Are you a foodie with a keen sense of business? Perhaps you’re a hungry entrepreneur looking to get involved in an exciting industry. Whether you’re a chef with a passion for the unique or an investor eager to break new ground, there’s an opportunity waiting for you – in the food truck business.
McAllen is home to some of the most delicious food trucks this side of the Rio Grande Valley, and even has its very own Food Park off of Broadway and Business 83. Luckily, there’s still plenty of craving bellies all throughout McAllen excited to try some new gourmet foods – and if you’re willing and ready – that’s where you can step in.
Your digital marketing experts Cobalt Digital Marketing are more than happy to give you the inside scoop on how to start your very own food truck.
While it’ll take plenty of hard work and dedication to get things rolling, entrepreneurship can offer solid income and flexibility.
If you’re ready to start your food truck business, then you will want to take the following steps:
1. If You Feed Them, They Will Come
Market research is absolutely essential. Some of the most important aspects to consider and have a solid understanding of include:
- The demographics of your city/area.
- The type of food/menu that would be viable and help you stand out against the competition.
- Space availability and foot/car traffic in the area(s) you would like to station your food truck at.
- Local and state regulations.
- Catering opportunities and events that are available for you to grow your brand and leverage your investment.
- Operations and how you’ll handle delivering the product to your client.
- Financial planning.
Market research will go a long way in ensuring that you are making the right decisions when it comes to your food truck. According to Restaurant MBA, food trucks have a scarily high rate of failure, with 60% going under within just 3 years. Suffice to say that thorough planning can save you a lot of heartache.
2. Developing Your Food Truck Blueprint
This can be one of the most engaging points of developing your food truck business – creating your food truck concept, name, needs, and business plan. Naturally, you’ll want to choose a concept and business name that represents you and the type of cuisine you’ll be serving.
When working through this, you’ll want to create a logo, truck design, and menu that function well together. Consider your competition and the variety of foods that are being served in your local market. Will regional cuisine make the cut or do you want to step out of the comfort zone?
The world is yours if you plan and execute well.
But just be aware that finding the right niche can take some time. Hopefully, that’s why you’ve done your market research beforehand in order to better gauge your potential clientele. When piecing it all together:
- Try to be as unique as possible (to avoid trademark and other legal issues).
- Make it all flow together. Your menu, food, and food truck theme need to work in unison.
- Consider your food truck/kitchen needs.
- When developing your menu, keep in mind the equipment you will need to create your dishes.
Should you decide to tackle this portion of the startup process on your own, there are a number of aspects that you should consider when creating your business plan, including:
- The business description
- Market analysis
- Financial projections
- Operating procedures
- Staffing details
- Details regarding your product(s)/menu items
- Your marketing plan
- Accurate funding request
If you are requesting a traditional business loan from a bank, your business plan is essential to obtaining the funding you need to get your food truck off the ground. Be as detailed, clear, and persuasive as possible.
3. Figure Out Financing
The cost for opening up a food truck can vary greatly depending on the type of truck you get, the food you will be serving (kitchen supplies), your staffing needs, gas usage, and so much more. Estimates for starting a food truck business stand anywhere between $25,000 to $250,000 – that’s a huge variation!
A quick Google search will provide you with plenty of information regarding financing. Mobile-Cuisine.com offers a wonderful cost analysis chart that includes a number of expenditures you’ll want to take into consideration, such as:
If you decide a traditional business loan isn’t for you and that you want to go another route for financing your food truck, then you are going to need to do some additional research and find other potential sources. Some additional financing options include:
- Leasing a used food truck with key equipment
- A microloan from the Small Business Administration
- Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter
Don’t forget to include profits in your financial projections. You’ll want to make sure that the business is sustainable and growing.
4. Get Your Truck On
Once you have got your financing in order, here comes the fun part!
There are plenty of variables to keep in mind when choosing the right vehicle for your food truck:
- The interior design and how it can affect your movements as you move about cooking.
- How much room you’ll need for equipment, staff, materials, etc.
- Whether or not you want to purchase or lease a truck.
- Whether you want to purchase a new or used truck and how that can affect your need to upgrade parts and equipment.
- Ventilation and window setup.
- Where emergency exits will be located.
Your truck layout is going to play a major role in your workflow, which will ultimately have an impact on your business. If you can’t move about easily, this can take away critical minutes from getting your food out in a timely manner to your customers, and well…you can see the problem with that.
Alongside your food truck’s layout, you’ll also need to consider what type of power source you’ll want to use in order to power your equipment. Remember, you’ll need to keep your freezers, ovens, fryers, lights, and more running. A few options include:
- Generators – You can pick from a wide variety of generators that run on various forms of fuel like propane, gasoline, or diesel. Keep in mind that you’ll have to meet emission standards, as well as have adequate exhaust and ventilation to keep the fumes away from your workers and your food. It’s best to get your generator professionally installed.
