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Are You Read for National Food Truck Day 2019?

national food truck day 2019

Celebrate National Food Truck Day 2019.

The biggest food truck event of the year is almost here. National Food Truck Day 2019 kicks off on June 28th, 2019 to celebrate mobile food vendors around the world. The goal of this annual event is to honor and support the entire food truck industry: from owners to employees to the food itself. Needless to say this is a holiday we can really sink our teeth into!

Refuge Coffee Co. Truck built by M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks.

Both food truck vendors and fans can get involved in this holiday no matter where you live. This is a national event, not something that’s exclusive to a specific city. Here’s how you can participate:

  • Food Trucks: If you own or work on a food truck, cart or trailer complete this registration form. The questionnaire is only six questions in length and will take less than 5 minutes to complete. You will also asked to create an exclusive offer for customers on National Food Truck Day. An example of a promotional offer would be a limited number of free desserts or drinks. You are free to create an offer that makes sense with your truck.  Of course you will also need to be serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, or late-night service on June 28th to be eligible.
  • Food Truck Fans: Consumers can get involved in the fun as well. On National Food Truck Day, you’re encouraged to dine at your favorite food truck or try a new one. When you eat at the truck, take a picture of your food, post your meal on social media like Twitter or Instagram, and don’t forget to include the hashtag #foodtruckday. When you participate the food truck you ate at will be registered to win $500! This is a great way to help promote and support food truck owners in so many ways.

Built by M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks.

Last year, more than 800 food vendors participated with even more expected to enroll this year. To learn more about about this national event, visit the official website at FoodTruckDay.org. This event is organized by RoamingHunger.com, a website that helps connect food truck entrepreneurs with catering opportunities. Let us know how you’ll be participating in the comment section below.

 

 

Preparing Your Food Truck Business for Hurricane Season

In recent years, we’ve seen an increase in the number of food trucks selling a wide range of dishes. Their popularity puts them on the frontline of the street food industry with customers enjoying hamburgers, sandwiches, ice cream, regional delicacies, and even gourmet cuisine.

Just like restaurant owners, people behind food trucks have a lot on their plate to make sure that they can operate seamlessly. Aside from keeping supplies under control, marketing products, and training the employees, another aspect of the business to consider is preparedness for natural disasters such as hurricanes.

Is Your Food Truck Protected From Severe Weather?

Did you know that between 1980 and 2019 the overall cost of damages due to extreme weather in the United States reached roughly $1.6 trillion? Hurricanes affect a lot of people, and those who are working in the restaurant and food truck industry are no exception. Every year, food truck and restaurant owners face damage to or loss of properties because of natural disasters. It can be challenging to deal with a hurricane, especially for a business such as a food truck where owners rely heavily on regular operations. If they lose assets such as products, or if their trucks sustain damages from a hurricane, it could translate to substantial financial losses or even a permanent business shutdown.

Technological advancements pave the way for us to know when a hurricane will hit and in which areas. As a food truck owner, it’s not enough to have this information. There are several measures that you can do to reduce the impact of a hurricane on your business.

So what do you need to do to be ready for hurricane season? Here are some tips to take into account:

Set up a comprehensive emergency and response plan.

It doesn’t matter whether or not a hurricane is going to hit the area where you operate: it’s crucial to have an emergency and response plan in place. Safety is, and should be, a priority and everyone involved in the food truck business should know and understand the plan in case a disaster strikes. 

An emergency and response plan covers the measures to implement before, during, and after a hurricane. Facilitate drills regularly so that everyone knows the steps to take in times of crisis. The last thing that you want is to deal with panic and confusion in an emergency. Inform your staff about safety guidelines, and display relevant phone numbers and contact information for smooth coordination and communication. To complement the response plan, the food truck should also have a fire extinguisher and other safety tools and equipment required by the state.

See what your state offers during hurricane season.

