A Sizzling Success… or a Bad Egg of a Business Idea…?
Let's take a look at the potential highs and lows of running a food truck or pop-up food business.
Many a successful food truck or pop-up food business idea was borne from a pleasant daydream that an Australian office worker had one innocuous weekday afternoon.
You can imagine the scenario: stuck in a stuffy office cubicle wading your way through seemingly endless paperwork; biting your tongue for the umpteenth time as you refrain from telling your tyrannical boss what you really think of her suggestion that all employees are required to stay late again this Friday evening…
And then, there’s the light bulb moment that changes everything.
Surely, there’s a better, less tedious and (dare we even contemplate it!) enjoyable way to earn a crust. Surely, there’s more to life than your stiflingly cramped desk-space and eight hours of clock-watching until it’s time to return home (or at least until it’s time for your next tea break)?
This notion that you’re vaguely aware of – you think they call ‘work-life balance’ – isn’t it time that you took it out for a test drive and discovered what it’s all about? Oh, and speaking of driving, there’s that constant niggling desire to act on your long-held aspirations to own a food truck. Wouldn’t now be the perfect time to break free of the corporate shackles and take to the open road with a brand new business-on-wheels?
A food truck business can offer the ultimate form of independence: not only do you run your own workplace but that workplace is mobile. You’re ready to go wherever a whim (or a gainful business opportunity!) may take you.
At The Dirty Apron & Co., I've seen the full 360 degrees of pros and cons, perils and positives that go hand-in-hand with a food truck business or, in fact, any genre of non-fixed ‘pop-up’ style food venture.
I know that in order to get your pipedream off the ground and standing a fighting chance of success, your fanciful reverie will need to be rigorously evaluated as a no-nonsense commercial endeavour.
Indeed, as with any new enterprise, the prospect of ‘quitting your day job and starting out on your own’ will need to be cautiously considered before you make the big leap. We’re all for independent enterprises and braving the fickle world of food businesses, however we always advise our clients to be prudent when it comes to diving head first into a new career in the food or beverage industry.
Consequently, today, I'd like to provide a useful breakdown of the pros and cons that will help you determine the viability of your new business idea. Read our tips to figure out if you should make a plan to drive off into the sunset in your newly launched food truck or mobile pop-up.
Will it be an absolute sizzling success, or will you be left crying over spilled milk when you realise you’re stuck with a bag egg, lemon of a business?! As 2018 draws to a close, should you be considering a fresh start on the open road during 2019….?
A Mobile Food Business - the PROS:
Low start-up costs:
With relatively low initial investment and operating costs, starting a food truck is cheaper and faster than opening a restaurant.
For example, a retrofitted used food truck typically costs $30,000 while a newly designed mobile food preparation vehicle with all new equipment can cost more than $100,000.
Remember, also, that some newbie entrepreneurs will rent a vehicle before they fully commit to their new career choice. This could be an option for you if you want to dip your toe in the mobile food sector, without being 100% sure of your prospects.
Less risk than opening up a restaurant storefront:
Think about it… Firstly, the investment is not as steep as it would be for a bricks and mortar business so you’re immediately onto a win. Secondly, with no fixed abode, you’re free to roam! There’s no fear of choosing the wrong location – if the customers are not rolling up, you can just start your engine and motor on to a different neighbourhood where your produce is genuinely appreciated.
The ability to be your own boss:
Need we say more? Goodbye clocking-in and painful annual performance reviews!
Little restaurant experience is required:
As you won’t be working with a large team of staff in a more structured, large kitchen environment, there’s no real need for restaurant experience. Although, we must say that any experience you may have (even if acquired during your student days) will certainly stand in your favour.
The flexibility to work when and where you want:
Mobile means mobile! There’s a music festival on in a rural location three hours’ away, a food event or a vintage fashion festival along the coast. Your new work schedule is no longer 9-5; it’s a case of working where and when you want – and, of course, where your potential target market is!
The current popularity of the business area:
It certainly doesn’t hurt that food trucks are super-popular right now. In fact, they are kinda becoming part of popular culture – note the number of recent movies and TV series that feature scenes where characters either own or enjoy purchasing from a food truck or another genre of trendy pop-up, street-food business.
A Mobile Food Business - the CONS:
A lot of early mornings:
And did we mention weekend work and late nights…? Consider the fact that your day job might have had its negatives, but chances are there was an element of regularity to your former routine.
Being self-employed can be a struggle for some:
We won’t sugar-coat it: being your own boss can be really, really tough. The buck stops with you; there’s no manager or HR department to complain to if things go wrong. After a year or so of self-employment, little luxuries like paid annual leave or paid sick days will be a distant memory.
It’s easy to make costly mistakes:
Without the right advice your start-up budget could be whittled away before you know it. Make key financial decisions that are based on solid professional advice.
There is a lot of competition out there already:
The downside of popularity is, of course, competition.
On a similar note, there’s the flipside: trends fade so be prepared to work hard if food trucks and street food suddenly become last year’s fads.
Your vehicle might breakdown or you could get stuck in traffic en-route to a venue:
Transport woes are stressful enough when you are trying to make your way to an everyday workplace, but what happens when your form of transport is your workplace?! Have you thought about the cost of a breakdown support service or what you’ll do if you miss an event due to problems with traffic?
There are many regulations and laws to comply with:
For starters, you’ll need to verify permitted locations and licences required for mobile food units. Plus, the food safety training and minimum standard requirements that are a crucial part of establishing a ‘regular’ food business, also apply to a food truck or mobile business.
Customer service plays a huge role so be wary if you’re only all about the cooking:
In short, customers can be a pain in the backside! Beware if you’ve been living a sheltered life in a corporate office! If you’ve never felt the absolute wrath of a dissatisfied customer, you’re in for a rude awakening.
Do your research in advance. Will there be enough events within a reasonable radius to allow you to keep busy? Are there other locations that attract good footfall that will be suitable as year-round locales?
Be sure to consider all of the pros and cons before setting out on your own. Being well prepared is the best route to success!
And I'd like to finish with a little cautious reminder…
At Dirty Apron & Co. I truly want you to succeed. However, I also want to be honest with you – the statistics do not paint a pretty picture…
It’s a tough truth to hear, but it’s estimated that a disheartening nine out of ten new food and drink businesses fail. It’s an incredibly dismal, super-depressing statistic that will probably make you second-guess your new career choice!
But how about yours is that one in ten that makes it past all the obstacles, through all the arduous challenges and ends up becoming the next big thing since sliced bread (literally!)
REMEMBER: The above advice is general. Every business faces diverse opportunities and challenges. So, if you have any specific questions about developing your pricing strategy, I'm always happy to help. Why not contact me to book an initial no-obligation consultation.
If you have any questions, make sure to ask inside my Facebook group, Bite-sized Marketing Morsels with The Dirty Apron & Co. This is one of my favourite places to hang out! On this sounding board, I get personal and raw while introducing you to other food industry movers-and-shakers, bringing mini-trainings right to your feed for delicious results.
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OWNER - THE DIRTY APRON & CO.
The Dirty Apron & Co. is a one-stop shop that turns delicious dreams into reality. Rachel and her team are specialists in food marketing for retail or wholesale food businesses, cafes, restaurants and caterers.
They are passionate about all
things food, and have the know- how, experience and industry contacts to help new food businesses get started.