchen equipment. A sensible investment is a cash register system with cashless payment. Nowadays it is more and more common that people do not carry cash with them and therefore you do yourself a favor if you keep the possibility of cashless payment open for the clientele. Multiple costs are food, location rent, marketing budget and accounting costs. But also utensils, like cutlery and dishes. To do the environment a favor here, try switching to eco-friendly materials.
One option is #IAMPLASTICFREE products. For your food truck, the drinking straws are suitable, but also the bags, in case someone wants to take something toGo. These are products that are made from biogenic waste and are biodegradable! So you prove that food trucks don't always have to be a burden on the environment.
You could, for example, draw attention via social media to the fact that customers are welcome to bring their own containers on which you serve them your delicacies. This will save you packaging waste and also money.
Step 6: Food truck advertising
Advertising via social media is becoming more and more important these days. Therefore, you should rely on well-established social media accounts. If you have a fixed location, it would be useful if people can find your food truck via Google Maps, as this is increasingly used. Especially in the beginning, you can also invite your clientele to advertise for you, e.g. by posting their food on Instagram and co. and linking you. Write your account names best clearly visible on the cart, so that people can find you quickly.
Advertising in general is super important for you, especially in the beginning. If you're near a busy street, it might help to draw attention to yourself with a sign (food truck "XY" in 200 meters on the right).
As you can tell, there are a lot of things to look for in a food truck. Nevertheless, it is worth the purchase and the operation can bring you great pleasure.