Owning a food truck isn’t easy, but for those that do…it has become a great investment in their lives.
With the widespread growth of food trucks and food carts in the United States, aspiring food vendors often have starry visions of the mobile food industry industry. Running a rolling bistro seems like an exciting way to create a career for yourself. After all, you love to cook, you have killer recipes, and you enjoy the thought of being your own boss.
While it is true that many mobile food concepts are well-planned and lucrative, the prevailing reality of a gourmet food truck business is that it is very hard work, and there is a greater chance of failure than there is of success. It is too early to tell in the mobile food industry, but if the same facts apply to mobile eateries as they do with brick and mortar restaurants, more than one quarter of all startup restaurants fail within the first two years in business.
It is essential that you educate yourself about the industry and understand every aspect of mobile restaurant ownership and operation before getting in too deep. Take time to talk to those who have made it in the industry, and take notice of the things that seem to work for other owners, and ask yourself these simple questions to determine if owning a food truck business is right for you.
Are You a Good Financial Manager?
One of the most important things to consider when opening a food truck is financial preparation. Many prospective owners take out loans or join up with partners to help fund their enterprises, but just as many individuals pull a chunk of the required start-up capital from their personal funds. It is vitally important to have your personal finances under control before jumping into such a risky enterprise. Things to consider include:
Start-up capital. Opening a food truck does not cost as much as a brick and mortar establishment, however it can take a significant amount of money. Make sure you either have the start-up funding or are able to acquire enough of it to turn your idea into a business.
Credit card debt. You are not ready to open a mobile food business if you are up to your ears in credit card debt. Lots of debt may point to lack of responsibility or insufficient back-up funds to open a mobile restaurant. This problem is only amplified if you have had late payments or repossessions in the past.
Personal affairs. Evaluate and manage your personal financial affairs before thinking about starting a food truck or cart. Also, be aware that many independent food truck owners do not receive benefits like insurance or a 401K from their jobs and must purchase their own. Hence, responsibilities like caring for a family, maintaining payments on a mortgage and managing medical issues may present a financial challenge. You need to plan ahead, pay off previous debt and have enough to care for emergency situations, especially those threatening you or your family’s health.
Running a successful business requires responsible management. Although food truck owners and operators are typically their own bosses, they still have to answer to their customers. Bringing in sales requires an acute attention to detail, unwavering commitment to quality and responsibility for every aspect of the business. Although there are other important factors that go into making a food truck successful, your restaurant on wheels is more likely to flourish when these factors are present.
Can You Deal With Long Hours?
Be prepared to devote your time—all of it—to your new business endeavor. You must be mentally and physically prepared to work during the early mornings, afternoons, and even late into the night, regardless of the hours your food truck will be on the streets. Weekends and holidays will shrink if not disappear completely. Your customers will be looking for you during nights, weekends and on holidays and special occasion nights, and you need to accommodate them to bring in the most sales. New owners will all but live in their trucks and commissaries in order to put in the time and effort required for a successful venture.
Can You Balance Business Stress with Your Personal Life?
If you open a food truck, prepare to get involved with every aspect of the business, both before and after it opens. Most prospective mobile kitchen owners set out with a true passion for the business or the industry, which is one of the best ways to remain motivated. You must evaluate your ability to deal with the stress and keep hold of your passion. This goes for the times when your business is slow as well. Many owners attempt to alter their concepts or run unwise specials in an attempt to gain business early on. Keep your cool and stay true to your business plan. Successful business owners do not get discouraged or abandon the business plan because of minor setbacks.
Additionally, you need to have your personal life in line before committing to opening a food truck. If you are recovering from a nasty divorce or caring for an ill family member, opening a gourmet food truck may not be the best choice at this time. You may need to commit more time to your business than to your personal life. Just keep in mind that the demands of the mobile food industry are intense and your personal life may often come second to your business life.
You must ask yourself if you can meet the demands of both ownership and management. Be sure that you are opening a food truck because you have the business know-how, the passion for the work and the money to make it happen. Plenty of people can cook and plenty of people enjoy being their own boss, but plenty of people try every year and fail. Talk to others in the industry, educate yourself and assess your willingness to devote yourself to the work. This will help you determine if you have what it takes to succeed in growing mobile food industry.