Food trucks are self-contained ventures that will give you plenty of exposure to essential business skills. From creating a great menu to sourcing ingredients, and preparing meals to making a profit, you’ll need to get up to speed quickly.

We know it can be daunting to start a food truck business, and we’re here to help.

We’ve supported over 500,000 people to form their business and provided answers, guidance and support to transform them into entrepreneurs. We’ll guide you through what you need to know to start your food truck business and get it off the ground.

Here’s our simple guide to opening up your successful food truck business. From exploring the types of food trucks you can start to the legalities of setting up your business and the realities of your day to day operations, this guide is here to help.

Read on for some insight into creating your own food truck business and becoming a food-based entrepreneur. In this guide we’ll cover:

Food truck business planning

Food truck business planning

Deciding whether a food truck business could be right for you

Groups, forums and support for food truck business owners

Ideas for the type of food business you could form

Helpful software for food truck businesses

Statistics on why you should start a food truck business selling meals to the public

Setting up your food truck business including location, equipment, employees, taxes, finances, licenses and more

Why You Should Start a Food Truck

Food trucks are incredibly popular. Aside from the initial cost of the food truck and equipment, the barriers to entry are fairly low, which makes them an ideal starting point for food-based entrepreneurs. Here are some statistics on the growth and staying power of food truck businesses:

4,000

Approximate number of food truck businesses in the U.S.

$2B

Estimated worth of food truck industry in the U.S per year.

$1000K

The average startup cost for a food truck business.

7%
Is the annual growth in food truck revenue as a whole

The most popular types of food trucks are desserts, Central and South American, mixed ethnicity, Greek Mediterranean, Asian and traditional American food like burgers, sandwiches and hot dogs

The industry employs around 15,000 people

This is why food truck businesses are so exciting — how can you be part of that success? We're here to help you figure that out.

Is Running a Food Truck Business Right for You?

Although it can be exciting to form a food truck business, there will be significant demands on you as a small business owner. Here are some of the things you can expect.

A Day in the Life of a Food Truck Owner

Here are some of the typical tasks you’ll be performing for your food truck business on a daily basis.

Checking you have enough ingredients for all the meals you’re offering and ordering food to build up your stock

Refining your menu so you can make good food at a reasonable cost and sell it for a profit

Talking with venue owners and event organizers to see if you can sell food at certain locations

Preparing food before you start your day to reduce preparation time later

Working long hours to meet diner demands throughout the day and night

Keeping up to date with all the licenses and permits you need to run a healthy, hygienic food truck

Marketing your business through social media and other channels

Managing your finances so you have enough profits to pay yourself and stay operating

Maintaining your food truck and equipment so it stays in good repair

Interacting with members of the public

Preparing, cooking and serving food

Skills Needed When You’re Opening and Operating a Food Truck

The following skills will be very useful in your role as a food truck small business owner:

Inspiration to think up interesting food combinations, flavors and meals

Good understanding of your ingredients costs, your operating expenses and your profits

Strong interpersonal and customer service skills for negotiating venues and serving food

Ability to work in a small, confined space for many hours a day

Excellent administration skills to stay on top of ordering ingredients, managing cash, profit margins, getting permits, etc.

What Your Food Truck Customers Are Looking For

Although the needs of your food truck customers may vary, they might expect:

Well-prepared, nutritious, wholesome food

Interesting food served in a new or unusual way

Exciting and inspirational flavor combinations

Food that can meet unique dietary needs

Food “on-the-go” for people who are just grabbing a quick bite

Understanding who your customers are and what they want will be a big part of the success of your food truck business.

What Type of Food Truck Business Should You Start?

When it comes to starting a food truck business, you have plenty of choices. Here are the main areas where food truck businesses can be successful:

1

Food Trucks Focusing on Specific Cuisines

These are the most popular food trucks of all — those that specialize in food from a particular region or culinary tradition. From Asian-inspired noodles to grab-and-go burritos, or spicy curries to artisanal grilled sandwiches, there are plenty of niches you can explore and grow into.

