Even after coming up with a plan for your food truck business and purchasing the ideal equipment for your operation, there’s still a long road ahead and it’s certain to be paved with challenges. Yes, the food truck scene is booming, but this profitable trend doesn’t magically avoid issues that have plagued the restaurant industry for decades. In fact, food trucks come with their own unique challenges that simply cannot be avoided.
Of course, the challenges of an endeavor are often what make success so rewarding. Though you might not be able to stack the cards in your favor, you can have a clear understanding of the problems you may encounter as you start your food truck’s engine. Let’s examine five challenges you’ll be sure to encounter on your food truck journey in the hopes that you’ll have what it takes to overcome each obstacle.
1. Permits and Regulations
So, you’re excited about your food truck and you can’t wait to park your truck and serving customers. That’s great! Except, there are a few hurdles you’ll have to clear before you can make that happen. Each city, county, and state has its own regulations in place for food trucks that want to operate in their boundaries. It’s never as simple as setting up shop and dishing out tasty food.
Failing to have the proper permits or certifications will lead to fines and could even keep your food truck out of commission. Though these regulations vary from state to state, here’s a list of common things you’ll need:
- Certification from the health department
- Seller’s permit
- Licenses/permits for your food truck (registration, inspection, etc.)
- Liability insurance
- Food safety training
Try talking to food truck owners who operate in your area to get a better idea of what to expect. It also wouldn’t hurt to do some Googling or to contact your city or county for some help.
2. Location, Location, Location
The beauty of owning a food truck is being able to bring food to your customers – or potential customers. However, it’s not always that simple. What’s the food truck scene like in your current city? Perhaps your city is already inundated with food truck options. It could be difficult to make your mark when several established food trucks have similar offerings.
Food trucks are popular enough that you don’t need to be in a hot spot like Los Angeles to find success. Chances are, you can find success in any city in the country. You just need to make sure there’s a market for your business beforehand.
A second aspect to location is weather. Cities up north not only have harsher winters, but longer winters as well. If you’re determined to start a food truck up north, you must account for snow and ice keeping your customers indoors.
Lastly, remember that you can’t just park wherever you wish. You might be required to lease a spot, and spots for food trucks could be limited. There are likely to be waiting lists for special events as well, like fairs or farmers’ markets. Location is always a challenge, so make sure you have a great strategy to mitigate this issue.
3. Inventory and Menus
A common struggle for food truck owners is managing inventory and fine-tuning a menu. Food trucks aren’t designed for bulk food storage, which can be a major adjustment for anyone who’s used to working in a restaurant setting.
How can you ensure you have enough inventory on hand? Ingredient deliveries from vendors aren’t always an option if your truck changes locations frequently. Heading to the market on a frequent basis is also a constant headache and a waste of time. If possible, it would be best to have space for bulk food storage at your home or another dependable location. Buying in bulk will almost always save your business money.
When it comes to your food truck menu, there’s always a desire to create something for everyone. However, a large menu means you’ll have more ingredients, requiring a larger inventory. In addition to higher costs and greater overhead, you’ll need the space to store all of these ingredients on your truck.
Instead of opting for a larger menu, focus on a few menu items and make sure you do them really well. A big menu increases ordering and preparation time, leading to slower service.
4. Wearing Many Hats
Food trucks don’t have the space to accommodate a large staff, which means the owner often has to wear many hats. Inventory, sales, managing employees, cooking, serving, marketing, and even driving all fall under the umbrella of responsibilities.
This sort of thing is common for small business owners and especially common for food trucks. Though you will likely have a few employees helping out, it will be your responsibility to at least oversee all of your business’ operations.
While this might not be a problem for most of your daily tasks, some things could have you feeling like a fish out of water. Food trucks rely heavily on marketing and social media, so it’s important to be knowledgeable and to use it well.
5. An Inefficient Kitchen
You might think that a small kitchen is an efficient kitchen, but that’s definitely not always the case. Food trucks often feature high-volume cooking which makes efficiency a huge asset. Reducing the effort and time required to complete orders and perform other tasks will make your food truck much more profitable.
It’s quite possible that your food truck isn’t where it needs to be efficiency-wise. Whether you’re just starting out or your food truck has been around the block a few times, it’s worth it to rethink your kitchen layout. The fewer steps necessary for certain tasks, the better. Talk to other food truck owners to see what works for them and observe yourself and other staff as you work a shift. Any improvements to your kitchen efficiency will save time and money.
Owning a food truck is a challenge in and of itself, but you’ll experience other challenges every time you park and open for business. Take the time to combat the five issues discussed above to ensure your food truck is successful, and you’ll be prepared to handle anything else that’s thrown your way.