Take advantage of the benefits are being offered by your state in case of a natural disaster. Most, if not all, states allocate funds to help those who are affected by a hurricane. Safety precautions and guidelines are also implemented, so make sure to adhere to them. You can likewise see if the state provides benefits for employees to reduce the impact of a hurricane in their jobs. Make sure to prepare the necessary documents as soon as possible to make the process easier.

It is also essential to always check the weather forecasts or bulletins. Watch the local news or check news sites online to stay updated.

Protect Your Investment with the Right Insurance.

Purchase insurance.

One of the best ways to ensure the safety of your staff and the food truck is to carry insurance that meets the requirements of your business. Running a food truck may be considered a small business and insurance may look like an additional cost, but it’s a wise investment that will protect you from spending a lot of money on claims associated with bodily injury or damage to property. In case of a hurricane or a natural disaster, the insurance will make sure that your food truck business will still be able to operate as the coverage will take care of the damages.  

Many insurance providers offer a wide array of insurance products, addressing different needs of a food truck business. With so many options available, it may be challenging to find the right coverage. To help with the selection process, make sure to identify the potential risks including natural disasters. Once you know what you’re up against, you can look at the various types of insurance:

  • Commercial Flood insurance – Do you operate in a flood-prone area? It is imperative to carry Commercial Flood insurance. As the name suggests, this type of coverage protects your business against significant financial losses as a result of damages to business assets due to flooding. These physical assets include your products, equipment, records, and tools. This is an important type of policy to have because other policies will not cover any damages due to flood water.
  • Commercial Property insurance – Natural disasters such as hurricanes can cause damage to your physical business assets including office building, tools, supplies, and office equipment. If that happens, you can count on Commercial Property insurance, so you don’t have to shell out money for repair or replacement. However, this insurance does not cover company vehicles. Check out Commercial Auto insurance if you want to have coverage for the vehicles used in operations. 
  • Business Interruption insurance Just like a restaurant, a food truck business needs to operate regularly to become profitable. If it’s closed because of a hurricane, there’s no income. In times of crisis, you may not know when your food truck can resume operations. That’s why it is essential to carry Business Interruption insurance that will protect you from losing a lot of money due to lack of operations as it will take care of the lost revenue.

Keep these tips in mind to prepare for natural disasters. When running a food truck business safety should be a top priority, more so during hurricane season. Be prepared to ensure not only the security of your staff and property but also business continuity. Natural disasters such as hurricanes can have a significant impact on your operations, and they can strike anywhere, but there are ways to minimize the impact and ensure that your business can bounce back.

Health Exam Units Provide Free Medical Assistance to Low-Income Communities

For individuals living in low-income communities it can be difficult to get access to health care services. Admittance to the most basic healthcare services can be a struggle due to transportation, getting time off work, lack of insurance, or not enough cash for the co-pay.

Mobile Exam Unit in The Bronx.

To help address this problem across New York City, PHARMA teamed up with the City of New York and U.S. Mobile Health Exams to help underserved residents across in different Burroughs across New York. The goal of this innovative program called Roadmap to Health is to provide free medical assistance to those who need it most.

Telemundo covered the recent event where this program kicked off in January in The Bronx. Click here to watch the full television report of the event. Note that the audio description is in Spanish only.

As you’ll see from the video there was incredible demand by local residents for this service. And this unit will move on to serve other communities, when you’re inside the unit it feels a lot like being in a regular clinic. There’s comfortable seating, privacy, desks, and even photos on the wall to make the overall experience similar to a routine doctor visit as you can see from the photo below.

Mobile health units look and feel a lot like a regular doctor appointment.

How Can Mobile Health Units Help Low-Income Communities?

There are many ways medical vehicles can be leveraged to make offering healthcare more convenient to low-income areas. These are a few of the more common uses:

  • Hearing: Hearing is something that’s often lost gradually and might not be noticed.
  • Health Screening: A regular check-up, especially as you grow older, is one of the most effective ways to catch health issues before they become bigger problems. Screenings that are regularly completed on mobile units include vaccinations like flu shots, blood tests, and ultrasound screenings.
  • Drug Testing: This is a common practice at work sites to ensure safety. Drug testing for legal and illegal substances can be conducted.
  • Vision Screening: The work of an optometrist can be completed on a mobile unit to ensure the vision of patients is good.

