Starting up a mobile food business seems like a snap—at least when viewed from afar. All you need is a truck, a few tasty menu items, a Facebook and/or Twitter account and maybe one other employee and you’re good to go. In no other part of the restaurant industry are the barriers to entry so low.
Which is why food trucks are proliferating like crazy. Truck owner wannabees range from starry-eyed foodies to renegade line cooks to full-service operators in search of an extra revenue stream for their operation. Also getting on board: some of the career-changers who used to give up good-paying office jobs to come work in your restaurant for a relative pittance. Many of them go the truck route now.
The entrepreneurial fervor in and around this segment is so heated that big publishing houses see a burgeoning market they can tap.
The first how-to-get-started guide to come out is so thorough it could dominate this new publishing category. If you’ve ever thought operating a food truck could be both fun and profitable—fess up—have we got the book for you. It’s David Weber’s The Food Truck Handbook: Start, Grow and Succeed in the Mobile Food Business (Wiley; $19.95). He’s got answers to questions most readers never knew existed about successful food truck operation, and he shares all his hard-won secrets in this 270-page book.
Weber acquired his truck expertise while following two separate paths. He learned the nuts and bolts in his role as co-owner of Rickshaw Dumpling Bar, an Asian fast casual chain based in New York that has two restaurants, four food trucks and a kiosk in Times Square. Separately, he’s the founder and president of the New York City Food Truck Association, a role that gives him ongoing view of startup issues and recurring problems most food truck newbies face.
If nothing else, you’ll want to read the first chapter, “Is The Trucker’s Life For Me?” before going all in on your first truck. Food truck ownership is as much a lifestyle decision as much as it is a job, and there are plusses and minuses to consider.
From there, Weber spells out why food trucks have become so popular with the dining public.
“The predominant factor…may be that customers are looking for more value for their food dollar. Limited by the constraints of operating out of a limited space, today’s food truck entrepreneurs are almost exclusively specialists. They do one thing, and they do it very, very well,” he writes. “The limited overhead keeps costs down, and by focusing on a few menu items, food truck operators can focus on getting good pricing and delivering high-quality food for just a few items, which often results in a product that is above average in quality and below average in price.”
In a nutshell, that’s why people will follow their favorite trucks all over town and stand outside in so-so (or worse) weather to eat food truck food.
But there are a huge number of hoops prospective operators have to jump through before they can deliver the value proposition customers so love. Weber walks readers through the many, many steps truck operators must take to get their rig on the road, and thoroughly explains how to keep the ball rolling once the enterprise is up and running. There are many decision points along the way; we shudder to think about the costly trial and error most food truck owners have gone through because they didn’t have a book like this one to steer them straight.
Full-service operators who own existing restaurants have a couple of reasons to explore the food truck segment by reading this book. If you’ve got an idea for another type of restaurant, a food truck is a low-risk way to test it out and establish proof-of-concept. “One of the most compelling aspects of food trucks is their ability to act as an incubator for entrepreneurs to start a viable, cash flow-positive business that they can grow into and brick-and-mortar establishment,” Weber says. Also, if you’d like to do special events catering but have struggled to get your effort off the ground, food trucks can jump-start that part of your business.
Done right, the economics of food truck operation are hard to beat. Weber’s step-by-step guide can help make sure your food truck venture stays in the fast lane.