How To Start A Food Truck: Finding Your Niche

It’s important to create a unique and memorable experience for your customers so that they continue to come back. If you are already aware of the licenses and permits required to start a food truck in your area and have a financial plan in place, you are well on your way to opening your restaurant on wheels. However, there are a few more things to consider, like: 

  • What will you name your truck?
  • What kinds of food will you sell?

These are a few questions you may have already began to ponder or have already figured out. If you haven’t yet, don’t worry; we’re here to help!

Scope the Scene

Although there is some camaraderie among local food trucks, at the end of the day, each owner is responsible for their own success. For that reason, it’s important to know what you’ll be going up against. Is the surrounding area you’ll be serving already saturated with food trucks? If so, what kind of food do they serve? Based on what you’ve observed, what can you do to make your business stand out?

If your area doesn’t already have a lot of food trucks, then you have an untapped market to use to your advantage if you execute correctly. If your area already has a lot of trucks that serve the food you’re thinking of serving, it’s not the end of the world, but you will need to critically think through how you can bring something unique to the table. What sets you apart from the rest of other food trucks?

Choose A Theme

This may have been the first thing you figured out, but it may be worth reevaluating as you get closer to actualizing your food truck dreams. What kind of food will you serve? Some of the most popular themes include BBQ, cupcakes, ethnic fusion, regional cuisine, or burgers.

If you’re a New Orleans transplant living in San Diego and you’ve been making cajun food for as long as you can remember, then it may be a no-brainer to have a cajun theme for your truck because there aren’t a lot of cajun food trucks in San Diego. However, if you are thinking of opening a cajun truck in Louisiana, you are going to face more of an uphill battle.

Name Your Truck

When approaching your food truck, prospective customers generally make swift decisions as they decide where to invest their lunch money. Your food truck’s name and appearance can greatly affect their decision to choose you. It is important that your truck’s name is memorable, stands out, and accurately depicts who you are and what you do.

There are a few ways you can approach selecting a name. Sometimes, it’s as simple as incorporating your area name and what you serve, such as DC Slices, the DC-based pizza truck. Naming your truck after a cultural reference is another option. For example, Come’Chop, meaning “come eat,” is a West African food truck whose name pays homage to the culture. If done correctly, clever puns, such as Basil Thyme, also make for great food truck names.

Regardless of which way you go, the name should be easy to remember and catchy. It should also be able to stand the test of time, so avoid anything trendy.  Be sure to think of alternative names in case you cannot legally use your first or second ideas. And test your idea with friends, family, or even strangers. Get feedback on your name to ensure that the message in your name gets across to third parties as you intended.

In the absolute worst case scenario where you just can’t get seem to get those creative juices going, remember that the internet is your friend. There are helpful tools out there such as business name generators that can get you started. If nothing else, maybe it can give you the inspiration you need to think up the name you really want.

Research Your Name

Once you have a solid idea for a food truck name, you need to contact your state’s Secretary of State office to find out how to check for registered names in your state. Next, you will need to verify that your name isn’t already a federally registered trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. If the name is available, you will want to go through the necessary steps to legally secure the name as soon as possible. If it’s not available, this is where it’s helpful to have alternative names. Once your trademark is registered, it remains registered to you as long as you file a renewal every ten years.

Next, check to ensure that your desired domain name and social media handles are available. Ideally, your food truck name, domain name, and social media handles are all the same (e.g., foodtruckname.com, @foodtruckname). If your truck’s domain name and/or social media handles are taken, consider making the minimum amount of additions necessary, such as adding your state to the end (e.g., foodtrucknameny.com). Whatever you decide to do, try to keep it as uniform as possible.  

If you have any more questions, leave a comment below and we’ll do our best to answer them. In the final installment of our “How to Find a Food Truck” series, we will give some insight on how to market yourself once everything else is in place. In the meantime, download the Goodfynd app to search for food trucks near you!

5 Easy Steps to Grow Your Food Truck Business

In order to grow your food truck business, you have to expose yourself to as many customers as possible. The internet serves as free advertising, and when used to its full potential, it can help to quickly expand your following. That said, your time is precious, and it can be challenging to know which online services to use to foster the most efficient growth. Below, we explain how we can help make a big impact on your business in just a few easy steps.