The Bottom Line

Mobile units are an efficient way to deliver healthcare services to people in the communities that need help most. This is also a cost-effective way to provide treatment for providers and a convenient way for patients to receive care. In other words, it’s a total win win.

In the future, we hope more cities and states discover the opportunity that exists for mobile health care solutions in their area to better serve communities across the United States.

Ways to Evaluate the Profitability of a Food Hall

The food hall movement is rapidly increasing in popularity across the United States. According to this report from BISNOW, food halls are expected to hit 300 total locations by the end of 2020. That’s more than triple the number when food halls originally began being tracked in 2015.

If you’re not familiar with food halls, they come in a number of permutations. Some of these halls have flexible locations where food trucks can come in, park, and leave easily. Others merge retail with small food kiosks and restaurants and offer shared seating area for guests.

Think of these food halls as a revitalized spin on the tired shopping mall food court. These halls offer guests the opportunity to sample from a variety of food vendors and dine in a communal location. Often these halls are located in trendy downtown urban areas, but not always.

Watch the video below for a guided tour of some of the best Los Angeles food halls from Yellow Productions.

Should You Lease Space at a Food Hall?

With an increase in the number of food hall projects in development there’s probably a location coming soon to your market too if it’s not there already. So should you sign a longterm lease at a place like this?

While there is a ton of excitement around this rapidly growing segment, it doesn’t mean that all locations will be created equal. And just because a certain concept is popular in San Francisco right now, doesn’t mean the model will be as popular where you live.

Just because you have a shared space, doesn’t mean the monthly lease expenses will be any cheaper than a traditional restaurant location. For example the Morgan Food Hall in Raleigh, North Carolina, vendors can expect to pay between $500 – $8,000 per month for a lease.

The Morgan Street Food Hall

How To Identify Profit Potential in a New or Existing Food Hall

One of the advantages to the food hall concept is they can be destinations for diners. If you plan to open a restaurant in a strip mall for example, you can expect that a lot of the marketing will fall on your shoulders as the business owner.

If you’re considering entering a food hall as a vendor the most important job is to figure out if there’s sufficient foot traffic to support the business. The easiest way to determine if there will be a sufficient number of potential customers is to spend time in the area yourself. Make sure not to only visit on Fridays and Saturdays when these locations are bustling with activity. But check on a Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday evening too. This due diligence will give you a better perspective on how much foot traffic really exists throughout the week. This is a simple way to confirm whether or not the location is worth it from an investment standpoint.

If the food hall is brand new or under construction, you won’t be able to get these kinds of traffic insights. Instead take a look at the surrounding community for clues. Are there major office buildings or retail centers within walking distance where employees could come for lunch? Is this an up-and-coming area where you expect growth in the coming years? Can you get a shorter-term lease to reduce business risk? These are all important questions to ask.

Beyond estimating the market opportunity, the next thing you’ll want to confirm is whether or not your concept will work in the food hall. Find out the types of restaurants that will be serving in the same food hall to ensure there are a diverse set of menus. If you plan to open an Indian inspired restaurant, you don’t want two other businesses with the similar menu operating in your area.

Aside from the nearby competition, also consider whether your menu makes sense for the environment. If the food hall is only busy during the evenings, you may want to reconsider opening a cafe that specializes in breakfast. The timing might not be right!

Continued Growth for the Foreseeable Future

For the next five years, the proliferation of food halls seems inevitable. According to reports from sources like Yahoo!, landlords are continuing to place bets on this concept especially in shopping malls where traffic has declined.

As a food vendor, it’s critical to stay on-top of changing consumer preferences. Establishing your business in a food hall could be the ideal way for you to capitalize on a trend that is poised for success in the coming years.

Are Solar and Wind Powered Food Trucks Possible?

Good news! Renewable energy has become increasingly affordable and practical over the past half decade. This means mobile food owners that want to utilize more environmentally-friendly power have more options now than ever before!

