Author Topic: What's the food truck game like?  (Read 1715 times)

Cowardly Toaster

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What's the food truck game like?
« on: August 12, 2019, 11:28:16 AM »
My wife and I have been running a small business at local events that involves my wife's art. It's been very profitable and after getting into the scene a bit, we're considering running a food truck.

We live in rural state where people are eager to try "exotic" foods from foodtruck type venues. We would travel around to various events, mostly in the summer, trying to focus on larger events with few vendors. I think there is a lot of money lying around waiting.

I'd likely build the truck (really a trailer) myself, so I'd probably be able to save some money that way.

I'm also attracted to this business because as I understand it, the restaurant/food business has been booming, even in down economies. Apparently this sort of thing is an escape for people who are down on their finances.

Anyhow, just wondering if any other Mustachians have considered this business or been involved in it? Thoughts?

mozar

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Re: What's the food truck game like?
« Reply #1 on: August 12, 2019, 01:05:34 PM »
I am not in the food truck business but they are popular where I live. People think they want exotic food but what they buy is comfort food. The ones I have seen do well are tacos with "exotic " ingredients " and grilled cheese sandwiches. There is one that serves savory and sweet pies and and other that serves fried chicken and donuts. If you don't already have a preexisting restaurant with unusual food you will have a harder time. Keep it simple. I think the website where I live is called foodtruckfiesta.com which is a place where you can see all the different types of food trucks.

Khaetra

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Re: What's the food truck game like?
« Reply #2 on: August 13, 2019, 04:52:28 AM »
It's not that simple and can even be harder than a B&M (brick and mortar) restaurant, depending where you live.  You will probably need to buy a truck instead of building your own in order to operate legally.  You also need licenses/insurance/permits from everyone from the DMV to the Health Department, permits to operate and park and a host of all other thing.  Plus you have to be able to cook REALLY good food, as the competition is fierce.  Read, read and read some more, from websites to books.  Read everything you can.

BicycleB

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Re: What's the food truck game like?
« Reply #3 on: August 13, 2019, 05:12:52 AM »
A friend of mine got a secondhand food truck a few years ago, wangled a food permit, set up near a moderately popular bar, and then lost money until he quit. He was selling chili, chili dogs and I think loaded potatoes. The truck later sold for some small sum, but the project was a loss if I understand correctly. The friend moved out of state to live with family whose hospitality prevented him from becoming homeless for a time.

mistymoney

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Re: What's the food truck game like?
« Reply #4 on: August 13, 2019, 05:50:58 AM »
A friend of mine got a secondhand food truck a few years ago, wangled a food permit, set up near a moderately popular bar, and then lost money until he quit. He was selling chili, chili dogs and I think loaded potatoes. The truck later sold for some small sum, but the project was a loss if I understand correctly. The friend moved out of state to live with family whose hospitality prevented him from becoming homeless for a time.

a sobering anecdote!

Cowardly Toaster

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Re: What's the food truck game like?
« Reply #5 on: August 16, 2019, 10:38:16 AM »
Thanks for the replies all. Honestly I probably wouldn't even consider a food truck in the city. This will be strictly at festivals and such.

merince

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Re: What's the food truck game like?
« Reply #6 on: August 16, 2019, 11:44:40 AM »
Before you sink money into the truck look into what the festivals require for you to set up - usually lack of vendors means the fees to vendors are outrageous, or the festival does not bring enough in foot traffic to justify the expense. Some festivals limit the number of vendors of a certain type, too

BrightFIRE

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Re: What's the food truck game like?
« Reply #7 on: August 16, 2019, 11:57:50 AM »
It's not that simple and can even be harder than a B&M (brick and mortar) restaurant, depending where you live.  You will probably need to buy a truck instead of building your own in order to operate legally.  You also need licenses/insurance/permits from everyone from the DMV to the Health Department, permits to operate and park and a host of all other thing.  Plus you have to be able to cook REALLY good food, as the competition is fierce.  Read, read and read some more, from websites to books.  Read everything you can.

Not necessarily. Where I am, there are many immigrant areas where they prepare "homestyle" food in parking lots without permits (also without even trucks, usually just a grill) and the police basically turn a blind eye. They're locally famous places and mimic the street markets from back home. Find out what the requirements are before you give up on building your own.

Also, I've read numerous accounts of people who couldn't afford to run a restaurant, so they started a food truck first, then got a following, then opened a B&M place. Some of the more legit food trucks around here change locations depending on events or flow of traffic, so you have to follow them on social media to find out where they are on a specific day. If you're going to be appearing at different events, you might try giving your truck a catchy name and giving it a Twitter account.