1. Sign up for Goodfynd

Goodfynd is a hub for food truck owners to market themselves to hungry customers. We:

  • Are FREE to use
  • Will save you time, and
  • Will increase your customers.

Don’t believe us? Then ask one of our 140 food trucks that have already signed up.

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2. Register your truck

Search for your truck on Goodfynd. Once you locate it, press the blue “Claim Business” button.

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If your truck doesn’t show up here, no problem! Click here to register your truck. It only takes a few minutes.

3. Post a clear picture of your food truck

Customers need to recognize you, especially if you’re in a city that is saturated with other similar trucks. If they don’t know what your truck looks like, then they will likely skip it for a truck that they can more readily identify.

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4. Show your food

9 out of 10 customers are more likely to purchase food if they see what the food looks like beforehand. Who doesn’t like to see their food before they eat? Upload high-quality photos of your menu items for your soon-to-be customers!

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5. Set your schedule

Your customers don’t have a lot of time and need to know exactly when and where you are. The more detailed your location, the better.

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Set an exact time (Example: 11am – 2pm).

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You can also sync your Goodfynd page to your Twitter account, and we’ll periodically share your location and schedule automatically!

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Upload a great picture of your truck and your menu items, set your location, and let Goodfynd do the rest! We’ll promote your business to a social network that receives over 5,000 views per month. Sign up or claim your truck for a free account here.

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How To Start A Food Truck: Counting The Costs

In our first installment of this series, we gave an overview of things to consider when starting a food truck. If you have already researched the licenses and permits required, then the next step to actualizing your dream of owning and operating a food truck is to set up a financial plan. Some of your expenses will be obvious, but it is important to understand how one expense may affect another. Here are some of the main costs to consider:

The Food Truck

It goes without saying that this will be the most important investment of your entire food truck journey. In some ways, buying your food truck will be like buying a house. Do you want to buy a fixer-upper and make renovations as you go or do you want to invest in a brand new truck and have peace of mind?

Depending on which path you choose, the price of the food truck will range from $50,000 to $200,000, not including the cost of decorating and wrapping the truck. If you buy a used food truck, you are accepting whatever condition it’s in at the time of purchase, for better or worse. One important thing to consider when buying a used food truck is outside financing. Since the truck’s condition is questionable, it is risky for banks and brokers to provide a loan, so you may need to pay out of pocket. It is also essential to know if the truck’s warranties have expired already.

The price of a brand new truck will be on the higher end of the spectrum, but it is easier to finance and you’ll have fewer repairs and hidden costs to worry about down the road. You can also have your truck and kitchen built to the exact specifications that you want and within the law. On that note, we can’t stress this enough: check the local laws and permits before purchasing your food truck. Can you imagine getting a good deal on a food truck only to find out that it’s not in line with your city or county regulations? Not fun.

By doing a simple online search, you can find online marketplaces where you can search for used trucks, but it may be helpful to check with your local food truck association and local food truck owners for perspective and referrals first. Whether new or used, it is ideal to buy your truck local. According to Restaurant MBA, it will also cost an additional $3,000-$5,000 to fully wrap your truck.

Commissary Rental

In most cities, you cannot prepare or store what you will be selling in your home, so many food truck owners turn to private kitchens that rent out space to caterers and other food entrepreneurs. You can either rent out a kitchen for yourself or rent a shared space at an hourly rate. These commissaries may offer a safe parking space for your truck as well. Unless you already own a brick and mortar restaurant where you can prepare food, this is your best option. Commissary fees, including kitchen space, parking, and waste disposal, can run between $250-$1,250 a month.

Business and Truck Insurance

Not only do you need to protect your physical investment while out on the road, but you need to protect your business as well. You will need to seek auto insurance that covers commercial liability and includes accidents, theft, vandalism, and anything else you deem necessary. If you have a barbecue truck or regularly cater large events, you probably need to tow your grill or extra supplies, and they may need coverage as well.

From a business standpoint, you need to protect yourself and your employees. For example, workers’ compensation covers any employee who needs medical treatment due to ailments or injuries sustained while working. Business personal property insurance protects anything that isn’t nailed down to your truck, such as smokers, mixers, and pans. Umbrella liability covers anything you can think of that isn’t already accounted for. Lastly, you need to protect yourself in the event that a customer gets food poisoning.