Keep in mind that while the progress of renewable technologies has been in hyper drive in recent years, renewable energy is still mostly used as a supplemental source of energy for most food truck owners that use it.

We recommend that even if you install solar panels on top of your truck to capture energy, you’ll still want a generator installed as well. At the very least this insures you have a backup energy source power from in case of emergencies. There’s nothing worse than experiencing a power outage when there’s a long line of customers waiting to enjoy your food.

Solar panels.

Below are some basic considerations to keep in mind if you’re trying to operate a truck with 100% renewable energy. We hope this gives you perspective on whether or not this is the right choice for your food unit.

Things to Consider Before Going Fully Solar

Some menu concepts require less energy than others so the menu you choose plays a major role in determining how much power you’ll need to generate from the sun or wind.

As a basic example, a coffee truck requires a lot of electricity to power. Why is coffee so demanding on a mobile power grid? The main reason is the amount of equipment that’s typically installed on these units like coffee makers, blenders, and espresso machines.

On the other hand there are food concepts that make harnessing renewable energy more practical. One example is with this pizza truck called Pi featured on a local affiliate WENY News. According to the report, this is the first ever solar and wind power pizza food truck of its kind.

The Pi pizza truck installed solar panels on top of the vehicle to collect energy from the sun. A small wind turbine was also installed. The pizza truck is able to operate a refrigerator, pumps, hot water heater and lights. Since there is a wood-fire pizza oven installed on the truck there’s no need for electricity to power the cooking equipment. If you want to utilize primarily solar power, a pizza truck is a good approach from a power perspective assuming you want a wood fire pizza oven.

Utilizing Solar and Wind Power on Food Units

To figure out how much electric power your food truck will need, you’ll need to start by listing each piece of equipment you plan to use on the truck.

Start out by creating a list of all the cooking equipment: refrigerators, griddles, microwave, coffee maker. Don’t stop at just cooking equipment, however. You’ll also need to list anything requiring electricity like the air conditioning unit, stereo, lights, television or digital menu.

Remember that each piece of equipment will require a certain amount of wattage to work. The more equipment you add to your vehicle the greater the electrical demands will be. Check out our detailed post on determining the electrical power needs for a food truck for more information on this topic. Here’s another really in-depth PDF on determining how to apply solar energy for food trucks.

At M&R Speciality Trailers and Trucks, we can do the math on our end to ensure you have enough power to consistently operate a food truck. We’ve been helping mobile food owners build their units for over 15 years and understand the nuances of powering a food truck.

Additional considerations that must be calculated include how long you plan to operate the vehicle per day. If you plan to operate the food unit for four hours per day, you’ll need a lot less capacity than if you plan to serve at all-day events like fairs where you could be serving for 10+ hours. Also, some cooking equipment will require a surge of extra energy when starting up so you always want to have more available power than you actually need. These are factors manufacturers with less experience frequently don’t take into consideration.

The Bottom Line on Solar Power

Even though there’s been tremendous progress with solar panels and wind turbine technology in recent years, we still recommend installing a generator with a food truck and ensuring there’s an easy way to plug-into another electrical source. Sooner or later you will be thankful you have the flexibility to power the unit in different ways.

The other component you need to consider at the time of writing is the cost of installing a solar panels or wind turbines on a food truck. Both will require additional initial costs that could range from an additional $3,000 – $10,000 in the overall cost of the vehicle. The additional startup cost is something to be aware while you’re in the planning phase of your business. These costs should go down as technology improves in the future, but for right now they can add an extra 5% – 10% to the total cost of a food truck build.

Anything we as a society can do to move to renewable energy alternatives the better. It will be better for the environment and create entire new vertical of jobs. If you’re considering a solar powered food truck for your business, give us a call at 904-397-0246 for a free consultation.

7 Rules Every LA Food Truck Owner Must Know! [Checklist]

Know the rules before you start your food truck business in Los Angeles

In this regulation article we’ll be covering the top 7 rules that ALL Los Angeles food truck owners must know if they are going to be running a food truck in Los Angeles.  Please stay tuned to this series of articles for other cities as we publish them. The best way to stay in touch is to join our email list below in the red box.

