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The food truck revolution has been a big part of the street food movement. While once, food trucks specialised in chips and cheap burgers, the quality and variety of food truck offerings has soared in recent years.

In fact, food trucks are now one of the hottest trends in modern cuisine (as we discussed in our Street Food Trends feature). One of the reasons for this is that it’s a relatively low-cost entry to the hospitality industry for budding entrepreneur chefs.

Those noodles, burgers, tapas or curries you’re eating at a farmer’s market or music festival might have been prepared by a high-end, visionary chef!

Indeed, numerous thriving mobile food businesses, such as Growlers and Fleur, were established by Le Cordon Bleu graduates.

Food trucks need a fraction of the overhead costs of opening a restaurant, they’re flexible (you can even change location!) and very scalable; an owner can expand their fleet of trucks or move into a restaurant or pop-up premises.
Running a food truck differs from opening a restaurant in many ways, from regulatory laws to branding to staffing and beyond. Here are a few steps to take if you’re dreaming of opening your first food truck business…


Work on Your Vision

Before you start your business journey, take the time to go through the kind of place you want to run. This should be a fun, creative experience. There’s no risk here, no money has exchanged hands, there are no deadlines. Just ideas. So, consider…


1. The Food and Philosophy

What food makes your mouth water? What experience do you want to bring to people who approach your window? What do you enjoy making quickly and affordably? If this works out, you might be making this meal thousands of times!


2. The Name

Try to think of something catchy and (ideally) that hints at the kind of food you’re serving. One word in the language of the food’s origin might work (“namaste,” “aloha” etc); your own forename or surname if you’re the brand; something describing the food or experience (“My Meat Wagon”, “Crave”); or even a pun (“Burger She Wrote” and “Guac and Roll” are real trucks).

We would advise against names that are too long or complicated, as ultimately, someone will have to paint it on the side of your vehicle. If you want to expand it to a restaurant one day, take that into account: what might be a funny novelty name for a truck, might not work for a restaurant.

Brainstorm with friends and have fun with it.


3. The Image and Branding

This is also the time to consider what you want the food truck’s image to say. Is it high-end or fun? Macho or playful? Does it have a philosophy? What colour will it be? Is it Instagram friendly?

Have a browse online for the kinds of food trucks that stand out and appeal to you.


Do Your Market Research

We talked about this in our Opening a Restaurant article. There are numerous steps to take:


1. Visit the Area

Are there food stalls there already? What do they serve? Are they a potential rival? (An ice-cream truck isn’t competing with a burger one, for instance.) Is there much footfall? Is trade permitted (more on that later)?


2. Talk to People on the Street…

“Clipboard marketing” can be tricky if you’re shy, but nothing really beats going to the target market area and spending a day talking to people on the street.


3. Or in Focus Groups

If you want to talk to fewer people for longer, put time and money aside to talk to a sample group of people. Ideally, this is 10 people who would regularly eat from a food truck, and they can be family or friends.


4. Online Research

It’s worth looking at national statistics about the rise of this food trend and how much is spent. Among other things, this kind of research might save you from investing in a fad.

Make sure to collate this information into a useful, compelling overall picture. This will give you a better grasp of what people want and will also be essential when looking for a loan or investor.


Create a Business Plan

Again, this is something that we talked about it our Opening a Restaurant piece. Your business plan should include:

● Your vision for the food truck (as discussed above)
● A sample menu
● Cost breakdown of ingredients
● Margins on a typical meal sold
● One-off costs (the vehicle, for instance) and ongoing ones (insurance, ingredients,
vehicle upkeep, staff etc)
● Whether you will buy your own vehicle or lease someone else’s and how much it will

Finance Options

Starting a food truck business is cheaper than a restaurant, but still not free! Here are some options and the advantages and disadvantages of each…


1. Business Loan

A common kickstart to any business and a viable one, but we’d recommend shopping around for the best interest rates, taking repayments into account as an initial operating cost and trying to keep the borrowed amount to a minimum. Don’t limit yourself to banks – look at credit unions and online lenders too.


2. Grant

There are several business grants available in the UK and beyond. There are also publicly funded business services available for newcomers, such as advice and government loans. Again, this is discussed in our Opening a Restaurant article.


3. Your Own Money

One of the most appealing things about a food truck business is the initial low outlay costs. And you can start incrementally, keeping your full-time job and working evenings, weekends or at specific events (concerts and festivals, for instance). Many thriving street food businesses started off this way.

So, you can either save your money to run it part-time while keeping your current job; or you can save enough money to cover a salary while you pursue it full-time.


4. Investors/Partners

It’s not uncommon for start-ups to be a team effort, and you might already know someone keen to go into business with you. Ideally, it should be someone whose strengths complement yours and who you’ll get along well with when you’re working in close quarters!

Another option is to seek investment either from appropriate venture capitalists (there are some who specialise in hospitality) or from friends and family.

Other Resources

The food truck industry has grown so much that there are now collectives and organisations that can help you get up and running.

Kerb, a street food collective, has recently launched its 'inkerbator'. This programme helps members learn about the market, get established, and even get slots in Kerb street food events. Further down the line, members’ access and collaboration can increase to more access to Kerb events and even corporate gigs.


Get Licensed

You should be registered with your local authority 28 days before trading. Registering is free. Beyond that, running a food truck requires that the food (naturally) is fit for consumption – fresh, clean and (especially for meat and fish) appropriately cooked. You and your staff should ideally be trained in healthy food preparation. You also might need to be able to show how you’ll be disposing of waste.

Local licenses vary from district to district, so get in touch with them with plenty of notice to find out exactly what you need.

If you’re running a temporary or part-time truck or stall as part of a market, responsibility might fall on the market organizers. But again, this is something to evaluate on a case by case basis.


Happy Trucking!

More and more chefs are looking to work for themselves and building a business from the ground up, and food trucks and stalls are a great (relatively) low-risk way to get started.

Many of our graduates have gone on to build their own hospitality business. We have a range of professional cookery courses available at Le Cordon Bleu, for most types of hospitality careers.