Simply put, a food truck is a vehicle that has been custom-made to serve food and drink. Some trucks stay in one location all the time, whereas others move from place to place, perhaps visiting different events as necessary throughout the year. In some cities, such as Los Angeles, food trucks have become so popular that they have made international news.
Pros and cons of food trucks
Food trucks are far from being a new phenomenon. However, in the past, they were associated with cheap and cheerful fare, such as hotdogs and burgers. These days, the food available is increasingly varied and often of a high standard, even classed as ‘gourmet,’ as entrepreneurs recognise that there is a market for good food, freshly cooked in a highly convenient location.
In theory, food bought from food trucks tends to be cheaper than food bought in shops and restaurants, simply because overheads are relatively low. However, this isn’t always the case and consumers will need to do their maths rather than just presume that food from a truck will be cheaper than elsewhere. Custom-made food trucks can be expensive, which may need to be reflected in the cost of the food. Overheads may be low, but they are far from being non-existent.
A big disadvantage of food trucks is that, although the food is generally prepared and served in front of customers, there is inevitably some preparation behind the scenes and, in the case of trucks that move from location to location, hygiene could potentially be an issue. In addition, the equipment used may not be as reliable as that found in more permanent food outlets and its replacement may lead to higher overheads.
How to get a license
The food truck industry is, of course, regulated; it is generally not permitted to simply set up shop and start selling – at least not if the manager wants to run a long-term business. However, the requirements for a licence will differ from city to city and region to region. Entrepreneur.com suggests that interested parties start with their local department of health, which should at least be able to point them in the right direction. It will probably also be necessary to get permission to trade in a particular location, or at least to ensure that no law is being broken by parking in a particular place.
The future of food trucks
An article in the Huffington Post suggests that, despite the burgeoning market in food trucks in recent years, it isn’t simply a matter of setting up and becoming successful. Entrepreneurs will need to research the market in any chosen area and even then, clever marketing may be needed to encourage long-standing customers, particularly if there is strong competition.
Nevertheless, it seems likely that there will be a market for food trucks for many years to come, particularly as the recession continues and shop rents keep going up.