Flaming Pizza Food Truck Built by M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks.

1. Street Signs

“Signs, Signs, Everywhere a Sign,” you know the song right?  Los Angeles is just as bad as all of the other major cities and their is no special exceptions for food trucks, even despite Los Angeles having some of the most food truck friendly laws in the country.

You must obey the posted parking restrictions, including, but not limited to, restrictions on stopping, loading, and parking from either posted signs or painted curbs” [LAMC 80.73(b)2(B)]

2. Stick to the sidewalk

This seems like a no-brainer but apparently there have been food trucks who have tried to serve their food with the service window facing the street?!  Happy they got the sale… sad their customer got ran over by an oncoming car!  Don’t let this happen to your day and be sure to know the rules and serve your food with your service window facing the sidewalk.

You must dispense food from the sidewalk side of the street. No truck may dispense food street side” [LAMC 80.73(b)2(C)]

3. Trash (part 1)

You must have a trash can outside your food truck and it needs to be clearly marked as a trash can and have a sign attached that requests customers to dump their trash in the receptacle.  Having a trash can inside of the truck wont cut the mustard! We recommend this solid, 50-gallon trash can with easy rolling wheels for easy movement.

You must have a CONSPICUOUS litter receptacle which is clearly marked with a sign requesting its use by patrons [LAMC 80.73(b)2(D)]

4. Trash (part 2)

In addition to having a clearly marked trash can, you actually have to remove it and take it with you when you’re done serving food.  Imagine that.  Oh, and no cigarette butts either.  So make sure you buy a well-constructed trash can with wheels on it for easy pick up after your long day.

Trash shall be removed from all areas VISIBLE around the truck. The truck shall take all bags with them when vacating an area. Trash is to include all materials originally dispensed from the truck as well as any other items left by patrons, such as cigarette butts [LAMC 80.73(b)2(E)]

5. Watch your head

Well, you don’t want to knock your customers out before you sell them some food right? So make sure you got the clearance man!  Most food trucks should have the 7′ clearance you need, but best to consult with a licensed food truck builder just in case.

The “hatch” of a truck shall be at least 7 feet above the sidewalk in order to avoid patron collisions  [LAMC 56.08(e) disputed] 

6. Overnight

Food trucks must be parked overnight in a commissary which is basically a huge commercial kitchen with some parking spaces in or around it. Each major city has one or two of them and they typically charge food truck owners for a wide range of services. NO…the owner cannot park his “Bad Ass Burger” truck in his driveway after he’s done for the day.  Why?  Because it might explode as we have seen and reported on many, many, times.

Trucks must be parked at a Commissary every night. [Cal Code: 114295(c)]

7. Bathroom, please?

You know that sign in restaurant bathrooms instructing all employees to wash their hands before they return for work?  Yeah, turns out the same thing applies to food truck employees, but instead of the city trusting them to do it on their truck….they require a public/private bathroom to be available within 200 feet of the truck while serving for over an hour.  The letter isn’t needed any longer.

Trucks must have a bathroom letter from an accessible bathroom with hot water (103-108 degrees), single serving soap, paper towels, kept in clean working order if vending for over an hour  (Cal Code: 114315)

Here is an epic checklist you can share with your fellow food truckers if you operate in Los Angeles! Note that every city and state you plan to operate in will have different laws. Generally speaking, larger cities will have more specific rules and regulations than smaller jurisdictions. Just remember that these laws were not put in place to be a nuisance to vendors. They were implemented to help keep the public safe, which is the goal of any reputation food truck owner as well.

Huntsville Shopping Center: Alabama Food Truck Park?

Huntsville Shopping Center debuts Food Truck Park

If there is anything that is more trending than food trucks right now then it is certainly the “food truck parks” and if little ‘ol Huntsville, Alabama is getting one then you know we’ve hit mainstream.  It’s not the fanciest of food truck park ideas as they decided to go with a mix of indoor and outdoor space with only a little character and styling but just having one helps move the industry forward another inch.

