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January 22, 2015 Staff

Business Plan Guide for Food Trailers

Those who start a business can be described as many things: daring, courageous, managerial, intelligent, risk-takers, crazy, psychotic, entrepreneurs, and the list goes on. Whether an individual person embodies a few of these aspects or all of them is, well, always up to mystery.

What’s not a mystery is the almost insane amount of work that goes into these enterprises, even those ‘smaller’ concepts like Food Trucks. Money alone, as many an owner can attest, can be almost mind-boggling to wrap any beginning business owner’s head around, supposing they aren’t the kind of person who has a few hundred thousand tucked away for a rainy day.

But that really only amounts to half of the craziness any operation has to go through; the real aspect that tests the mettle of a company comes by the WORK that goes into achieving that money, both the loans needed to cover these intense costs at start up and the following work to ensure profit building after opening.

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It’s this latter half that truly distinguishes the successful businesses from the closed, for not only does it involve simply doing one’s job, but spending hours, days, WEEKS worth of time even before opening to figure out details one might never imagine they had to factor.

One can’t simply think they’ll make enough in the first few years because their idea is great and popular, one needs to actually plan out detailed estimations for profit, detail every single cost that goes into the operation over time, look at location demographics and how they affect them, know exactly how one divides new employee training, simply have a PLAN for the first couple years, and that’s really only scratching the surface.
As any restaurant and food truck owner can attest, the act of developing a menu and recipes, though fun and the main face of one’s advertising, your menu won’t be the primary factor when operating a successful business.

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And every single one of these tasks is centered and combined into single project, one large stack of paper that determines whether or not you’re even allowed to start running your life career: the Business Plan, or ‘Executive Summary’ in smarty-pants terms. As important for Food Truck owners as it is for large corporations, it’s this plan which one presents to loan offices in order to grant one the money to buy a good chunk of the mountain of expenses one must go through. The importance of this should NEVER be estimated, for not only must it look detailed and impressing, the work that goes into this is what shapes the business owner themselves on the path of guiding their business to success.

While writing a business plan is critical to the success of a food trailer there are numerous templates available online that can help short cut the time needed to write one. That’s not to say you shouldn’t still invest a few days or weeks time developing your plan, a guide one can follow to see WHAT you need to find out and HOW it should be put together. But one shouldn’t simply ‘copy and paste’ into the blank sections of these unless, again, one knows exactly where it’s being put and how they got to those figures and predictions.

Developing a Business Plan for a Food Trailer

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So then, what do we have to consider to create a Business Plan, particularly for a Food Truck? Let’s start off by going down the basic outline of one of these.

Overview

We start off with an Overview of the Truck, the basic description of one’s truck and, most importantly, WHERE you’re operating. Starting with location is key, and this is more than especially true for a Food Truck; one can’t go into this business thinking they can find parking wherever is convenient, they should plan where they want to focus parking, whether it’s a single street location, spread out through different areas, incorporate breweries/etc, or whichever works best, and WHY it will work well. Though explanation and logistics inclusion for that is incorporated later, or kept on the side for your own records/reasoning fuel.

A BRIEF (relatively speaking, the more one can realize to be written here without going in-depth on the individual products/services, the better; every little thing that impresses these loan people helps, and nothing more impressing than a fat stack of ink and paper) description of Products and Services follows, to be then moved onto the Financial requirements. The breakdown of this cost will be included later as you discuss and highlight different aspects of the business, but this is where we start with the BIG number; including how much you want from other people and where the rest will be coming from. Make sure to take into consideration not just initial start up, but enough money to handle the first, let’s say, 3-6 month ongoing costs (or more, or less, I’ll let you decide, I always do like having some safe room where I can!).

Mission Statement

The Mission Statement comes, often times, next. Treat it how you want, we all know it’s important, but it should be more than just a catchy phrase/paragraph that acts as the ‘heart of your business.’ This is a, well, statement saying why you want to start your truck and sell your food, yes (a display of your proper convictions and emotions; display that it’s this need and urge that drives you, and others will understand how much you’ll move heaven and earth to put time and quality into it). This is also where one supplies the reason that there is a need for their truck, and thus why it will SUCCEED; nothing too detailed is required, yet, but as always the more things one can supply here the better.

Business Forecasting

At some point you’ll have to put information about who YOU are and why you have the credentials to run this business successfully, along with any major partners in starting this that you may have (ones that help manage the business in one way or another, not simply cooking the food).

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But most importantly, you’ll need a Sales Forecast for the next 3 years; not to be based off of how much you WANT to make, or how much a successful truck makes on average, but how much you actually believe you WILL make, should things go well enough, given a variety of factors.

Though the information in this section will likely only be listing the amount of profits/sales one expects to make in given months and years, the business owner should have a sound reasoning for how and why they’re able to pull in that number of people to answer the loan officer’s questions, because THIS is the section they will focus on most heavily.

This is where both you and they see return on investment, and seeing something accurate and promising shows credibility, power, and keeps attention. Along similar lines, your Expansion plan can generate the same interest, only instead of showing profits gained one lists the various things you’ll be buying in the future to grow business; and thus, create a solid, lasting career that grows profits. Here is also where you start asking yourself, what else DO you want to do with your truck over the years? Will you improve your truck, or perhaps add more, move to different cities, get a restaurant or simply increase catering services? Are you putting profits into equipment, employees, or perhaps something else? There’s no wrong answer, except of course that you ‘never thought about it’ or ‘want to grow.’ In which case, why should they bother?

Though these are all just the main sections to have, details of which how to form them can be found in many an other article, template, or book; their order of which, too, can be somewhat configured by your preference, so long as it reads smooth and makes sense.

Among a couple of these, and strewn throughout and between your sections, should be added and detailed data on other important subjects of your choosing, including things such as but not limited to: area Demographics, SWOT Analysis (a table that sort of goes over your advantages and disadvantages in comparison to local populace, rush hours, and competition), Events analysis and strategies (for getting into them, how often, and profit % made), Employee Training sheets, Employee turnover expectancies, local Rules and Regulations (in particular how you can work with and around them), Distributor info (where are you getting your food, need to justify your costs), monthly to yearly Repair cost estimates, Advertising strategies, etc.

Extended Resources

Have you started to understand the scope of what this means and how much you need to do for this yet? Don’t worry, I may be long-winded and not great at hitting important points, but there are plenty of other links that can help you Food Truck Owners flesh out the details of everything else that needs doing. Here are some of them, along with a few templates to start looking at:

Step-by-Step Guide – a little section in Entrepreneur, not really a guide but there’s access to forms and an encyclopedia where one can learn more.

Food Truck Business Plan For Dummies – The big yellow book website has their own small article about it.

Sustainable Food Truck Business Plan – Online SlideShare of a full business plan for a fellow Truck

Mobile Cuisine’s Business Plan Article – their own insight on important questions to ask and other considerations.

Interview About Business Plans – Interview with a food truck owner that wrote his own business plan. This post includes a template.

Webstaurant Store Article – Similar to other articles, but includes some more good points

‘Free Food Truck Business Plan’ – a quick, smaller example of a plan with great accompanying Tables and Graphs to consider.

Sample Business Plan Template – A fill-in page-by-page exercise to get one started on the road.

Template and other Business Plan Links – a page full of other helpful sources one can look into for their business plan needs.

We hope this post has been able to somewhat help you on the path to mobile food ownership. At the very least, this collection of links should work to refining your executive summary and its accompanying sections. Good luck on starting your business!

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