After a long day’s work, you come home hungry and open your fridge in search of food, only to discover that your fridge is empty. As your stomach grumbles, you begin to sort through your options. A restaurant? No, you want something quicker. Fast food? No, you want something tastier. Delivery? No, you don’t want to have to pay the extra fees. Suddenly, it hits you—you could go to a food truck!
Food trucks combine the convenience of fast food with the gourmet options that can be found in popular restaurants, all without an extra delivery fee. Some trucks are stationary, while others are more mobile and move to different spots around the city. Each truck usually specializes in a certain type of food, whether it is hotdogs, hamburgers, Mexican food, crepes, cupcakes, or snow cones.
Food Trucks Gaining Traction
According to a survey last year by the National Restaurant Association, 18% of Americans had seen a food truck in their communities within the past few months, and more than one-quarter (28%) of those who saw a food truck bought something from the truck. The people who did purchase from food trucks found the trucks in different ways: 73% saw the truck on the street, 54% selected it from an area where food trucks typically gather, 39% were referred to the truck by friends, and 13% found the truck through social media. In Austin alone, there are now around 1,003 registered food vendors ,including food trucks, according to Health & Human Services (Austin Business Journal).
These numbers indicate the growing popularity of food trucks. The low overhead costs of food trucks, along with their increasing popularity, have attracted the attention of both chefs and entrepreneurs. Running a successful food truck can be done with around $15,000-$80,000 in startup capital, while opening a restaurant usually costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Of course, there are several costs and other barriers to opening a food truck that those interested in starting a food truck in Texas should consider. These costs can include getting a seller’s and vendor’s permit, hiring employees, ordering and preparing food, and purchasing the truck itself.
Basic Steps For Launching Your Mobile Food Vendor
So how do you open a food truck? As with any business, each step in the process of opening a food truck involves research – and lots of it. Here are some steps you may want to consider in starting your restaurant on wheels:
- Decide what type of food you want to sell. Food trucks have had success offering both traditional menus like pizza and unique specialties such as Korean BBQ.
- Pick a name for your business. make sure the name you would like to use for your business – either as a d/b/a, Texas limited liability company, or otherwise – is available before you get too attached to it (see the Texas Secretary of State’s website).
- Buy or lease a truck or trailer. Trucks can vary in price, and again, it is important to do your research and ensure the truck will adequately meet your needs. Often, trucks must be retrofitted to make a specific type of food, which can add to the upfront costs.
- Get a Texas sales and use tax permit. These can be acquired through the Texas Comptroller’s Office and must be displayed on your food truck.
- Obtain a mobile food vendor permit. These can usually be obtained through the county health department or city – Austin Permits, for example – around $100 in Texas. To obtain and maintain your permit, your food truck must also pass an inspection and be in compliance with the Texas Food Establishment Rules.
- Pick a location and open your doors.
Choosing a Location For Your Texas Food Truck
Many marketing tactics that are utilized by brick-and-mortar restaurants also apply to food trucks as well, as the numbers in the National Restaurant Association survey demonstrate. Location is one of the key aspects for a new food truck, since almost three-quarters of people who did stop at a food truck did so because they saw the food truck. Therefore, it is imperative that a food truck secure a location with high traffic, as such a strategy is one of the simplest ways to gain exposure and market the business. If such an ideal location is hard to come by, food trucks do have the advantage of being able to move to multiple locations. Such a strategy could also help increase exposure.
It is important, however, to contact the local zoning department and ensure your food truck would be in compliance with zoning restrictions when choosing a location(s). Moreover, certain locations – such as sidewalks or city easements – may require additional permits. Finally, many food trucks utilize an inexpensive, grassroots-type marketing strategy centered around referrals and social media, which can be an effective yet cheap strategy for gaining business.
Gas It Up and Let It Roll
The high-quality food and convenience food trucks offer allow consumers an alternative to traditional restaurants, fast food, and delivery. While there are some high costs and initial barriers associated with opening a food truck, food trucks also offer low overhead costs and are usually a cheaper alternative to restaurants for those looking to open something in a slowly-recovering economy. By doing thorough research and taking all the proper steps, you can have your food truck up and rolling in no time.