If you love food truck fare, but aren’t fond of long lines or extreme temperatures, a new street food option is coming soon to the Creekside Shopping Center parking lot in Huntsville.

Pinhook Provisions Street Food Park

Amie Vaughn White, who works for South Realty, plans to open Pinhook Provisions Street Food Park, a new year-round mobile dining hotspot on 2315 Bob Wallace Ave. featuring ample parking, climate-controlled indoor seating, outdoor seating with fans, restrooms, yard games, live music and more.

White, who does design work on the side, said the idea began brewing last year when she was with a client in Atlanta and saw a similar venue in the Howell Mill area. The concept started coming to fruition about two months ago and is now on target to launch Aug. 1 across from Jerry Damson Honda.

“I love the food truck rallies (in Huntsville), but they’re slammed and they’re hot and there’s nowhere to go to the restroom,” she said. “I thought, ‘Why couldn’t Huntsville have its own food truck park?’”

Founded in 1974, South Realty is a Huntsville-based commercial and residential real estate firm that owns the Creekside retail center, which is home to Marco’s Pizza, Ideal Exercise, The Printer Connection and other tenants. White, who has been working on and off at her father’s company since she was 15, is now director of development for the small business.

Named after Pinhook Creek, the park will accommodate up to 12 food trucks, have more than 70 parking spots, include trash removal and recycling, feature picnic tables and outdoor fans, and offer dog-friendly amenities such as community water bowls and pickup stations. It will also provide Wi-Fi service and two entrances and exits for easy access.

“I want it to be a destination,” she said. “I imagine it to be somewhere that strikes a balance between high-end and down to earth, so you can bring your kids but you can also enjoy a nice atmosphere.”

The park, which will open with a breakfast and lunch rotation, will later expand to offer dinner and weekend hours, as well as special events. The daily breakfast shift will run from 7-10 a.m. and lunch from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the week.

The Brief History of Food Trucks in America (1691 – Present)

Food trucks in America are considered to be a brand new movement. However, mobile food has been alive and kicking as far back as the 1600s when street cart owners were considered by some to be unfair competition for brick-and-mortar restaurant owners.

In this post, we take a brief look at the history of food trucks in America. From the first street vendors in the 1600s, to the chuck wagons of the Wild West, all the way to the modern gourmet food trucks that we’re familiar with today.

1691 – New York City (previously New Amsterdam) starts regulating street vendors selling food and other items from vending carts around the city.

Inside a gourmet food truck. 

History of Food Trucks: 1800’s

1850’s – Dining cars begin serving cross country train passengers with meals.

1866 – Charles Goodnight invents the “Chuck Wagon” to feed cattlemen and wagon trains traversing the old West.

1872 – The first make-shift diner is setup in a horse-drawn freight wagon.

1894 – Ivy League universities start to attract sausage vendors who sell their hot dogs outside the student dorms and their carts became known as “dog wagons”.

History of Food Trucks: 1900’s

1917 – The US Army mobile canteens (or field kitchens) start feeding troops.

1936 – Oscar Mayer introduces the first portable hot dog cart, The Weiner Mobile.

1950’s – Ice cream trucks become a thing and start selling their frozen treats on every street in America.

1960’s – Roach coaches are born and begin selling food to construction sites around the country.

1974 – The East Los Angeles bar gets the nation’s first taco truck when Raul Martinez converts an old ice cream truck.

1980’s – Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ attracts “grease trucks” selling “Fat Sandwiches” to college students.

History of Food Trucks: 2000’s

A Modern Food Van Built by M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks.

2004 – New York celebrates their food cart heritage after The Street Vendor Project creates the Vendy Awards. A competition that selects and celebrates NYC’s best street food vendors.

July 2006 – Wikipedia adds “food truck” to their data list and creates the history of food trucks around the world.

November 2008 – Roy Choi hits a homerun with his Kogi BBQ food truck in Los Angeles, selling Asian infused tacos to the masses.

