Street food stalls and trucks are becoming increasingly popular, especially since Covid-19 closed indoor dining establishments during lockdown. But food trucks and trailers are not just for street corners and food festivals. There are lots of other ways they can be used to run a profitable business, for example:
- Are you currently a chef, dreaming of setting up your very own establishment but not sure where to start?
- Are you looking for a change in career to pursue a love of food within the wedding and events space?
- Or are you an entrepreneur, looking for a new and exciting opportunity?
In this blog we delve deeper into the business opportunities available to you if you’re thinking of running a food truck business. Whatever you decide, food truck business models can be flexible, so you can try out a few different options to discover what works best for you.
A food truck business can function as one or a combination of any of the below:
- A regular independent trader at outdoor markets
- A caterer touring festivals across the summer and festive seasons
- A private hire option for weddings and parties
- A local mobile pop-up kitchen
- An extension of your restaurant
- A franchised business covering several areas
Appearing at markets
Having a pitch at a market is a good place to launch your menu and find out how popular your food is with the public. You can gauge their feedback and adjust your menu accordingly to meet demand. Markets are a great way to start getting established on the street food scene and build up a reputation as the go-to place for great food. You could start off with a regular pitch at the same market, then gradually branch out to increase the number of locations you attend as the business grows.
Once you have honed your skills at running your food truck or trailer, another way to operate is by getting into the festival scene. Festivals are seasonal, so it’s well worth planning your programme in advance and booking your pitches early so you are booked out every weekend for the summer and Christmas seasons. Festivals offer great opportunities to cater for crowds who are enjoying the event and looking forward to a delicious treat and more open to trying something new.
There will be numerous festivals for the music, food and other specialist genres e.g. Gay Pride/car shows etc. during the summer, as well as the popular agricultural shows and craft shows. But it doesn’t stop with the warm weather. In the winter there will be Christmas festivals and markets taking place all over the country. To keep the cash flowing, you could still trade at a regular market during the weeks when you are not attending a special outdoors event.
Local pop-up kitchens
Setting yourself up as a mobile kitchen allows you to reach more suburban and rural communities not served by Deliveroo or Just Eat. What could be better for the local community than a regular food truck rolling into their village high street every week, serving delicious pizza, fish and chips or your very own signature cuisine?
A good starting strategy is to build up loyalty in different out-of-town areas on regular days so your customers know when to expect you. Even areas that are served by food deliveries may still welcome your food truck if you offer something different to local restaurants and takeaways.
Private hire for weddings and parties
Taking your food truck to functions like weddings, parties and business conferences is a great way to supplement earnings when you’re not attending a market/festival or when business is quieter.
But how can you start building up this side of your business? Establishing good relationships with local restaurants and wedding venues that can help get the word out there and send recommendations your way is key, but there are a few things you can start doing independently too to promote this service.
Think about updating your website and social media channels to increase awareness, as well as advertising it on the side of your truck or on your restaurant menu. Once you have attended a few events, you’ll have images and testimonials to drive word-of-mouth recommendations. You may even decide to focus exclusively on functions if this side to your business really takes off!
An extension to your restaurant
If your restaurant is bustling in the evenings, but struggling to attract customers at lunchtimes, a good way to supplement your income could be to start up a food truck that serves the most popular items on your menu. Instead of your lunchtime staff standing around with no-one to serve, they could be keeping busy by running your food truck in an area where there will be plenty of customers, keen to have a tasty lunchtime treat. Or if your restaurant is always busy because your menu is so popular, you could invest in a food truck and extra staff to reach even more customers.
A great example of this is Wahaca, a large Mexican restaurant brand. They created a street food truck with a huge hatch and positioned themselves along London’s bustling Southbank to pick up passing trade. The mobile kitchen serves easy on-the-go options like tasty tacos and burritos, enticing busy tourists and workers alike who don’t have time for a sit-down meal in its nearby restaurant.
Another great food truck business idea for your restaurant would be to cater for functions and parties, as mentioned, serving food that is either pre-cooked in your kitchen and ready to serve, or cooked on the truck at the venue.
If your food truck is doing really well, why not think of franchising? You could also franchise food truck versions of your restaurant if your menu would work well as a street food, such as tapas, curries or noodles. Smallbusiness.co.uk and other organisations have lots of advice on franchising if this is something you would like to explore further down the line.
So now you've got ideas, what are the next steps?
We hope this blog has given you some useful food truck business ideas that you would like to explore further. Remember to check the legislation that applies to the different types of business, for example, ensuring Temporary Event Notices are in place if you are taking your food truck to a private function or acquiring a license from the local authority if you want to have a regular pitch on a street.
If you're looking for more information about starting your own street food business, take a look at our food truck resources for detail on a range of topics. A good place to start for inspiration is our article: “The Ultimate Guide To Street Food Trucks”.