Planning to make your fortune in the gourmet food truck business? You’re not alone. Food trucks are all the rage these days, with chefs hitting the streets selling cupcakes, tacos, ribs, and even gourmet ice cream sandwiches in cities like Portland, Seattle, Austin, Milwaukee, New York and San Francisco. Locals track their favorite trucks’ daily locations on Twitter and Facebook. One truck in Los Angeles made $2 million last year selling $2 gourmet tacos. If you’d like to try your hand at street food, here’s what you need to know, from successful food truck entrepreneurs interviewed by MSNBC:
- First: Create a unique concept, whether it’s Asian-French fusion, something that’s sold on the streets of another country – like Spanish empanadas, or food that’s not available in the neighborhoods you plan to park in, like gourmet mini-burgers in Chinatown.
- Next: Find a wide-open market. When Scott Baitinger and Steve Mai opened Streetza Pizza in Milwaukee - they were virtually the only street vendor in town. A local insurance agent had to create a policy to cover their unique business. However, in places like New York, there are long-term waiting lists for food vendor permits.
- Consider this: The less you need your truck to do, the smaller and cheaper it can be. For example, if you’re selling cupcakes you baked elsewhere, you could use a $2,000 used hotdog cart, but if you’re making grilled sandwiches to order, you might need a truck with a state-of-the-art kitchen that costs $100,000.
- You may also need: Several permits from the city and the health department. Some cities require catering trucks to be stored overnight in secured parking lots. You’ll need permission for parking wherever you set up shop.
- Finally: You need to create buzz. With Facebook and Twitter, you can send out information about your location or daily specials. 70% of Streetza Pizza’s customers come from social media. However, you also have to be predictable. If everyone knows that New York’s Frites ‘n Meats usually serves dinner on a particular corner, they can find it.