2

Food Trucks for Special Diets

There’s a growth in specialized diets, with diners looking for food that will meet their nutritional choices. From plant-based or gluten-free to diets focused on a specific culture, you can quickly build up a good reputation with a subset of diners and get excellent word of mouth.

3

Food Trucks Tied to Events or Locations

Some food trucks may only go to particular locations or events. These food truck entrepreneurs have done their research and know exactly what their diners want. They’ve often negotiated long-term deals with venue owners and event organizers and may have exclusive rights to provide food.

4

Food Trucks Associated With Restaurants and Breweries

Some restaurants may want to extend their offerings through a food truck. If you have a close association with a particular eatery, it could be worth talking to them to see if they’ll sponsor you as their “face on the road.” Likewise, breweries and bars often want food trucks to give their patrons somewhere to eat, so that could be an excellent partnership.

Validating Your Food Truck Business Idea

These ideas are just starting points — you’ll need to do plenty of research to understand your customers and create a food truck experience they’re going to love.

It can be quite expensive to open a food truck business, with estimates of between $50,000 and $100,000 for your startup costs. Before committing too much time, energy and money into your new food truck business, it’s vital to test the marketplace.

Look at who your competitors are in the space

Food trucks are a popular type of business, so it’s important to know who else is operating in your area. Before starting your own, see who else is out there. Do some local research, go to events and popular public places and see the types of food trucks already operating, This can help you find a niche that’s not already taken.

Identify your food truck business’ unique selling points (USPs)

What does your food truck offer that your competitors don’t? Look for ways that you can stand out, whether that’s with your chosen cuisine, supporting people on particular diets or something else.

Understand your market

Clearly identify exactly who your customers are likely to be and what they want to eat. You’ll need to find a food truck niche where there’s enough demand for the food you’re making and selling.

Talk to clients

Speak with potential customers about what they want from a food truck. Are they after a particular type of food that they can’t already get? Can you offer a meal experience in a different way?

Get involved with food truck communities and discussion groups

One of the great things about food truck businesses is that there are several communities and discussion groups. Get involved in them and learn the ins and outs of your chosen market before committing.

Keep researching and testing until you find the right type of food truck business. It’s fine to say no to the first few ideas, so long as you settle on a niche where there’s a genuine need.

The Food Truck Business Plan

You need to define how you’re going to run your food truck business, market yourself, get sales, make a profit and grow. This can only come about by creating a watertight food truck business plan. It will help you get your thinking in order and show your commitment to your new venture.

You will also need to look at financial projections for your food truck business.

What are your expected sales and revenues? What is your profitability? How much money will you keep in the business to grow it? How much will you pay yourself and others?

Food truck business plans do vary slightly, but they should all cover the following areas:

1

An executive summary with the most important points from your business plan

2

Your goals and what you hope to achieve with your food truck business

3

A description of your food truck business, background information and context

4

A market analysis and likely demand

5

An overview of how your food truck business is structured

6

Your business model

7

How you will market and sell your offerings

8

Financial projections, revenue and profitability

9

Appendices

In particular, your food truck business plan should cover your startup and operational costs. You’ll need to work out how long it will be before you can turn a profit, bearing in mind the expense to buy a truck and equip it with specialized food facilities. Even after that, you’ll also need to put money toward ingredients, permits, wages, utility costs and more. Your food truck business will succeed or fail based on its profitability, so a rock solid understanding of your pricing and expenses is essential.

We’ve got the perfect guide to writing your business plan.

Choose the Right Business Structure and Register Your Construction Business

Choose the Right Business Structure and Register Your Food Truck Business

There are five main business structures you can have in the U.S., and it’s important to choose the right one. We’ve shared your options below. They are:

Sole Proprietorship

If you don’t choose to form a legal business entity for your food truck business, you will be a sole proprietor by default. This won’t give you the legal protections you need, so we do not recommend this.

Partnership Company or LLC

Similar to a sole proprietorship, if you go into business with someone else without forming a legal business entity, you will be treated as a partnership. This doesn’t give you limited liability protections, so we don’t recommend it for your food truck business.

