Though the food truck phenomenon was born out of the 2008 recession that forced many in the culinary industry to turn their struggles into opportunities, the popularity of these mobile restaurants has yet to slow down. Many food trucks and carts have built reputations through social media, turning each day into an event worth visiting.  

Combined with the expansion of craft breweries and other smaller businesses that don’t offer food menus, these meals on wheels are not going anywhere. However, with so many food trucks out there already, it can be a daunting task for those with big dreams to break into the industry. 

Food is obviously the most crucial part of the equation, but don’t overlook the vessel you use as your mobile establishment. Would your operation benefit most from using a truck or a cart? Let’s look at the pros and cons of each to help you get cooking. 

The Pros and Cons of Owning a Food Truck 

A truck is likely what most people have in mind when they are thinking of breaking into the industry. However, a food truck isn’t always the best option for entrepreneurs. You must first determine your budget, define your market, and consider all possibilities. Let’s examine the biggest pros and cons of owning a food truck:   

Advantages: 

More to Offer: 

Though food trucks don’t have as much space as a brick and mortar restaurant, they are often quite large and can accommodate enough equipment for owners to flesh out a full menu. Though it’s ideal to select a distinct theme for your food truck, there’s a lot of benefit to being able to please a broader audience with a variety of menu options. Also, the exterior of food trucks is prime real estate for imagery, murals, menus, and any other creative ideas that can set your truck apart from the competition. 

Mobility: 

Though food trucks might be too large for some public spaces, they have a distinct advantage over carts and trailers: You can climb upfront and drive wherever, whenever. There’s no need to purchase or maintain a separate vehicle so that you can tote your restaurant around. The simplicity and convenience of having your restaurant in your truck cannot be matched. If your current location is lacking clientele, all you have to do is start the engine and find take your food to the people. 

Popularity: 

Like it or not, food trucks are often more popular than carts. They tend to have a sleeker look and are what most consumers picture when they think of getting street food. While this shouldn’t be your sole reason for opting for a food truck over a cart, it should undoubtedly be taken into consideration. Businesses can only survive if there’s a demand for their offerings. If choosing a truck can help that happen, maybe it’s the right move. 

Disadvantages: 

A Bigger Investment:

A bigger restaurant pretty much always means a more substantial investment. Trucks are bigger than carts, require more equipment, and can take longer to pay off. The investment for a good food truck can be anywhere from $30,000 to $60,000, and some of the nicer ones tend to be even more expensive. While it might be possible to purchase a used truck, you risk buying a lemon, and it could take a lot of elbow grease to make sure it’s looking good. 

Maintenance:

You’re going to be covering a lot of ground with your food truck, so it’s only natural for maintenance to be an issue. Just like with any vehicle, a food truck will have to pass regular vehicle inspections, need repairs, and generally deal with the wear and tear of mileage. Add in the fact that the back of the truck is loaded with restaurant equipment that will need maintenance as well, and it’s easy to see how maintenance can be costly. 

The Pros and Cons of Owning a Food Cart 

The humble food cart might be overlooked by some, but it’s a reliable option for those looking to gain footing in the industry, and it’s quite versatile. If you’re thinking it could be the right choice for your business idea, make sure by considering the following pros and cons: 

Advantages: 

Cost: 

In comparison to a food truck, a nice food cart is relatively inexpensive. While you’ll still have to make a decent investment, $10,000 is much more reasonable than the cost of a truck. The sooner you can start earning income, the better, and a food cart can help you get there relatively quickly. 

Compact: 

Though food trucks are quite mobile, food carts have them beat by leaps and bounds when it comes to potential locations. When the whole draw of a food truck operation is being able to take your business to the customers, having a smaller option that can reach more places is a definite advantage. Food carts can be taken to small parks and even parked on sidewalks. 

No Payroll: 

The larger your operation, the more manpower you need to keep things running smoothly. Even though food trucks are already quite small, they require at least two employees to pump out food. A food cart, on the other hand, is small enough to be operated by just one person. Instead of having to manage employees and worry about payroll and taxes, there’s something freeing about working for and by yourself. 

Disadvantages: 

More Limited:

Even though the compact space of a food cart is a definite advantage, it also means you’re more limited in your offerings. Limited menus are fine, especially when done properly, but your business could lose out on picky eaters and may run out of inventory faster. 

Transportation:

Again, the food cart’s compact size can be a great advantage. However, with no engine, these carts require another vehicle (or some sort of manpower) for movement. If your current vehicle isn’t equipped for towing a cart, you have to add proper transportation to your investment. Even if you do have the proper transportation, it’s more of a annoyance to always need a separate vehicle. 

Go with Gas Either Way 

Regardless of your choice, you’ll need to ensure your truck or cart has the proper equipment. The challenge with either option is that you necessarily have to fit a whole kitchen’s worth of stuff into a smaller footprint. While that’s a whole other topic by itself, there’s one important consideration to keep in mind: Gas is a better option than electric.  

Electric kitchen appliances usually require a lot of power to operate, putting more strain on your food truck’s generator. Gas is cheap, plentiful, and very efficient when it comes to heating up your food. Food trucks are mean to serve food quickly, and gas helps ensure you serve more customers in a shorter time span. 

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