This list is not all-inclusive, so based on your research, determine what is required and decide which protections are necessary for your business. In general, you can expect to pay $2000 – $4000 annually depending on coverage levels and what percentage of the year you plan to operate the truck.

Other Costs to Consider

By this point, you have your food truck, a kitchen to prepare your food, and the insurance to cover it all. Below are some miscellaneous costs to consider.

  • Employees: Expect to pay anywhere between $8-15 per hour per employee. Employees with food truck or restaurant experience will be easier to train, but you will have to pay them on the higher end of that spectrum.
  • Food: Initial inventory for food and supplies (pots, paper products, uniforms) may cost around $1,000, depending on what supplies you need.
  • Fuel: The cost depends on the size of your truck and how often you drive, but it will still cost $250-500 monthly.
  • Point-of-sale (POS) system: You can purchase a basic cloud-based POS system with reliable service for as little as $200. The more sophisticated systems can cost up to $1,000.
  • Training and certifications: Some states require for your employees to attend food safety training and/or obtain a food handler’s certification. Check with your state to verify the cost and requirements.

Given these expenses and the licenses and permits we covered in our previous blog, you can expect to pay at least $60,000 to start your restaurant on wheels. This does not cover all of the expenses required, but this does give you a reference point for the more costly expenses and how to approach them. If none of these options work for you at the moment, it’s not the end of the world. Consider starting a food cart or concession business. The up-front costs aren’t as expensive, the regulations may not be as strict, and you can still build a following to set up your next venture.

In our final two installments of our “How to Find a Food Truck” series, we will discuss how to find your niche in your local food truck scene and putting yourself out there. In the meantime, download the Goodfynd app to search for food trucks near you!

 

How To Start A Food Truck: Licenses and Permits

When starting your restaurant on wheels, it’s important to stay informed. In our last installation, we talked about the groundwork such as research, creating your financial plan, and marketing yourself. Once you’ve gotten started, it’ll be time to focus on the paperwork. Securing the correct permits and licenses, as well as following safety regulations are all crucial to the success (and legality) of your business.

Follow the Rules of the Road

Licenses and permits related to food trucks vary by state. Some permits need to be renewed every few years, while others need to be renewed by a certain date annually. Do that research! Know the specifications for your city and state. Depending on the size of the truck, you may need a commercial driver’s license. Consider joining your local food truck association help stay informed on any changes made in your city and state’s laws and regulations. In total, all permits and licenses needed to start a food truck can total anywhere from $100 to $500.

Health and Safety Regulations

Like any restaurant, health regulations must be maintained to the highest standard. Contact your local Department of Health so that your food truck can be inspected and verified for safety. Due to cooking equipment like fryers and flat top grills, your vehicle may also be subject to inspection by the local fire department. Once approved, your food truck will gain a fire safety certificate. Some states may also require a food handler’s permit. If that is the case, every employee working on your food truck would need to take a food safety class to receive the permit.

It is important to find these things out before purchasing your food truck. It is better to buy a food truck that is already as closely in line with your area’s regulations as possible instead of getting a good deal on a food truck that is not in line with regulations and then having to unnecessary money later.

Becoming an Official Business

Business licenses generally cost around $50-100. Depending on where you live, you may be charged a percentage of your gross sales, including licensing fees. Since permits and licenses are subject to change, always be informed and consider joining your local food truck association. To operate a food truck, owners are required to apply for an employer identification number (EIN) with the IRS. Applying for an EIN is free, and you can register by mail, by fax or on the IRS website. Check the U.S. Small Business Administration website for more information regarding the laws in your area. Depending on your state, you may need a seller’s permit as well. If you have additional questions, contact your local county or city clerk’s office.  

Parking Your Truck

For your business to function, you’re going to need to park your truck. This means that in some cases, may need to secure parking permits. Be aware of where you are allowed and not allowed to set up shop. Your county clerk’s office will have a list available with all the commercial and noncommercial zones. You can also get in touch with the Department of Motor Vehicles in your area for information regarding parking regulations. Wherever you decide to park your truck, be mindful of other restaurants and food vendors nearby. To find an ideal parking spot with a high volume of foot traffic, follow community calendars to know when and where street fairs and flea markets are happening.