January 2010 – Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association (SoCalMFVA) is formed by Matt Geller, becoming the first member organized entity created to protect the rights of food truck owners.

May 2010 – The National Restaurant Association portions some 1,500 square feet to food truck exhibits at its annual convention in Chicago, signaling a recognition of their importance.

August 2010 – The mobile food industry gets its first television program, the Great Food Truck Race and become an overnight hit.

September 2010 – The US government adds a reference guide called the “Tips for Starting Your Own Street Food Business” to its small business website, www.business.gov.

October 2010 – Zagat guide announces that they will begin to provide reviews of food trucks in 2011.

November 2010 – Los Angeles begins to rank food trucks with letter grades, just like their cousin restaurants.

January 2011 – President Barak Obama “Tweets” out that his favorite food truck in Washington DC is D.C. Empanadas.  City erupts in pride!

June 2011 – New York issues the first limited liquor license to the Pera Food Truck.

August 2011 – The Gap clothing retailer launches a nationwide ad campaign marketing a retro style jean with the use of a food truck in it.

February 2012 – NFL Super Bowl allows food trucks in to serve fans in Indianapolis.

June 2014 – The National Food Truck Association (NFTA and not to be confused with NAFTA) is formed creating the first national association of food truck associations.

August 2014 – The movie “Chef” is released which serves as the first ever motion picture to be centered around the story of a food truck and its owner.

Spring 2015 – Hundreds of successful food truck owners across the country begin opening complimentary restaurants as they master their trade

Present – Food Truck owners start looking for and requiring fully automated food truck POS systems to handle their on-the-go businesses and other mobile business concepts start to gain a foothold in the industry. Food trucks are evolving into larger enterprises and moving to restaurants, multiple food trucks, and some have even gone on to acquire venture capital funding and build multi-million dollar food brands.

What will happen next in the food truck industry is anyones guess. But looking toward the future of the food truck industry all signs point to increased growth in the industry. According to IBISWorld Industry reports over $1 billion in annual revenues can be expected in the coming years.

Is It Possible To Start a Food Boat Business?

Food trucks transformed how food is served on land. But could the same culinary disruption be about to happen on boats as well? Is it even possible to start a food boat business?

In fact, there are businesses that generate revenue in a similar way to food trucks, but with a boat instead. Usually these aqua based business operate only a short time of the year during peak tourist season at a lake or a busy harbor when other there are many other vessels in the water. Here’s how the business model works.

Most of these so called “food boats” operate more like floating convenience store than a restaurant. Prepackaged treats like ice-cream sandwiches, candy bars, sunflower seeds, pre-made sandwiches and cold beverages is all that’s usually served from these units. In many cases, you won’t be able to find a fresh cooked meal like you would expect on a truck.

The kitchen equipment on these floating units is often sparse. Some boats will have a full-size refrigerator or freezer to keep pre-packaged food items cold. These boats stick to serving pre-packaged or ready-to-eat items because the health code requirements needed to serve this product is minimal. In an effort to better serve their customers, these units will also carry gas, water, batteries, fishing bait and other supplies that could be required by boaters. Below is a video on food boat in action based out of Washington, D.C., called Nauti Foods:

As you can see in the video everyone from paddle boarders to other boaters visit this pontoon for a quick snack.

Is This a Full-Time Business?

For most operators this is not a full-time venture. It’s a simple way to generate a few extra bucks during peak summer time weekends. Often the folks that operate this type of unit part-time have a related business similar like managing a dock or teaching boating lessons. Although there are probably a handful of exceptions, operating this type of business is not a viable way to generate a comfortable and consistent income.

Florida is one state where you would have a better than average chance of operating this business full time due to year round good weather and plenty rivers, lakes, and ocean water.

One type of boat that could produce a full-time income would be a tour or river boat dinner cruise, however. These types of businesses have operated successfully for generations where there’s nearby water source. Due to their larger size, these boats can provide large crowds of 100 – 500 people dinner and entertainment for an evening or longer. These experiences can be as short as a few hours to a few weeks if you happen to be on a cruise ship.

