If you are passionate about making food, serving people, and owning your own food business, then starting a food truck is a great decision. Food trucks are popular, fun, and have the potential to be very lucrative. The mobile convenience of bringing food to people is a huge benefit to consumers, and it’s one they are willing to pay for.The most recent food business statistics available from the Government of Canada show that in 2016 there were 2,298 mobile food services establishments in the country. Of those, just over one-third (or 33.63%) were based in Ontario.
The statistics specific to 2016 Ontario Food Truck businesses speak for themselves. In 2016:
- There were 773 Mobile Food Service Establishments
- $141,000.00 was the average annual revenue for the mobile food services industry
- 75.6% of food truck businesses reported making a profit
Now that you’ve made the decision to hit the road, you'll need a food truck business plan. But be prepared to devote lots of time and energy. This is a very hands-on business. Take the time to find the right idea, complete all paperwork properly, and then think about buying your vehicle. When you’re ready, the OAFVC offers free business consulting for starting or expanding your food business.
Where to Start with Your Food Truck Business Plan
Find Your Niche
In marketing, finding a business idea that you can do well and that no one else is currently doing in your area is often referred to as your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). You may need to do some market research to figure out what food business would work in your area. Then decide what type of food you will sell. If you choose a popular type (like Mexican, Asian, burgers, or poutine) make sure you have a creative new twist that will carve out your market niche.
If you are doing something that’s been done before, you need to do it better.
Consider creating a new market. What about a food truck that specializes in grilled cheese — some with meat, some with veggies? Your new customers will be the people who want a break from the usual fare. The grilled cheese can be both comfort food and a trendy innovation when you add sprouts and avocado slices.And this potential twist means that you could tap into the traditional crowd and those who want to try new food trends.
Do the Paperwork
As part of your food truck business plan, you need to get all the necessary paperwork in order. Your local economic development office can be a big help with this as they actually know what you need. You can’t fill out forms you didn’t know existed! So take advantage of all the help you can get.
Your food truck business paperwork may include, but is not limited to, the following topics:
- Insurance (business and vehicle)
- Licences (business and vehicle)
- Health codes
- Food truck permit
- Parking restrictions (where to park)
Keep in mind that this process will probably be more complicated and expensive than anticipated. If possible, connect with experienced food truckers in your area who can mentor you. Your local economic development office can help connect you with others in the industry.
Buy a Food Truck
When buying a food truck, should you buy new or used? That depends on your budget, the availability of vehicles in your area, and whether you plan to make a long term commitment to this venture. Whatever your decision, be sure to factor in the cost of truck maintenance and repairs. The amount of maintenance and repairs will vary depending on whether you choose new or used, but do not eliminate this item from the budget, even if you buy a brand new vehicle.
When you develop a layout for the food truck, every inch counts. It’s absolutely necessary — and possible — to be space efficient. Think about the kitchen space in a camper. There are lots of existing space solutions you can use. You’ll want to customize the layout according to your products. A chip truck and an ice cream truck have very different requirements. Consider some of the associated costs, such as generator, on board kitchen appliances, cooking equipment, fuel, and ingredients.
A Commercial Kitchen Adds Valuable Space to Your Food Truck Business
Let’s face it, food prep in a food truck can be a cramped, hot experience. Storage space is limited, even with the best of planning and organizing. And some food must be prepared on site and on demand.
But for any food items that you can prepare ahead of time, you need a commercial kitchen. Using a commercial kitchen for your food business can minimize set up and tear down time. Imagine being able to send one group of staff to a commercial kitchen to prep food for the following day while a second group runs the food truck. Now no one needs to get up at 3 am to chop tomatoes!
Your Commercial Kitchen Can Help With Networking
As with every food business, networking is a must. It's not enough to hit up the popular lunch spots. You can connect with a whole different market by participating in farmers’ markets, community events, and festivals. Catering special events, like weddings, can connect you with additional food business markets. Connect with potential customers and the community on social media. Be creative! Maybe you can carve out a breakfast niche and put yourself in the path of commuters.
At the Ontario Agri-Food Venture Centre, your commercial kitchen can also help you network. Get to know others in the food business and learn how to expand your food network. We host networking events and have connections with the local health department and economic development office. Let us make your life easier! We know lots of people in the local food community. Let us introduce you!
Start Your Food Truck Business Plan Today!
Download this Business Plan Infographic for more strategies on how to start your food truck business.