October 6, 2012

Thinking about starting your own food truck?

Food Trailerin’
Pro Tips for Starting Your Own Food Trailer Business
You’ll need a unique product, a healthy dose of perseverance and plenty of time dedicated to marketing.Whatever you think your starting budget is, go ahead and double that, and if you’re not handy, get handy—that will save you in the long run when parts of your trailer kitchen malfunction. Here is some advice for those interested in pursuing their own version of the American dream via a food trailer:

Menu One of the first things you’ll want to determine is the type of food you are serving and your menu selection. You’ll want to keep your menu simple for many reasons. Limited options with only a handful of menu items to choose from will reduce patrons’ time in line and reduce the overall workload in the kitchen. Remember that starting out, you are the one doing all the grocery shopping, food orders, cooking and cleaning. Starting out with a minimal menu will allow you to get food out quicker and save you time before and after your prep work.
Waste Water and grease Operating out of a food truck, food trailer or old RV, you will be dealing with removing waste water from washing hands and dishes, as well as any grease from cooking. Map a plan for a sanitary, environmentally friendly and legal way to dispose of these items on a regular basis that is close to your location.
Understand your electrical needs Make sure the spot you rent for your trailer food business is equipped with enough electricity to power your business. You don’t want to leave any product in your trailer overnight to avoid any electrical blowouts that would turn the refrigerator off and ruin your product. Instead, store food products in your commissary.
Find a commissary close to your trailer location Whether you do most of your prep work in a commissary kitchen or not, the Austin law currently requires you to have a commissary kitchen as part of your license to operate a food trailer. Having a commissary that is close to your trailer location will save you time and money. The same logic can be applied to where you source your food product, if you are not having your product delivered.
Form great relationships With your suppliers They might not always be able to show up on time, so make sure not to get too low in your product before you call in an order. Don’t make your emergency their problem, and pay your bills on time; you might need a favor from them in a pinch, and you want to be in good standing when you have to call them for backup support.
Marketing Don’t leave this part out of your business plan, especially if you don’t have a business plan. Do not expect to get everything ready and receive business just because you turned on the open sign. Make sure your set up your Facebook page, Twitter and website or blog to include pertinent
information: business phone, e-mail, location and hours. Get to know local food bloggers and writers and invite them out to any special tasting events you might be having.Write a decent press release and let the media know about your opening and why you are unique. Introduce yourself to neighboring businesses, and be an active member in your community and the trailer community at large.
Set your hours and stick to them Patrons find it particularly frustrating when they try to find you for lunch and you’re closed. It often is the last time they try to find you.That said, people understand when things prohibit you from opening your business on time as planned. Just be sure to let people know if you are closed on all your social media accounts and with a sign up at the trailer when possible.
Get all your permits Call the health and fire department for the most current information on how to be registered and permitted correctly. Although the process may be lengthy, remember they are there to help you get your business set up correctly. 

This panel discussion featuring the owners of some of Orlando's best gourmet food trucks is moderated by Mark Baratelli, creator of The Daily City and The Food Truck Bazaar, and presented by the Orange County Library System.