Recently SmallFoodBiz.com published survey results from 154 food truck entrepreneurs operating their businesses across the United States and Canada. Although the results of this sample are a small percentage of the likely 15,000 – 20,000 vendors that operate in the United States alone, the results of this survey match much of what we have observed anecdotally helping hundreds of mobile businesses get their start at M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks.
Although the results of this survey align with our observations, some of the results contradict what you may have read about the industry in newspapers or magazines. As a result, we thought it was important to comment on some of the unique insights uncovered through this survey.
Average Age of Food Truck Owners
The food truck industry has a stigma (for lack of a better word) for being an industry made exclusively of Millennials, people born from 1982 – 2002. While some food trucks are owned and operated by individuals 35 years of age and younger this is not the “typical entrepreneur.” The SmallFoodBiz.com survey reports that half of food truck owners are actually 40 years of age or over.
Based on what we see through our work manufacturing custom-made food trucks, the middle age entrepreneur is alive and well with mobile food. Many first-time entrepreneurs are starting after the age of forty for a variety of reasons. For some, they have worked hard in corporate America for a few decades and are looking for a career change in the second act of their lives. Although everyone’s story is different, some people finally have enough money to feel comfortable investing in a business at this point where they feel comfortable investing in a business or are ready to be their own boss.
Another segment of the over 40 crowd that we see is folks that want to start a part-time seasonal or weekend business to increase their total annual income. The goal for many that fit into this boat is that this can create a nice retirement business further in the future. This can be a smart way to dip your toes into the entrepreneurial waters while retaining the cashflow from your bi-weekly paycheck. This is a safe way to get into the food business and we’ve seen numerous people pay off their truck in full within just a couple years operating their truck part-time in this fashion.
Previous Careers of Concession Business Owners
We have learned that food truck owners come from all walks of life. Lawyers, computer IT professionals, and interior decorators all are folks that have made the transition to owning their own successful food businesses. Others chose to start their own business as a way to earn an income after an unexpected layoff.
According to the survey, only about a third of the survey respondents (34.4%) had worked in the food industry prior to applying their culinary skills to grow their own business. One thing is for sure, you don’t need to be an award winning chef to operate a profitable food truck business with about 2 out of every 3 vendors coming from a non-related field.
The SmallFoodBiz.com also published that 48% of all food truck owners generated over $75,000 per year. Although the thought of starting a business that grosses less than $75K per year in revenue, keep the following factors in mind. Not all food trucks operate year round like a traditional business.
A lot of the trucks we know that generate under $75,000 per year are part-time ventures for their owners. Some business owners, especially those in cooler climates only operate their business for 3 – 4 months per year over the summer. With this perspective in mind doing $50,000 annually as a sole operator is a lot more attractive from a business standpoint.
The other point that is important to make is that food trucks can generate much more than $75,000 in annual revenue. For example, one of our customers MShack Burgers did over $300,000 in sales within the first 12 months of operating their trailer. To make the numbers even better, MShack Burgers only invested about $60,000 into getting their trailer built.
In conclusion, we would like to thank Jennifer Lewis over at SmallFoodBiz.com for publishing this survey for others in the industry to learn from. We’ve published the full results from her survey below as an FYI.