How to Start Your Own Food Truck Business

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food trailer business

Always dreamed of being your own boss? Passionate about food? Enjoy interacting with members of the public? Starting a food truck business could be the perfect investment opportunity for you. Let’s find out how you can put the wheels in motion.

Food truck businesses have been firmly established as an alternative to traditional takeaway businesses. Where choice was previously limited to burgers and chips, there is now a whole host of international cuisines available offering everything from burritos to halloumi fries. Many of them are sold from the windows of beautifully branded food trailers that travel the length and breadth of the country. The popularity of van-based vendors really started to take off in the UK a decade ago, and the market has only grown stronger ever since.

Reasons why starting a food truck business is a great idea

1. The industry is growing

Initially, when food trucks became an increasingly popular choice for business-minded individuals in international markets the UK sector was relatively slow on the uptake. However, times are changing, and now a higher number of entrepreneurs are deciding to open up a food truck or trailer this side of the pond.

The UK street food market has grown at quicker rate than the total fast food market. The thriving industry consists of more than 2,000 businesses and reached £1.2 billion in 2018 ( Research has also found that a quarter of the public stop by a street food stall at least once a month.

2. Low initial investment

Food trailers can be very profitable because they involve a lower initial investment than your traditional sit down dining concepts. The money that you save in the set up process, including the cost of renting a premises, can be put towards engineering an incredible menu or marketing.

3. You can experiment with different locations

The great thing about operating a mobile business is that you are not tied down to one location. If your food or drink offering isn’t going down a storm at one location you can simply move on.

Top tips for starting a food truck business

Now is the ideal time to look for gaps in the market and start a specialist food trailer that's capable of cooking up a feast. Whether you opt for a traditional fast food trailer or attempt to start up something a little more exotic, there are plenty of opportunities for someone with business expertise and a bit of experience in the food industry.

1. Start from scratch or take the franchise route

If you’re looking to open a food truck business, you have the option to invest in a franchise or start from scratch. For some people, the latter is the best way to go. It allows you to build a business from the ground up, develop a unique brand identity and take your company in any direction you want. However, franchising can offer a less risky route to business ownership, a training and support package and the opportunity to operate under an existing brand with a proven business model. You just have to decide which route will enable you to achieve your personal goals the best.

2. Choose your food offering

If you’ve got your heart set on starting a mobile food business, you’ve probably already thought about the kind of food you’d like to serve. It’s got to be something you’re capable of preparing and cooking on budget, to a high standard and in good time. Unless you’ve got piles of experience, it might be best to keep your menu fairly simple to start with – that way, you can build it up as you grow in confidence and expertise.

  • Street food trailer - Street food trailers typically specialise in on-the-go, international foods. They’ll often serve up unusual snacks and dishes and, consequently, can draw an interested and inquisitive crowd wherever they pull up. Although customers may never have tasted the product, the exotic nature of the food is likely to increase sales drastically. This is particularly true of street food trailers that set up at temporary events, such as music festivals, where the crowds are more adventurous and willing to try something new.
  • Health food trailer - Other trailers focus on health foods. A significant percentage of health food trucks have evolved from being coffee specialists to selling a variety of health foods. What starts out as a simple mobile coffee operation soon grows and begins to offer shakes, pastries, muesli, porridge and other types of ‘food to go’. This has proven particularly popular in metropolitan markets, where there is more disposable income and food trends are more apparent.
  • Fast food trailer - Then, there are the more traditional fast food trailers. Because the market is saturated with mobile fast food businesses, there are far fewer opportunities in this sector than with other types of food. However, this isn’t to say that success is not possible here. When considering franchised fast food trailers, it’s important to think about the fact that there are many mobile businesses offering burgers, hot dogs, jacket potatoes and chips. In fact, they're something of an institution. Consequently, contemporary food trailers have experienced a lot more success selling new and exciting cuisines that bring fresh flavours to the UK market.

3. Find your vehicle

Perhaps the most important element of your mobile food business, your truck or trailer, will, of course, be vital to your start-up. Whether you opt for a traditional towed trailer, a van, a standard truck or a sleek, modern ‘capsule’ vehicle, it should be clean and hygienic.

You can either buy a fully fitted truck, complete with refrigerators, heated display shelves and cupboards, or opt for a stripped one and kit it out yourself. This could cost you between £20,000 and £80,000, but in doing so you’ll be able to avoid inheriting old or faulty equipment.

You should also think about the environmental impact of your vehicle. Try to find one that’s better for the environment, as you’ll be able to avoid potential emissions charges and help the planet.

4. Decide on your location

This is also key. Choose a site with limited footfall and your business will struggle to reach sales targets. Opt for a city centre location and the rent or permit cost may be so high your sales income doesn’t cover it. Research has shown that mobile food businesses do particularly well in low-income areas, as consumers use them as an alternative to eating out. Therefore, keep this in mind when deciding where to pitch your trailer. That’s not to say that central locations can’t be lucrative, though, as you’ll benefit from higher sales volumes. Your final decision will depend upon your budget, the product, local licence opportunities and your ambition.

5. Be a law-abiding citizen

Obviously, you can’t just drive your truck into the centre of town and start selling unregulated food to passers-by. Depending on your business plan, there will be a number of different licences and permits you’ll need to have before you can begin trading. These could include public liability insurance, permits to operate at a specific site, hygiene certificates and health and safety records. Head to GOV.UK for more details.

Food truck franchise opportunity

Starting a business from the ground up will put you in the driving seat. You’ll have ultimate control over your business and the direction it travels in. However, you’re going to miss out on all of the support an expert franchisor would provide. From helping you select the best locations to advising you on marketing campaigns, a food trailer franchisor can make all the difference when it comes to building your business in the right way.

Let’s take a look at one of the mobile coffee shop franchises on our books. With a coffee van, you can move to where your customers are at different times of the day and mould your working hours around any existing commitments.

Coffee Blue

Coffee Blue is the UK’s leading mobile coffee van franchise, selling “barista-quality hot drinks” and delicious food, which it takes to workplaces, events and festivals across the country.

  • Becoming a Coffee Blue franchisee: You’ll operate out of a Ford Transit Custom that has been converted into a sparkling coffee station.
  • How much you need to invest: Coffee Blue asks for a minimum investment of £8,000.
  • What you get for your investment: You’ll get master barista training and ongoing support, as well as NCASS membership, access to the EPOS till system and help with marketing and social media.

Follow these tips for food truck business success

By now you should have a clearer idea of how to start your own successful food truck business. Check out the food truck franchises that are currently in our directory. You’ll be able to find out about brand values, investment requirements and qualifying criteria, which should help you narrow down your choice and identify your ideal franchise opportunity.

>> Read more articles on the Food and Beverage sector

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