Once everything is in order, keep all your paperwork up-to-date and stay informed on the food truck industry in your area. After fulfilling all legal requirements, you’ll have the engine revving on your new food truck in no time! Be on the lookout for our next blog, where we will dive more deeply into the financial side of owning and operating a food truck.

Want to find nearby food trucks, menus, and more? Download the Goodfynd app to search for food trucks near you.

How to Start A Food Truck

Today, food trucks are rising in popularity among aspiring entrepreneurs. With total mobility and room for creativity, there are many advantages to having a mobile food business. Interested in starting a food truck of your own? Here are some tips to help you get those wheels rolling.  

Do the Research

Take the time to do some research. Focus on the general location of where your food truck would be selling. For example, school campuses, street fairs, and flea markets are crowded places that make great food truck locations. Participate in local events and festivals and form connections with the community and with other food truck owners. Do some scouting on your target area. If there are multiple restaurants selling tacos in your area, that may not be the best street to park your taco-centric food truck.

In addition to knowing your location and identifying your target market, do the legal research as well. Owning and operating a food truck requires many permits and licenses. Some states actually limit the number of food truck permits allowed. Know what permits are required and what regulations need to be followed. You will certainly want to secure a health and food handler permit as well as the food safety certification. Register for special parking permits, and park in legal parking spots. Make sure your paperwork regarding permits and licenses are accurate and taken care of, or you could be fined.

Set Up A Financial Plan

Starting a food truck is a costly financial endeavor. Aside from acquiring a vehicle, business costs also include ingredients, fuel, worker salaries and licensing. One of the pluses to a food truck business is the smaller staff, which mean less salaries than a traditional restaurant. To help you stay organized, have an itemized list to keep track of weekly expenses. Consider leasing a food truck, with basic equipment, and paying a monthly fee. Or think about taking out a loan to fund your business. Depending on what kind of food truck you want to open, the total expenses can add up to anywhere between $40,000 to $250,000.

Find Your Niche

It’s important to create a memorable experience for customers, so that they keep coming back for more of your food.  Choose a name that is catchy and easy to remember. Food trucks often rely on word of mouth to gain attention in the neighborhood. Be sure to pick a name that is relevant to the overall theme and cuisine of your restaurant on wheels. Design a mouth-watering menu that is one-of-a-kind. Fusion creations are growing in popularity. With endless possibilities for cultural combinations, consider adding an ethnic food fusion item on your menu to draw in the crowds. Pinpoint what makes your food truck unique and there will be a long line of fanatic foodies waiting for a bite.  

Market Yourself

Spreading the word about your food truck is crucial to a successful business. Social media is a great tool to generate buzz as well as connect with potential customers. Use social media platforms to update the location of your food truck so people can find your business anytime and anywhere. Post pictures of delicious items from your menu to entice hungry foodies in your area. Start a hashtag promoting your mobile business and offer special coupons and deals to social media followers.

With an eye-catching truck, and delicious culinary creations, the food truck business can be a rewarding opportunity for any owner. If you put in the time and the work, your business will grow and flourish.

Want to find nearby food truck locations, menus, and more? Be sure to download the Goodfynd app to search for food trucks near you.

Vegetarian Awareness Month Kickoff!

Did you know that October is observed as Vegetarian Awareness Month? The month-long observation stems from World Vegetarian Day, which was introduced by the North American Vegetarian Society (NAVS) on October 1, 1977.

There are lots of ways to participate “on your own or as a group,” according to the NAVS website. They suggest the following activities for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike:

  • Bring vegetarian food to work to share with coworkers.
  • Encourage your local restaurants/co-ops/food stores to highlight vegetarian options.
  • Encourage libraries to display vegetarian-related titles.
  • Try the vegetarian options at local eateries.

Whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, or just trying to scale back your consumption of meat/animal products, a great way to celebrate Vegetarian Awareness Month is to pay a visit to local food trucks catering to the vegetarian/vegan lifestyle!

As our own form of observation, we plan to highlight our favorite local vegetarian/vegan –friendly food trucks and dishes to spread the word that meat-free does not mean flavor-free. Here are a few of our favorites below. If you have some favorites of your own, share with us in the comments!

Tasty Kabob’s Veggie Platter

Tasty Kabob

Tasty Kabob has been bringing fresh halal food to the greater DMV area since 2010. Their delicious veggie platter includes chickpeas over rice, spinach, and salad.