Limited Liability Company or LLC

The most common type of business entity. An LLC is fast, simple and inexpensive to set up and maintain. It protects your personal finances and assets and is a great way to start your food truck business.

S Corporation

This is a more complex type of business and isn't generally recommended for smaller organizations, like a food truck business.

C Corporation

These are the largest and most complex types of businesses and are typically far more than the average entrepreneur or food truck business owner will need.

For more information on the advantages and disadvantages of different types of businesses, please see our in-depth guide. If you’ve still got questions, we’ve answered them to help you choose the right business structure for your food truck business.

In most cases, our recommendation for a food truck business would be to create an LLC. We’ve got a complete guide to everything you need to do. LLC formation does vary from state to state, but we’ve got you covered, wherever you are.

Setting up Your Food Truck and Business Operations

Once you've legally created your food truck business, you’ll need to get some other things in place.

The Complete "Start Your Business" Checklist

A Clear and Comprehensive Guide to Starting Your Business the Right Way

The Complete Start Your Business Checklist

Rules, Regulations and Taxes for Your Food Truck Business

You can’t escape real-world licenses, permits and regulations, and they’re particularly onerous for a food-based business. You will need to explore local, state and federal licenses and permits, and we can also help out with researching your business licensing needs. Pay particular attention to any permits or licenses needed for safety and hygiene.

Taxes

Taxes are a fact of life if you’re in business, and there are various ways you will need to file and pay them. This can include self-employment tax, state income tax and federal income tax. It’s also very likely that the food you sell will be subject to sales and use tax.

As a rule of thumb, we recommend holding back around a third of your earnings to pay your taxes. We can also prepare and file your tax returns for you.

Insurance for Your Food Truck

Most food truck businesses should have comprehensive business insurance. There are various types.

Workers Compensation Insurance

Workers’ compensation insurance provides coverage for job-related illnesses, disabilities or injuries that affect employees. Regulations for this insurance vary from state to state. It typically covers areas like medical costs, loss of earnings, compensation and retraining. If you do not have employees, you may not need this insurance.

General Liability Insurance

This insurance protects your food truck business from claims due to being sued. This may include injury to members of the public, property damage, personal liabilities, legal defense and more. It can help protect your business from financial penalties and bankruptcy. This type of insurance could be essential to your food truck business since you’re always dealing with members of the public and want to ensure you’re properly covered.

Home and Auto Insurance

You will need special insurance for your food truck, as standard auto insurance isn’t likely to cover it. Speak to your insurance provider and make sure you have the right type of cover.

Maintaining Your Food Truck Business Documentation

There are certain forms and legalities you need to follow to keep your food truck business in good standing.

1

File an Annual Report

Most states require all businesses to file a report once a year. This report has details of any major changes to who owns a business and other major impacts on a business’ legal status. We can file your Annual Report on your behalf.

Annual Report
2

Pay estimated taxes

You will be expected to pay estimated taxes on what you plan to earn in the current business year. Typically, you will need to pay estimated taxes in April, June, September and January (of the following year).

3

Renew Business Permits and Licenses

Your business will probably have several licenses, permits and other regulations. These typically need to be renewed every year.

4

Prepare Your Taxes

You will need to work with your accountant to prepare all the taxes you need to pay.

5

File your taxes

You will need to file your taxes once a year.

6

Pay payroll and sales taxes

If applicable, you will need to make payroll and sales tax payments on a regular basis.

Groups and Forums for Food Truck Entrepreneurs

Here are some useful places where you can connect with other food truck entrepreneurs.

Useful Online Tools for Your Food Truck Business

Here are some really great online tools for managing your food truck business. They will reduce the time you spend on administration, help you to collaborate with others and free up your time to grow and manage your new venture.

Conclusion

Find the right niche, and your food truck business could be an enormous success. You’ll certainly learn quickly if it’s right for you, and with perseverance you can turn a food truck into a very profitable venture.