Food trucks have become all the rage, with celebrity chefs and home cooks alike making the leap. But food trucks can be a potential minefield of health department regulations, food service permits, parking legalities, and other challenges. Some food truck owners also try to do too much at once, expanding their menus and adding new trucks to their roster at an unsustainable rate. A written business plan is your key to overcoming obstacles and building lasting success. In addition, most food trucks are not cheap to purchase and outfit. Your business plan is your ticket to securing funding from lenders or potential investors.
Over the past 20+ years, we have helped over 3,500 entrepreneurs create business plans to start and grow their businesses. On this page, we will first give you some background information with regards to the importance of business planning. We will then go through a business plan for a food truck business step-by-step so you can create your plan today.
What Is a Business Plan?
A business plan provides a snapshot of your food truck business as it stands today, and lays out your growth plan for the next five years. It explains your business goals and your strategy for reaching them. It also includes market research to support your plans.
Why You Need a Business Plan
If you’re looking to start a food truck business or grow your existing business you need a food truck business plan. A business plan will help you raise funding, if needed, and plan out the growth of your business in order to improve your chances of success. Your business plan is a living document that should be updated annually as your company grows and changes.
Funding Sources for a Food Truck Business
With regards to funding, the main sources of funding for a food truck business are personal savings, credit cards, bank loans, and angel investors.
With regards to loans, banks will want to review your business plan and gain confidence that you will be able to repay your loan and interest. To acquire this confidence, the loan officer will not only want to confirm that your financials are reasonable. But they will want to see a professional plan. Such a plan will give them the confidence that you can successfully and professionally operate a business.
Angel investors are another common form of funding for food truck businesses. Angel investors are wealthy individuals who will write you a check. They will either take equity in return for their funding or, like a bank, they will give you a loan. Venture capitalists will not fund a food truck business.
How to Write a Food Truck Business Plan
Your food cart or food truck business plan should include 10 sections as follows:
Your executive summary provides an introduction to your business plan, but it is normally the last section you write because it provides a summary of each key section of your plan.
The goal of your Executive Summary is to quickly engage the reader. Explain to them the type of food truck business you are operating and the status; for example, are you a startup, do you have a food truck business that you would like to grow, or are you operating a chain of food trucks.
Next, provide an overview of each of the subsequent sections of your plan. For example, give a brief overview of the food truck industry. Discuss the type of business you are operating. Detail your direct competitors. Give an overview of your target customers. Provide a snapshot of your marketing plan. Identify the key members of your team. And offer an overview of your realistic financial projections.
In your company analysis, you will detail the type of mobile food business you are operating including a company description.
For example, you might operate one of the following types, based on your food truck’s cuisine:
- American: this type of food truck specializes in burgers and a general range of specialty sandwiches and hot dogs.
- Asian: this type of food truck includes a range of cuisines such as East Asian (including Chinese, Japanese, and Korean restaurants); Southeast Asian (including Vietnamese, Thai and Malaysian restaurants); and South Asian (including Indian, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi restaurants).
- Desserts: this type of food truck ranges from ice cream trucks serving soft serve, to larger, more sophisticated stands within larger food markets or event areas.
- Central and South American: this type of food truck serves cuisine known for intense and varied flavors and variety of spices.
- Fusion: this type of food truck serves novel options that are more sophisticated and creative interpretations of more traditional ethnic cuisines.
In addition to explaining the type of food truck you operate, the Company Analysis section of your business plan needs to provide background on the business.
Include answers to question such as:
- When and why did you start the business?
- What milestones have you achieved to date? Milestones could include sales goals you’ve reached, new store openings, etc.
- Your legal structure. Are you incorporated as an S-Corp? An LLC? A sole proprietorship? Explain your legal structure here.
Also called the market analysis, you need to provide an overview of your food truck business.
While this may seem unnecessary, it serves multiple purposes.
First, researching the food truck industry educates you. It helps you understand the market in which you are operating.
Secondly, market research can improve your strategy particularly if your research identifies target market trends. For example, if there was a trend towards Fusion food consumption, it would be helpful to ensure your plan calls for creative menu options.
The third reason is to prove to readers that you are an expert in the food industry. By conducting the research and presenting it in your plan, you achieve just that.
The following questions should be answered in the market analysis section of your business plan:
- How big is the food truck market (in dollars)?
- Is the target market declining or increasing?
- Who are the key competitors in the market?
- Who are the key suppliers in the market?
- What trends are affecting the industry?
- What are the industry’s growth opportunities over the next 5 – 10 years?
- What is the relevant market size? That is, how big is the potential target market for your business. You can extrapolate such a figure by assessing the size of the market in the entire country and then applying that figure to your local population.
The customer analysis section of your food truck start-up business plan must detail the customers you serve and/or expect to serve.
The following are examples of customer segments: college students, moms, teens, baby boomers, etc.
As you can imagine, the customer segment(s) you choose will have a great impact on the type of food truck business you operate. Clearly, baby boomers would want different pricing and product options and would respond to different marketing promotions than college students.
Try to break out your target audience in terms of their demographic and psychographic profiles. With regards to demographics, including a discussion of the target age group, genders, locations, and income levels of the potential customers you seek to serve. Because most food truck businesses primarily serve customers living in the same city or town, such demographic information is easy to find on government websites.
Psychographic profiles explain the wants and needs of your target customers. The more you can understand and define these needs, the better you will do in attracting and retaining your customers.
Your competitive analysis should identify the indirect and direct competitors your business faces and then focus on the latter.
Direct competitors are other food truck businesses.