DC Empanadas’ Veggie Nirvana

Veggie Nirvana

DC Empanadas has been bringing tasty and unique gourmet empanadas to DC since 2010. Their Veggie Nirvana, with potato; onions; garlic; peas; tomato; cilantro; and Indian spices, is a must-try.

Blue City Food’s Loaded Samosa

Blue City loaded samosa

If you have a craving for Indian street food, you can’t go wrong with Blue City’s loaded samosa. Their savory fried pastries are stuffed with spiced potatoes and peas and topped with tasty chickpeas, crisps, diced onions, special yogurt sauce, mint sauce, and tamarind sauce.

The Big Cheese’s Vegetarian Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Big Cheese

The Big Cheese is one of the more popular grilled cheese sandwich-based food trucks in the area. The truck uses Daiya cheese and olive oil for the vegan grilled cheese sandwiches

2 Bold Chef’s Falafel Wrap

2 Bold Chefs Falafel

The 2018 Best Mediterranean Food Truck Award winner, 2 Bold Chefs, brings a unique and modern twist to Mediterranean cuisine. Their falafel contains minced garbanzo beans with garlic, onions, parsley, salt and pepper. Once it’s made into a patty, it’s then lightly fried and served over a pita bread with hummus, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onions. Their grape leaves are stuffed with rice and seasoned with Mediterranean spices, and are served with Greek salad and Greek yogurt sauce.

Find your favorite food truck now!

Can’t-Miss Food Trucks in the Washington, DC Area

Looking for the latest and greatest dishes to try? Look no further! These Washington DC-based food trucks will have your taste buds feeling fresh and satisfied with the hottest, delicious mobile meals.

basilthyme

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Basil Thyme

The variety of lasagna at Basil Thyme is more than enough to keep people coming back. Whether it is the gorgonzola and portobello Giuseppe or the slow roasted pork Lisetta, you will marvel at how these lasagnas rival their sit-down equivalents.

kbbq box

Korean BBQ Taco Box

With beef bulgogi, chicken, spicy pork options to go with rice box or the taco box, it is impossible to make a bad decision here. You can generally find them at festivals on weekends as well. If you are craving Korean BBQ on the go, you are in good hands.

crepesparfait

Crêpes Parfait

From savory to sweet, these crêpes are as perfect as they claim to be. Get them meat-filled or just with banana and Nutella, and you will be in for a scrumptious treat. Try your lunch with style with every quaint and quirky bite from this truck!

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Rito Loco

The bomb-dot-com has been used no less than 6 times when reading up on these creative wraps (or bowls) full of sazón y amor! (That means flavor and love, and these tacos and burritos are full of ‘em.) Put your lunch money where your meat is with this promising up-and-comer.

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ArepaZone

Arepas: crunchy on the outside, savory and tender deliciousness on the inside. This Venezuelan dish will blow your mind. These quick, flavor-packed bites await your taste buds. The tequenos and yuca fritters, succulent and satisfying meals that will make you want to expand your palate.

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Red Hook Lobster

These lobster rolls have been a DC staple for years. If you have not tried them, you have not lived. Their buttery goodness may have you asking for another!

 

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Mama’s Donut Bites

Warm & decadent, full of texture & style, and with a flavor punch! You will not be disappointed by these bites. The toppings and drizzles set these little guys off like fireworks in your mouth.

la tingeria

La Tingeria

La Tingeria serves some of the best Mexican tacos as well as burgers, tostadas, sopes and elotes locos! This food truck has gained a huge following, and you won’t want to miss out on this authentic gem serving excellent flavors. Their catering clients have some stellar things to say of La Tingeria as well.

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PhoWheels

The croissants and the bahn mi will have you hooked. This truck is more than just addicting pho on wheels; try the chicken, pork belly and/or tofu tacos, and wash them down with their equally addicting thai tea or Viet iced coffee. They have truly made a name for themselves on the DC Food truck scene.

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Swizzler

Truffle fries!? Grass-fed gourmet dogs!? Among the menu, it is hard to pick out which is the best meal to treat yourself to, but over the years, Swizzler has consistently transformed a traditional food truck meal into a high-quality experience. If you want a hot dog, this is the one you wait for.

Find these food trucks, and many more, using Goodfynd!