How to Run a Successful Food Truck Business and Become a City Staple


How to Run a Successful Food Truck Business and Become a City Staple

Table of Contents

blue food truck

You’ve started your very own LLC so you could build upon your dream of running a food truck business and being the king or queen of the city. Now what? Or maybe you’re thinking about starting a food truck business but want a little guidance about what to consider.

Below we've laid out 10 tips to help you become a successful food truck owner and a local staple.

1. Differentiate

To get people interested in your food truck business, you need to differentiate yourself. If you sell the same food items as everyone else, you’ll simply get lost in the lineup. You want to create items that are different from what everyone else is selling.

That’s not to say that if everyone is selling hotdogs you should sell hamburgers. You can very well sell hotdogs also, but change them up. Maybe create meals around them, or unusual toppings and flavors besides just chili dogs or corndogs. Be creative. Be bold. Be daringly delicious.

2. Build Excitement

If you want to run a successful food truck business, you need to build excitement around your truck. Selling “vanilla” products just won’t cut it anymore unless you can literally make them better than anyone else. One thing you can try is creating a signature or new dish of the day. Each day, this strategy would build excitement for people to see what new dish you created for them to try. That plan is a great way to entice repeat customers as well.

Some food trucks change their whole menu every day, but if you’re just starting out that can be a daunting task. Therefore, many successful food trucks will create one new item and make it in a very limited production for just that day — when it’s gone, it’s gone. You want to create FOMO (fear of missing out) with your food truck business to help build excitement around your brand.

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3. Know Your Customers

If you want to knock the socks off your customers and create an experience like no other, work on remembering everyone’s name. It may take some time, but when you can say, “Hey Tony, good to see you brother! What did you think of our dish yesterday?" can bet Tony will be telling his friends about you. This kind of attention shows you care about your customers, and it will set you apart from other food trucks.

Most food trucks try to move as many people through their line as possible, which means they lose that personal and individual touch. Stand out from the other successful food trucks by cultivating real, human relationships with your customers.

4. Manners Matter

It should go without saying, but you (as well as your employees) need to be respectful and show your appreciation by thanking everyone who orders. When a customer pays, thank them. When you hand the customer their food, thank them for their business and say you hope they enjoy it.

Manners go a long way. It takes just as much of an effort to have poor manners as it does to have good ones, so choose the latter if you want to be known as one of the more successful food trucks in the area.

5. Remember You’re Running a Business

Running a successful food truck business doesn’t need to be difficult — but you need to run it like a small business, not just a truck handing out food. While the product and creativity you are selling is delicious, don’t forget the business side of things.

You need to make sure you aren’t being wasteful with products/ingredients or losing money with portion sizes that are too big. You need to make sure employees are following guidelines and protecting your profits as well. Every business procedure that would happen at a standard retail location probably applies to your food truck business as well.

6. Make Sure You’re Catering to Your Demographic

Doing market research for your area would be helpful, as well as getting to know who your competitors are and what they are selling. If your market loves American food such as burgers, fries, cheesesteaks, and fried chicken, going outside the box with some Vietnamese food might hurt sales.

Yet, if you do research and find people are looking for Vietnamese food but there are no successful food trucks selling it, you may have a great business idea (remember #1 above — be different!).

7. Get All Your Paperwork in Order

As with most businesses, you will need a business license to operate your food truck. Talk with your state and city to find out what restrictions you may have and everything needed to get your food truck business off the ground. You can also utilize Incfile's Business License Research Package to understand exactly what permits and licenses you'll need to operate legally.

More than likely, you will need:

  • A license to cook, prepare and sell the food
  • A parking permit for the location where you want to set up shop
  • Health inspections
  • ...and more

Get all of your ducks in a row now and find out what needs to be completed so you can be on your way to becoming one of the most successful food trucks in the city.

8. Find the Right Truck

One of the biggest expenses you’ll face is going to be the food truck itself. I would recommend finding a used food truck to get started, and potentially adding another once your concept proves to be successful.

A used food truck can run around $40,000 depending on what your needs are. If you want a new one that you can fully customize, you’re looking at around $100,000+.

9. Social Media Is Your Friend

We live in a digital age — if you are trying to figure out how to run a successful food truck business, including social media will always be a good idea. There are millions of people engaging on social media every single day. If you want to get out in front of them and promote your business, you obviously need to be on those platforms. Some you should consider would be Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Pinterest.

Create business pages for each so you can get the word out about your business and promote what you’re selling and where you'll be. This also allows your customers to rate/review your food truck business, which can help entice others to try your food. It’s also a good idea to take and post high-quality images of your truck, all the people in line waiting to place their orders and obviously some of the amazing food you make.

10. Think Outside the Box

Successful food truck businesses have a general location they go to frequently to sell their food. That being said, if you want to kick things up a notch, consider what you can do outside your normal “business hours.” For instance, you can cater for businesses, weddings or other social events.

If your truck is usually stationary and serving food during lunch from 11 am to 2 pm, consider catering at a business or other area later in the afternoon — or even serving dinner for companies who are having special events. Not afraid to work on the weekends? Look to cater to various local events on a Saturday or Sunday. If you want to be one of the more successful food truck businesses in your area and become a staple of your city, you need to start thinking outside the box.

Now that you know how to run a successful food truck business, do you have everything set up correctly? Incfile has an extremely useful checklist on starting your food truck business that you can utilize to ensure you’re on your way to becoming one of the most successful food trucks around.

Want to Know All the Steps to Start Your Biz? Download Our Free Checklist.
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