In today’s economy, more than ever, people are looking for alternative sources of employment for themselves. Throw a dash of American entrepreneurship into the mix, and you will find that one of the largest growing search areas on Internet sites such as Google, Yahoo Search, and Bing! is the food truck industry. Mobile Cuisine would like to help these potential vendors and the food truck industry by providing a series of articles that will help each individual in deciding if being a mobile food vendor is the right career shift for them.

In the first of our series, we will discuss the very basics and initial thoughts you should be putting time into to assist you in getting a mobile food business started.

Breaking into the Food Truck Industry

In the first of our Breaking into the Food truck Industry series, we will discuss the very basics and initial thoughts you should be putting time into to assist you in getting a mobile food business started.

Setting up your Menu

Number one, what in the world are you going to sell? There are a huge number of factors you need to look at before you make your decision. Where are you located? What can you cook? What do the people in your area think is worth spending their hard earned money on to feed themselves?

Just as any restaurant owner must decide, you must find out what suites you and your customers. Do you have a gourmet or professional culinary background? Maybe taking a simple idea like barbecue, or tacos, and giving them a new twist on old recipes will thrill the crowd.

Once you have determined what you will be selling, you must take the time to perfect your recipes and technique. Have friends and family help you conduct taste tests. If you have enough early investment capital, find a marketing firm to run the tests for you. Find out what people like, and don’t like, and tailor your menu to the results you receive.

One of the worst things a food truck industry vendor can do, is start prematurely, and sells its customers bad food. Word of mouth as advertising works both ways. Sure it can be a positive, but if you are serving poor tasting food, it can be almost impossible to turn that perception around without having to re-brand your entire enterprise.

Location, Location, Location

Alright, you’ve got it, you know what you can and will be able to sell from your truck. Now what? Well, you have a product in mind, but whom and where will you sell it? Take look at what type of demographic will be interested in your food. Are you selling something that the late night bar hopper will be interested in, or will you need to find locations where the customers will have more interest in a gourmet food item, than fries and a hot dog? Travel around your area. Find the local hangouts; find where the majority of the cities foot traffic takes place. If your competitors are going to be brick and mortar restaurants, where are they located?

Now What?

Now that you have gathered this information, you will need to find out where you will park your rig. Many municipalities across the country have strict guidelines on where mobile food vendors can park. Take the time to speak with the zoning and parking officials in the areas you wish to sell. Find out how long you can stay in one spot, find out the hours you can park with or without feeding a meter. Another avenue food trucks are using, is parking in open lots.

Contact the owners of the lots, and get their permission to park there, and be sure the permission is in writing. You may need to supply them with times and days of the week you plan to use their lot. Rather than denying their request and risk the lost opportunity to partner on their site, write up a proposal with the required information which both parties can agree to. In most cases a flat fee or a percentage of your sales may be a prerequisite to making an agreement; however, having a regular site for sales can be a great start to getting your business noticed.

Using your Competition

In most high traffic food truck industry communities it will be very difficult to start up a business that will be unique. Once you have determined what type of fare you will be serving to your customers, you must find out who your direct completion will be.  Search the streets, the internet and more importantly, use twitter to track them down.

Find out when they operate and what their menu consists of.  Be sure to find them and visit their sites. Besides trying to find out what their customers are buying, the more important aspect of your clandestine efforts should be to taste their product. If it’s possible, come back on multiple occasions, this approach will give you a better understanding of how they operate and how you can manipulate your menu, your prices and your locations.

Find the rest of our series: Breaking into the Food Truck Industry below.

Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4