- Solar Panels – This will be a bigger investment up front but will pay for itself over time. Plus, the year-round sun in the Rio Grande Valley is perfect for this type of set up. Get some professional assistance with this to ensure you will be obtaining adequate power and have enough room for ventilation.
You’ll also want to invest in a point-of-sale system so that you can accept other forms of payment besides cash (and so you don’t run the risk of losing customers because of it).
Last, but certainly not least, you’ll want to design the exterior of your vehicle in a manner that matches your name, food niche, and the overall ambiance that you want to create. Are you looking for something fun and light? Then brand your food truck accordingly with bright colors and interesting images. Do you want something a little more original than a vinyl wrap? Consider getting a local artist to paint your truck. This can add the extra visual flair that you need to grab the attention of potential clients.
The sky really is the limit when it comes to designing the interior and exterior of your food truck, just make sure to get all the essentials in place.
5. Make It Official
So you’ve got your initial financing in order. And you’ve purchased the most amazing food truck you’ve ever set your eyes on. You have the perfect name and just know that everyone is going to love the delicious delicacies that you’ll be serving. Great job!
Now it’s time to get real. There are plenty of permits, licenses, insurances, as well as state and local requirements that you’ll need in order to even start up your food truck.
You’ll want to start by filing a limited liability company for your food truck. You can find the form here. This step is important to protecting yourself if another party decides to sue your food truck business.
You’ll need to file for Texas sales tax permit in order to obtain your Mobile Food Vendor Permit. If you are legally engaged in business in Texas, then this permit is a must have, as it is required to be displayed at your place of business (i.e. your food truck). You can register and complete the application online here.
The city of McAllen and Hidalgo County both have guidelines, requirements, and restrictions when it comes to your truck, food, parking permissions, and method of operation. You will need to read through these forms and applications to meet the requirements to start a food truck:
- Application for food trailer or truck in McAllen
- Application for mobile food vendor in Hidalgo County
- Information for McAllen food truck ordinances
- Application for McAllen Food Vendor Handler’s Permit
- File your assumed business name with the County Clerk
To learn more about food regulation in Hidalgo County, you can find more information here.
The Texas Economic Development also offers a wonderfully comprehensive guide for all of the additional permits that could potentially be required for your food truck.
Insurance is absolutely essential to protect yourself and your business. But you’ll need a solid mix of policies because (A) you are a business and (B) you are mobile. Some of the essential insurances you will need to purchase include:
- General liability to protect you from personal injury or property damages lawsuits.
- Workers compensation.
- Property damage insurance to protect your property from incidents like fires.
- Truck or trailer coverage to protect equipment from vandalism or other losses.
- Auto liability to protect you as you drive.
There are additional add-ons that can be purchased, such as loss of business income, that can go a long way in protecting you, especially during the initial year of startup.
There are a number of food truck licenses and permits that you will need to properly operate your vehicle. This paperwork needs to be straightened out before you open up your business:
- Employer identification number (EIN)
- Business license
- Vehicle license
- Seller’s permit
- Food handler’s permit
- Health department permit
- Fire certificates and inspection
- Health Department inspection
6. It’s Go Time!
In the process building up to your opening day, you’ll want to market, market, market! Digital marketing IS the new word of mouth! These tools enable you to build awareness, generate excitement, connect with your customers, and build brand loyalty.
A few of the more pertinent resources that you will want to take advantage of include:
- With the sheer amount of online searches and users seeking out the newest, tastiest food options, you absolutely need a website. This is the ideal marketing tool as it allows you to tell your story, provide wonderful images of your delicious meals, offer special discounts, and acts as a medium to connect with your customers and potential clients.
- Social media profiles are a necessity to create buzz. Facebook and Instagram are ideal platforms for food and food trucks because they are visual and have great local reach. Using social media to market your business is a wonderful instrument at your disposal as you can connect with customers in real time, share amazing pictures of any special events you may be holding, and just generally connect with them on a much more meaningful level.
- If you’re able to, plan as many catering events and parties as possible. Of course, this means getting out and meeting the right people, networking, and just getting out into the community to meet with as many people as you can.
- Don’t forget to participate and vend at local festivals and events. There’s always plenty of activities going on in McAllen and the rest of the Rio Grande Valley.
So are you ready to follow your dreams of owning your very own food truck? Cobalt Digital Marketing can help you succeed.
We are currently offering a special marketing promotion to food truck owners:
- A one-page food truck website (with maintenance) for $199/month
- Food truck social media marketing packages starting at $350/month
If you’re ready to get your food truck hustle on, then contact Cobalt Digital Marketing today at 866-224-5705. Together we can make your food truck a savory success!
Don’t forget to download our tasty “How to Start a Food Truck” infographic.