The term “truck stop” has an entirely new meaning these days.
Rice pudding, exotic ice cream, cupcakes, flavored popcorn, French Fries, Korean tacos or hot soup and artisainal bread are just a few among the literally dozens of street foods offered and flourishing.
A proprietor of a small operation in a busy location can literally make a fortune providing healthy, hearty, homemade sandwiches for the lunch crowd.
Not So Hidden Costs
“Food trucks typically earn a profit equivalent to about 40% of sales,”reported The Globe and Mail. And this is after obtaining licenses and permits that are far from cheap. A new mobile catering permit from the San Francisco Police Department is $9,300.
A used hot dog style cart costs about $2,000, while refurbished trucks for driving and vending can run considerably more than $40,000, with some costing as much as an astronomical $100,000.
Occasionally an investor/partner may be willing to foot the bill for a start-up food truck, but the hope of getting a bank loan may spring pretty much eternal.
Food truck insurance is an additional not so hidden expense not only to protect against the fear of food borne illness, but also in recognition that the truck may be carrying one, or several propane tanks. The chef may be cooking over an open flame or using a hotter’n’hell pizza oven.
And, bad weather is a variable that is impossible to factor into a profit projection.
Sales are likely to plummet on national holidays except for the few, who may prefer to get a turkey taco from a truck rather than committing to a family gathering on Thanksgiving Day.
The permit permits the purchaser to park in a public place for up to five locations. Each parking spot must be at least two blocks or 300 feet away from a similar food vendor, either a brick-and-mortar business, or another mobile catering vehicle.
If a truck is parked too close to a regular brick and mortar restaurant, it can, and often does, raise an objection citing unfair business practice.
Parking on private property is strictly forbidden and laws are vigorously enforced.
Permits are non-transferable, and the waiting time to get one can extend not for months but years if the city council restricts the number of mobile vendors already allowed to operate.
Some municipalities allow the food to be prepared in a different (but licensed) facility, while others demand all the food preparation be done in the truck itself and properly refrigerated. (It can’t be sloshing about in a Styrofoam cooler.)
In many cities, food truck vendors face Health Inspectors who vigorously enforce high sanitation standards.
Spreading the Word
Social media and food truck apps continues to play a large role in food truck success. For instance, more than 50% of Gorilla Cheese’s customers track its location through social media. They tag street locations like tagging friends on Facebook.
In the end, despite all the possible road blocks, owning a food truck could set some feet on the road to happiness.