MayDay

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Re: What's the food truck game like?
« Reply #8 on: August 16, 2019, 12:10:54 PM »
My brilliant idea, which you are welcome to steal, is a gourmet hot dog cart. A lot of the farmers markets around here have sweets available but not real food. Many are weekday evenings or weekends late morning. I think hot dogs + veggie dogs with fancy toppings would be easy and sell like crazy. Plus way less overhead to tow a cart then to have a whole truck.

mozar

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Re: What's the food truck game like?
« Reply #9 on: August 16, 2019, 01:26:54 PM »
Re: hot dogs I know of a vendor that actually makes his own hot dogs out of his own beef/pork blend.  That's  a lot of work and probably not that important to the rural market.
At the last vegan festival I went to the hot dog stand had a line around the block.

AnnaGrowsAMustache

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Re: What's the food truck game like?
« Reply #10 on: August 17, 2019, 06:49:13 PM »
Food permits, licensing and fees to turn up to certain places/events, truck licensing and fees, one hell of a lot of work for a very small margin..... Do your research.

v8rx7guy

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Re: What's the food truck game like?
« Reply #11 on: August 17, 2019, 07:22:16 PM »
I've always been interested in doing one.  Hotdogs carts are super easy to get into and usually seem to do well at events with small children.  I like the idea of fancy toppings, they are hard to keep in the sun though....

AnnaGrowsAMustache

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Re: What's the food truck game like?
« Reply #12 on: August 18, 2019, 04:44:45 AM »
Honestly, people, do your research. No matter where you go, if you got to the businesses for sale in the very low $ bracket, they will guaranteed be food trucks, corner stores, hairdressers and cafes. They're lifestyle occupations. VERY few make any decent money, and that's not because they're all badly run. It's because there is a tiny margin in those businesses, and you have to work pretty damn hard for it. I know folk who have food trucks that they work on a seasonal basis, because they like the travelling and the atmosphere at fairs etc. It makes them money to fund that. Nothing much else. I know people who do a weekend market every weekend with a food truck and they make a small fortune. They also have a successful cafe that they're using for production of their food truck stuff during the week. All up, they're on no more than a decent wage. The margins in food are tiny. It relies on volume, and you can't get that volume out of a food truck nine times out of ten. Sell your hotdogs if you want. What do you make per hotdog after all expenses? Can you sell 500-800 a day?

Bernard

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Re: What's the food truck game like?
« Reply #13 on: August 18, 2019, 05:52:23 PM »
Whenever I go to an event in the larger Los Angeles area where lots of people show up (swap meet, antique show, etc.), I dread that they only have the worst junk food available, and at silly prices. Worse is it on state fairs. How about a glass of beer for $13 or a burger for $8.50?

I often wish there was a food truck/trailer selling healthy fast food. Think corn on the cob, filled potatos, crepes, etc. I would totally buy there. I once spoke to a vendor and he told me that he makes tons of money, believably so, as there were lines of people waiting to be relieved of their hard earned money for thrash food, and he told me that the one challenge is to get "in" to these events. It can take years to "earn" a spot at a swap meet.

norajean

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Re: What's the food truck game like?
« Reply #14 on: August 19, 2019, 05:43:45 AM »
Google is your friend, unless you are imaging a great number of food truck owners sitting idly at their computers reading about frugal living.

https://foodtruckr.com/2013/10/what-i-wish-id-known-before-starting-my-food-truck/

calimom

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Re: What's the food truck game like?
« Reply #15 on: August 20, 2019, 09:16:19 PM »
In my area, the food trucks that seem to do the best are connected to a brick and mortar business, like an existing restaurant or store, seem to do the best. At the farmers market or Art Night or fairs and festivals, these trucks seem to have the longest lines and offerings that relate to their main business. As well as cool trucks, painted in a great way, or in one case, a converted Airstream trailer. They also make the rounds of private parties and weddings, so they must be making money.

A standalone enterprise seems like a challenge, but doable with some really wonderful thing like the best paella, or tacos, or rotisserie chicken and sides could absolutely work with the right exposure and real effort.

AnnaGrowsAMustache

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Re: What's the food truck game like?
« Reply #16 on: August 21, 2019, 06:25:36 AM »
There's a food truck in my city that rocks. It's called Pedro's House of Lamb. They do ONE thing - a full slow 7 hour cooked NZ lamb shoulder with garlic and rosemary, and with potatoes cooked in the lamb juices. It's $50 and feeds 3 or 4. It was started when Pedro's restaurant collapsed in the quakes in Chch, NZ. They take orders and they're sold out every night. I believe they now have a food truck in Queenstown, NZ also. I think this is the only way food trucks work. Do one thing, do it right and charge accordingly. Don't worry about going everywhere. Pedro's is parked in one place and that's it. Get known for something and let people come to you. Don't worry about being the cheapest. People will pay for something delicious and unique. Pretty sure that every person who has ever visited someone in Chch since Pedro's started has been treated to Pedro's lamb. Pretty sure that they feed many more people now than they did with the restaurant. Very sad story behind it all - along with his restaurant, Pedro lost his son in the quakes. And Pedro himself recently passed away.