Indirect competitors are other options that customers have to purchase from that aren’t direct competitors. This includes quick-service restaurants, supermarkets, and customers making the food themselves at home. You need to mention such competition to show you understand that not everyone frequents a food truck business each day.
With regards to direct competition, you want to detail the other food truck businesses with which you compete. Most likely, your direct competitors will be food truck businesses located very close to your location.
For each such competitor, provide an overview of their businesses and document their strengths and weaknesses. Unless you once worked at your competitors’ businesses, it will be impossible to know everything about them. But you should be able to find out key things about them such as:
- What types of customers do they serve?
- What products do they offer?
- What is their pricing (premium, low, etc.)?
- What are they good at?
- What are their weaknesses?
With regards to the last two questions, think about your answers from the customers’ perspective. And don’t be afraid to stand outside your competitors’ locations and ask customers as they leave what they like most and least about them.
The final part of your competitive analysis section is to document your areas of competitive advantage. For example:
- Will you provide superior food?
- Will you provide menu items that your competitors don’t offer?
- Will you make it easier or faster for customers to acquire your products?
- Will you provide better customer service?
- Will you offer better pricing?
Think about ways you will outperform your competition and document them in this section of your plan.
Traditionally, a marketing plan includes the four P’s: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. For a food truck business plan, your marketing plan should include the following:
Product: in the product section you should reiterate the type of food truck business that you documented in your Company Analysis. Then, detail the specific products you will be offering. For example, in addition to burgers, will you offer items such as salads or wraps?
Price: Document the prices you will offer and how they compare to your competitors. Essentially in the product and price sub-sections of your marketing plan, you are presenting the menu items you offer and their prices.
Place: Place refers to the location of your food truck. Document your location and mention how the location will impact your success. For example, will you operate your food truck next to a heavily populated office building, or gym, etc. Discuss how your location might provide a steady stream of customers.
Promotions: the final part of your food truck business marketing plan is the promotions section. Here you will document how you will drive customers to your location(s). The following are some promotional methods you might consider:
- Making your food truck exterior extra appealing to attract passing customers
- Distributing food samples outside the food truck
- Advertising in local papers and magazines
- Sponsored listings on Yelp or other websites
- Participation in delivery services such as Uber Eats, DoorDash, etc.
- Reaching out to local bloggers and websites
- Social media advertising
- Partnerships with local organizations (e.g., gym members get a free fruit cup with each wrap they purchase)
- Local radio advertising
- Banner ads at local venues
- Develop a customer loyalty program
While the earlier sections of your business plan explained your goals, your operations plan describes how you will meet them. Your operations plan should have two distinct sections as follows.
Everyday short-term processes include all of the tasks involved in running your food truck business such as serving customers, procuring supplies, keeping the store clean, etc.
Long-term goals are the milestones you hope to achieve. These could include the dates when you expect to serve your 10,000th customer, or when you hope to reach $X in sales. It could also be when you expect to hire your Xth employee or launch a new truck.
To demonstrate your food truck’s ability to succeed as a business, a strong management plan is essential. Highlight your key players’ backgrounds, emphasizing those skills and experiences that prove their ability to grow a company.
Ideally, you and/or your team members have direct experience in the food truck business. If so, highlight this experience and expertise. But also highlight any experience that you think will help your business succeed.
If your management structure is lacking, consider assembling an advisory board. An advisory board would include 2 to 8 individuals who would act as mentors to your business. They would help answer questions and provide strategic guidance. If needed, look for advisory board members with experience in food trucks and/or successfully running quick-service restaurants and small businesses.
Your financial plan should include your 5-year financial statement broken out both monthly or quarterly for the first year and then annually. Your financial statements include your income statement, balance sheet and cash flow statements.
Income Statement: an income statement is more commonly called a Profit and Loss statement or P&L. It shows your revenues and then subtracts your costs to show whether you turned a profit or not.
In developing your income statement, you need to devise assumptions. For example, will you serve 50 customers per day or 150? And will sales grow by 2% or 10% per year? As you can imagine, your choice of assumptions will greatly impact the financial forecasts for your business. As much as possible, conduct research to try to root your assumptions in reality.
Balance Sheets: While balance sheets include much information, to simplify them to the key items you need to know about, balance sheets show your assets and liabilities. For instance, if you spend $100,000 on building out your food truck business, that will not give you immediate profits. Rather it is an asset that will hopefully help you generate profits for years to come. Likewise, if a bank writes you a check for $100.000, you don’t need to pay it back immediately. Rather, that is a liability you will pay back over time.
Cash Flow Statement: Your cash flow statement will help determine how much money you need to start or grow your business, and make sure you never run out of money. What most entrepreneurs and food truck owners don’t realize is that you can turn a profit but run out of money and go bankrupt.
In developing your Income Statement and Balance Sheets be sure to include several of the key costs needed in starting or growing a food truck business:
- Cost of purchasing and customizing your food truck
- Cost of kitchen equipment like grills, fryers, food warmers, refrigerators
- Food costs and projected cost to maintain an adequate amount of supplies
- Payroll or salaries paid to staff
- Business insurance
- Taxes and permits
- Legal expenses
Attach your full financial projections in the appendix of your plan along with any supporting documents that make your plan more compelling. For example, you might include your store design blueprint or location lease.
Food Truck Business Plan Summary
Now here comes the fun part — putting together your own business plan for your food truck business! If you follow the template above, by the time you are done, you will truly be an expert. You will really understand the food truck business, your competition, and your customers. You will have developed a marketing strategy to get the word out and will really understand what it takes to launch and grow a successful food truck business.
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Food Truck Business Plan FAQs
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