7 Misconceptions About Food Trucks

Food Truck Facts

Food trucks offer some really delicious, gourmet food.

“Hey, I should open a food truck!” This statement by a food truck customer triggered an  animated conversation among some local food truck owners. It quickly became apparent that these food truck owners had a lot of information to share with the “newbie” potential owner.

The conversation carried on for well over an hour as the food truck owners discussed all the things they wish they’d known before opening a food truck. They also discussed things they wish their customers knew.

In this blog post, we’ll share with you seven misconceptions about food trucks. These misconceptions will shed some light on the food truck industry, both for potential truck owners and customers.

Food Truck Owners Work Less Hours

While some may think food trucks are a quick get-rich scheme, new owners quickly learn there’s a lot of work and competition involved. This is one of the biggest misconceptions about the food truck industry. So, let’s break down the actual hours a food truck owner may work:

  • Prep before lunch service = 2 hours
  • Lunch shift = 3 hours
  • Clean up = 1 hour
  • Trip to store for supplies = 1 hour
  • Prep before dinner service = 2 hours
  • Dinner shift = 3 hours
  • Clean up = 1 hour
  • Prep for next day – 2 hours
  • Office work: scheduling, marketing, communication – 2 hours

Do the math, and that’s a 16-hour work day! It’s worth noting that most of this work is done by the food truck owner until enough income is generated to hire a little bit of help.

Food Truck Owners Make a Lot of Money Quickly

Food truck owners unanimously agree, “We wish it were this easy.”

Food truck profit margins are often smaller than that of a restaurant. Customers typically don’t pay as much for food truck food, and they aren’t lingering over a bottle of wine and ordering coffee and dessert. Also, food truck owners are spending a lot on expenses, so their profit margins shrink even more. What can a food truck owner expect for expenses?

  • Gas, gas and more gas
  • Permits and fees
  • Truck Repairs
  • Event Fees
  • Marketing
  • Food and supplies

Food truck owners also have to deal with factors out of their control such as rain, snow, heat waves, freezing temperatures and even parking. They must continually provide an excellent product as most food truck customers expect the best food at a reasonable price.

Food truck owners can expect to turn a profit over time if they work in their truck and put in their own hours. (tweet this) They’ll need to spend time cooking, managing and working the service window.

It’s Easier than Owning a Restaurant

According to food truck owner, Molly Taylor, it’s 100 times more work to run a food truck than a restaurant. With 16-18 hour work days, running a food truck is serious business. Some of the things restaurants don’t have to deal with, but food trucks do, include:

  • Food trucks have a very small rectangle of space crammed with a few people chopping, grilling, assembling and serving meals. Restaurants usually have large kitchens.
  • Food trucks break down and sometimes at inopportune times like the lunch hour, cutting into profits.
  • Food trucks are always looking for a place to park. Food trucks have to deal with business owners, restaurants and sometimes the law when choosing a parking place.
  • Food truck owners are often doing all the work while restaurants usually have a larger staff.

Food Truck Owners Don’t Have to Follow the Law

Food truck owners have to follow the same requirements as restaurants and sometimes a few more.

Food Truck owners pay taxes just like any other legitimate business. (tweet this) They must register with the state and federal governments, and they must have a business license. Sometimes, they even have to have multiple licenses because they travel around. They also may have to pay taxes in different cities and/or states so they have a lot to keep track of. Additionally, they pay property taxes on their vehicle.

While food trucks may move around a lot, they get reviewed by the health inspector just like any other food service business. Food trucks follow the same guidelines as brick-and-mortar restaurants. They must also put their health inspector grades in places that can be seen by their customers, or they risk being shut down.

In addition to standard health inspections, food truck owners who prepare their food elsewhere must worry about the inspections their commercial kitchen receives. If the kitchen fails, the truck has to shut down or move to a different commercial kitchen.

Food Trucks Misconceptions

Food Trucks have to follow high standards.

Food Trucks Can Park Anywhere

Food trucks must abide by the law and city ordinances or pay the penalty in the form of a ticket. The rules surrounding the parking of food trucks are tough in many areas.

In some cities and states, food trucks have limited parking availability. They may have a parking restriction that limits the amount of time they can park in one spot. Others have restrictions prohibiting them from parking within a certain distance from a brick-and-mortar restaurant.

Another parking problem that food trucks experience has to do with the location of restrooms. For example, the Los Angeles County Health Department says that food trucks parked over an hour must have access to a bathroom within 200 feet of the truck.

Lastly, food trucks usually compete for the prime parking spots, often finding ways to “hold” the best parking real estate. It can be stressful not knowing where you’ll park if there is a lot of competition.

Food Trucks Have Zero Overhead

Food truck owners love this misconception. Many people think that because the food truck is mobile, there is no overhead. Food truck owners have to keep the truck in good shape, paying for costly repairs to keep it running. Gas is an incredible expense as many trucks get less than 10 MPG. Food truck owners must pay for their supplies, food inventory, office and accounting costs, permits, taxes, licenses, staff and truck maintenance. That adds up quickly to a large overhead bill.

The Great Food Will Bring the Crowds

“Make it delicious, and they will come.” Again, this is another misconception. Many potential food truck owners have dreamed about long lines of customers waiting to eat at their truck. But, unfortunately, it takes a lot of hard work and planning, in addition to terrific food, to get, and keep, diners in your line.

While great food is vital, food truck fans are more selective these days about where they choose to eat. As food trucks have become a normal part of our lives, diners can make informed choices as there is stiff competition in the mobile dining industry.

Food truck owners must also navigate meal preparation. One of the biggest challenges is knowing how many meals to prepare. If you make too much, you’ve wasted money. If you run out of food, you’ve missed an opportunity for sales, and perhaps angered potential customers.

Food truck owners have to market their truck, their food and themselves to end up with a crowded line of customers. The Internet and social media, word of mouth, excellent food and service all work together to drive customers to the food truck.

Food truck owners – did any of this sound familiar to you? Did we miss something? Please connect with us below. We’d love to hear and share your comments.

Images: ariztravel & Varin

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