When advising those venturing into the world of mobile food truck business, I cannot stress enough the importance of building an “optimal” food truck. And by optimal I do not mean the biggest, baddest, most expensive new truck you can design just for the pure fun of it. You really want to keep in mind that you are building a food truck to yield maximum profits but at a minimum expense, so you can look professional and be successful, while keeping as much of those profits as possible for yourself and your family! When you dig in, you will find there can be quite a lot to it. I really want to give you some secrets right here that I believe are the most important considerations, which should be enough to guide you in the right direction.
Number one, I would strongly suggest you go with a quality used food truck. And finding one is actually pretty straightforward. A lot of industrial trucks are already built to operate for 300,000, 400,000, or even 500,000 miles! The sweet spot is often found by getting something like a FedEx or UPS truck, a bread delivery truck, or even a potato chip delivery truck. These examples are true work horses and you could probably find one with around 100,000-120,000 miles for a decent price; heck, even 150,000 miles still factors in plenty of useful worklife to start and grow your mobile food business. And ensure the truck has been well-maintained, which most likely it sure has been coming from FedEx, UPS or any such big-name truck fleet. You obviously want to get it checked out by a mechanic but this route will be your least expensive option and one that will serve you well because, again, these things last 300,000, 400,000, 500,000 miles easily.
When stocking your food truck, go for middle-of-the-line equipment that’s going to be durable. And I want to share with you here some ways to protect yourself. I lost tens of thousands of dollars because I just didn’t know what to shop for when I was hiring out the building of my mobile kitchen. And even though I did the research and went to five or six other truck builders, I still got taken advantage of. Building the truck is in some ways a bit like the Wild, Wild West. For some reason there’s not a lot of regulation in this industry and I’m not sure why. One of the things I will encourage you to do in terms of protecting yourself is to get a contract in writing and, when dealing with an out of state vendor, make sure that if there is a dispute that the contract states it will be resolved in your home state. Make that out-of-state vendor come to you if/when it comes to it. The other thing I would do is be sure to pay them in thirds. By that I mean a third upon signing the contract, a third midway through when you can expect the vehicle and make sure that it’s coming along on schedule, and then the final third once you’ve inspected your food truck and it’s delivered.
And in further consideration when building your food truck for maximum profit at minimum cost, make sure you go to your local jurisdiction and know their laws and codes first and then have your truck built to those specs. And here’s sort of a bonus tip for you. Put in the contract that the truck must be built to these codes and specs and if they are not, the vendor will pay to have it corrected. Don’t try to work this out after the build; do it up front the right way while you have leverage with the builder. This is a big mistake I see many clients that I consult with make. Sometimes it’s too late by the time I get to them, but I want to make sure you don’t make this mistake. Make sure that you know the codes – and by the way, for every city or jurisdiction you’re going to park in, you have to go to their health department and find out what their codes and laws are. My city, Baltimore, happens to be one of the toughest in the country but yours can vary wildly in some aspects.
And of course, you want to make sure that your truck looks appealing. Remember this is your mobile billboard and it generates catering jobs and new customers for your restaurant. From personal experience, we actually had the roof of a food truck taped, so that when we went to a business district, the office building upper stories could see our website and a teaser message down there, so they could actually order online and then come right down to the truck and pick up their food.
To sum it all up, I would not recommend going with low-end food truck equipment nor would I suggest going high-end. The old adage of not being penny wise but pound foolish certainly applies to the mobile food industry. Choose wisely and save but don’t buy the cheapest equipment you can find in the classifieds because a breakdown is the last thing you want to be worrying about out there! I wish you success and joy in your mobile food business endeavors!