The call of the open road. The freedom to take your businesses wherever it’s most successful. Rebellion against the established restaurant model. Food trucks are cool. There’s no arguing that.
And with more and more gourmet trucks popping up around Melbourne and Sydney, now might seem like a great time to start your own. But what most people don’t realise is the huge amount of work, legislation and headaches that go into running your own food truck. It’s just not an easy thing to do.
This article isn’t meant to burst your bubble. It’s not meant to darken your dreams. We want you to succeed, so we put together a list of 5 things to consider before you get started.
Cover your bases on all of these, and you’ll be ready to hit the road.
5. Learn the local laws
If it’s to do with food service in Australia, you can guarantee there are a lot of very strict laws you’ll need to comply with. Food trucks are absolutely no exception to that.
In fact, food trucks have even more regulations to comply with than normal restaurants or other food vendors, because you’re also taking road laws, registration and parking issues on board too.
The specific laws you’ll need to be on top of vary state by state, so make sure you do your homework on what your state requires before you do anything else.
When it comes to Victoria, your starting point should be here on the Vic Health website’s section on Mobile Food Premises.
4. Plan your menu carefully
A trap that we’ve seen a lot of people fall into is not putting enough thought into what their food truck will actually sell. Often when you go to start a food truck, all you have is an idea like “I’m going to sell tacos!”.
That’s great, but you need to ask yourself some questions. How easy will it be to purchase ingredients? How will you store them safely? What happens if you run out of an ingredient? What if a product doesn’t sell?
And to tie us over to the next section – what equipment will you need to prepare your menu items? Can that equipment even work within a truck?
3. Choose equipment wisely
When it comes to food trucks, there are two roads you can go down (pardon the pun…). You can cook things to order in-truck, or you can pre-cook and simply reheat before sale. Traditionally food trucks in Australia have gone the re-heat option, because it makes life a lot easier.
Your only real considerations here are the footprint of your reheating equipment, and the adequacy of your storage infrastructure. That brings us back to legal requirements regarding food safety. All things considered, however, a re-heat food truck is not too difficult.
But the rise of the gourmet food truck across America has begun to filter across to Melbourne and Sydney culture as well. These kind of trucks cook their cuisine onsite and to customer order. The quality of the food is a lot better, but creating that food also requires a much greater investment of thought, time and money into high quality commercial equipment.
Advising people on how to fit out their brand new food truck is a request our experts here at DCE have been receiving with increasing regularity. One core thing that people often overlook is the need for adequate ventilation, which is an essential safety consideration.
The other thing is the footprint of the equipment you’ll need. Gourmet food trucks are expected to produce near-restaurant quality cuisine within a fraction of the kitchen space available to most traditional kitchens.
All too often, people go ahead and buy their truck before considering their equipment needs. A big mistake.
2. Don’t skimp on installation
Once you’ve planned out and purchased all required equipment, your job isn’t done. Let’s repeat that. Your job is not done.
As you’re probably aware, at DCE we don’t just sell equipment, we have a team of professionals to install it for our customers as well. What pains us is when customers neglect that option in the belief they can do it themselves.
Of course, the equipment in question is always going to dictate how feasible DIY actually is. And in a traditional restaurant environment with plenty of space and facilities designed to purpose, you may well be able to make it work. Unfortunately, food trucks are an entirely different beast.
Limited space. An environment never intended for commercial kitchen equipment. A confined space where adequate ventilation is a must. And it goes without saying, a whole bunch of regulatory requirements too. That’s the food truck situation.
Equipment installation is not something you want to rush into.
1. Plan your sales approach
So you’re finally ready to hit the road. You’ve covered regulatory requirements to the line. You’ve got your menu finalised and produce supply nailed down. You’ve bought your equipment and it’s correctly installed. But where are you going to sell?
A food truck business lives or dies by its ability to access a steady flow of customers. Foot traffic matters to every hospitality business, but not on the same level as with food trucks.
Thankfully, there’s a great community of food truck owners and operators online, so you don’t need to go into this completely blind. And while most of the community is based overseas, the Aussie membership is quickly growing. One tip that we hear a lot from the Aussie food truckers we help is that booking events is often the bread and butter of food truck revenue.
Part of the reason for this is that you don’t need to worry about access to parking, which is a legitimate concern when driving your restaurant from place to place. Not only is there the mess of regulations we mentioned earlier, in most cities parking a car is difficult enough – let alone a truck.