At the end of the day, if you’re looking for a creative way to make some extra cash during the peak tourist months in your area this could be a way to accomplish that goal. Just don’t expect this to be your main source of income.

Roy Choi Proves There’s No Limit to Food Truck Business Potential

Roy Choi proves there’s no limit to the type of food business you can launch with a food truck. Choi’s story is been well told. Starting in Los Angeles with a small food truck serving Korean tacos, he is credited with helping to launch the modern food truck movement as we know it.

Now, only a decade after getting started, Choi has evolved into a celebrity chef with books, a fleet of food trucks, and now a collection of BBQ sauces available only at William’s Sonoma. Choi’s growth is astounding and impossible to replicate, but there’s plenty of business lessons “ordinary” food truck owners can learn from the story too.

While you may never be credited with launching a food movement (timing, location, hard work and luck have a lot to do with that), you can apply some of these lessons into your own food trailer. First is that the concession trailer can serve as the launchpad for a bigger food brand. But often you need to think outside the food truck box to make it happen.

Roy Choi in action. Photo Credit: http://kogibbq.com/about-chef-roy/

Case and point, you don’t need don’t need distribution or support of a major retailer to begin selling your own sauces or rubs. If you own a small BBQ trailer, you can begin by selling homemade rubs at catering events or daily service.

Assuming you operate a BBQ business already, the cool thing about releasing a sauce or rub is that doing so won’t take a lot of extra work. You already have the recipe. You’re already making the product. You already have a business entity and brand created. All you need to do now is package the product according to health guidelines.

Even if you don’t have an existing concession business, thanks to updated Cottage Food Laws in most states you can get started easily from a legal perspective assuming you meet their requirements. Cottage food law vary from state to state, but all of them have limit the amount of revenue you can make per year. In California, you can make over $50,000 annually and still be considered a cottage food business.

In the event you do exceed your small food businesses annual revenue limits, you can change into another food business entity like an LLC or Sole Proprietorship. Needing to change the structure of your business due to a high-volume of sales is a good problem to have.

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How Could This Work in Your Business?

The examples we’ve shared above all apply to BBQ businesses, but if you use your imagination you could apply similar growth strategies to any food business. Here are a few other ways we’ve seen mobile food owners expand and grow their brands no matter what the product:

  • A kettle corn or popcorn vendor could sell organic and packaged bags at independent grocery stores. This could create a new channel of sales. In fact, the brand Boomchickapop started in this exact way by selling at local events and outside Minnesota Vikings football games. In 2017, the same brand was sold to the food giant Conagra. Not bad for a little kettle corn stand.
  • A food truck selling Asian-style street tacos eventually started a multi-location restaurant in Austin. The Peached Tortilla is now one of the most popular establishments in the city and even has a location open at the Austin airport if you happen to visit.
  • Family members selling lobster rolls from a food truck got an investment ABC’s hit television show Shark Tank. Now Cousins Maine Lobster has evolved into a food truck franchise, restaurant, and successful mail order business. The founders even wrote a book about how they transformed a single food truck into a multi-million dollar food business. Pretty cool!

Of course even if you don’t have aspirations of selling your business to a large corporation or becoming a celebrity chef there are still plenty of lessons that can come from these food business entrepreneurs. Maybe most importantly is that if you’re able to make a concept work on a small scale, it’s likely that you can scale it up and grow your business further through other channels.

Of course, the most natural progression of course would be simply to add a second concession trailer or truck to your business if you already own a mobile food unit. Once you start to get busy and become well known in your area you’ll start to feel like you want to be two places at once. For example, you might want to serve a high-value catering event and a well-attended promotional event on the other side of town. The only way this will be possible is if you have two units.

Bottom line, the great thing about starting out with a food truck is that it can evolve into anything you want: restaurant, more food trucks, a product line, a book, or a celebrity chef. Roy Choi has proven the sky’s the limit when you start a mobile food business.

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