Opening a food truck isn’t like the movie Field of Dreams. The mobile food industry is just like any other fledgling industry — it has many success stories, but it also has many stories of failure. If you build it, they may come, or they may just say they’ll come. Or they may show up once and never come back.
Having unrealistic expectations before you make up your mind to open a food truck can give you a false sense of security during the decision-making process.
Here are ten myths I shed the light on to make sure you are ready for opening a food truck:
Running a food truck is easy
To run a food truck, you need to be on the streets six or seven days a week serving lunch and dinner, not to mention the need to be present at any food truck event that pops up. Owning a food truck means working a majority of your waking hours, especially at the start of your business.
Running a food truck involves extremely long hours, no matter how good your staff is. The success of your mobile business relates directly to the amount of time and effort you put into running it.
You’ll get rich running a food truck
Because the mobile food industry is seeing huge popularity and expansion, some people think that opening a food truck has become the next get-rich-quick business model.
Yes, food trucks can earn a lot of money. However, most of them typically spend almost all they make. Unfortunately, your fixed costs don’t change, and your bills come due every month.
Your staff still needs to be paid, too. You must load your truck up with food for every shift, so you must pay for your ingredients, fuel, and insurance. Unless you already own your commercial kitchen, you’re going to owe rent to your kitchen landlord.
You can earn a decent living as a food truck owner only if you intend to work in the truck. Many people think they’ll open a food truck and draw a paycheck without actually cooking, managing, or working at the service window.
If you love to cook, you should open a food truck
Sure, your friends and family keep telling you that you should open a food truck because you’re such a great cook. They’re happy to get a free meal when they visit your house, but are paying customers going to react the same way if their steak sandwiches are overcooked?
Instead of jumping blindly into a large investment of your time and money, try catering a few small parties for individuals who aren’t your friends or family. Getting honest opinions of individuals who are paying for your services will tell you very quickly whether you should convert your hobby into your career.
You’re ready to run the show
Working in a restaurant or another food truck before owning one gives you a definite advantage over someone starting a truck who has never worked in the mobile food industry. Having previous professional culinary experience, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re cut out for life as a food truck owner.
Owning a food truck is more than a full-time job. It doesn’t go away when you park the truck.
You’re going to become a celebrity chef
Everyone dreams of fame and success, and people in food service industries are no different. Why wouldn’t you think that if you open a food truck you can become the next Jamie Oliver, Anthony Bourdain, or Bobby Flay?
Well, there are tens of thousands of chefs and cooks around the world, and literally thousands of talented and highly trained food truck owners and restaurant executive chefs who are completely unknown outside of their local areas.
Food trucks compete unfairly with restaurants
One of the most common complaints by disgruntled restaurant owners is that food truck operators’ relatively low costs give them an unfair advantage. Before the recent uptick in mobile food vendors across the United States, this occurrence in the restaurant industry was always referred to as acompetitive advantage.
The current emphasis on value in the market strongly favors the food truck model, and the value of their gourmet fare is what has attracted many consumers to the new generation of food trucks. However, the bottom line is that if food trucks don’t serve quality products, their followers will stop showing up, the same way they stop frequenting restaurants that serve inferior products.
Food trucks don’t pay rent
Food trucks may not have lease payments as high as those of restaurants, but food trucks still have to pay for licenses, permits, food, and staff. In many communities, food trucks also are legally required to pay rent for storage space and the commercial kitchen where they do most of the prep work. The costs can add up!
Food trucks go only to trendy areas
Of course food trucks go to trendy areas; food trucks thrive in areas with high foot traffic. Why should food trucks be held down to a foundation or lease when they can simply start up their truck and drive to another area where consumers spend their time?
Food trucks do have loyal followers; the difference lies in their devotion and, as shown to date, food truck followers will follow their food wherever it goes. So if a food truck has a dedicated following, it can go anywhere and operate, thus creating new trendy areas.
Food trucks create more traffic and pollution than restaurants do
Unhappy restaurant owners who want limiting regulations placed on food truck owners started the myth that food trucks must create additional traffic and pollution to the areas in which they operate based on the fact that food trucks are trucks. Because food trucks spend the majority of their operating time parked in a lot or on the street selling their fare, the point of creating more traffic seems moot.
Another way to look at this argument is from the standpoint that food trucks use social media to inform customers of their location from day to day. Much of their sales come from people already in the area.
The longer the food truck industry is popular, the more likely it is that technology will help it to become greener, too. For example, many trucks around the United States already run their vehicles off the vegetable oil they produce so as to cut down on oil costs for fuel and the emissions their trucks create.
Health departments don’t inspect food trucks
The idea that food trucks are mobile and thus unable to be tracked by health departments is completely incorrect.
Food trucks follow the same regulations and are required to submit to the same types of inspections as restaurants. The grades they receive from health inspectors must be placed in spaces that can be seen by the general public or the truck risks being shut down.
In addition to standard health inspections of the truck, food truck owners must also be concerned about the inspections that their commercial kitchens receive. If a truck’s kitchen receives a failing grade, the truck must either shut down until all the citations are cleared or move to a commercial kitchen that has passed its health department inspection.
This excerpt comes from Richard Myrick’s book.