Starting a food cart business can be very profitable. With proper planning, execution and hard work, you can enjoy great success. Below you will learn the keys to launching a successful food cart business.
Importantly, a critical step in starting a food cart business is to complete your business plan. To help you out, you should download Growthink’s Ultimate Business Plan Template here.
14 Steps To Start a Food Cart Business:
- Choose the Name for Your Food Cart Business
- Develop Your Food Cart Business Plan
- Choose the Legal Structure for Your Food Cart Business
- Secure Startup Funding for Your Food Cart Business (If Needed)
- Secure a Location for Your Business
- Register Your Food Cart Business with the IRS
- Open a Business Bank Account
- Get a Business Credit Card
- Get the Required Business Licenses and Permits
- Get Business Insurance for Your Food Cart Business
- Buy or Lease the Right Food Cart Business Equipment
- Develop Your Food Cart Business Marketing Materials
- Purchase and Setup the Software Needed to Run Your Food Cart Business
- Open for Business
1. Choose the Name for Your Food Cart Business
The first step to starting a food cart business is to choose your business’ name.
This is a very important choice since your company name is your brand and will last for the lifetime of your business. Ideally you choose a name that is meaningful and memorable. Here are some tips for choosing a name for your food cart business:
- Make sure the name is available. Check your desired name against trademark databases and your state’s list of registered business names to see if it’s available. Also check to see if a suitable domain name is available.
- Keep it simple. The best names are usually ones that are easy to remember, pronounce and spell.
- Think about marketing. Come up with a name that reflects the desired brand and/or focus of your food cart business.
2. Develop Your Food Cart Business Plan
One of the most important steps in starting a food truck business is to develop your business plan. The process of creating your plan ensures that you fully understand your market and your business strategy. The plan also provides you with a roadmap to follow and if needed, to present to funding sources to raise capital for your business.
Your business plan should include the following sections:
- Executive Summary – this section should summarize your entire business plan so readers can quickly understand the key details of your food cart business.
- Company Overview – this section tells the reader about the history of your food cart business and what type of food cart business you operate. For example, are you a traditional food cart, mobile food truck, or a concession stand?
- Industry Analysis – here you will document key information about the food truck industry. Conduct market research and document how big the industry is and what trends are affecting it.
- Customer Analysis – in this section, you will document who your ideal or target customers are and their demographics. For example, how old are they? Where do they live? What do they find important when purchasing products like the ones you will offer?
- Competitive Analysis – here you will document the key direct and indirect competitors you will face and how you will build competitive advantage.
- Marketing Plan – your marketing plan should address the 4Ps: Product, Price, Promotions and Place.
- Product: Determine and document what products/services you will offer
- Prices: Document the prices of your products/services
- Place: Where will your business be located and how will that location help you increase sales?
- Promotions: What promotional methods will you use to attract customers to your food cart business? For example, you might decide to use pay-per-click advertising, public relations, search engine optimization and/or social media marketing.
- Operations Plan – here you will determine the key processes you will need to run your day-to-day food truck operations. You will also determine your staffing needs. Finally, in this section of your plan, you will create a projected growth timeline showing the milestones you hope to achieve in the coming years.
- Management Team – this section details the background of your company’s management team.
- Financial Plan – finally, the financial plan answers questions including the following:
- What startup costs will you incur?
- How will your food cart business make money?
- What are your projected sales and expenses for the next five years?
- Do you need to raise funding to launch your business?
3. Choose the Legal Structure for Your Food Cart Business
Next you need to choose a legal structure for your food cart business and register it and your business name with the Secretary of State in each state where you operate your business.
Below are the five most common legal structures:
1) Sole proprietorship
A sole proprietorship is a business entity in which the food truck owner and the business are the same legal person. The owner of a sole proprietorship is responsible for all debts and obligations of the business. There are no formalities required to establish a sole proprietorship, and it is easy to set up and operate. The main advantage of a sole proprietorship is that it is simple and inexpensive to establish. The main disadvantage is that the owner is liable for all debts and obligations of the business.
A partnership is a legal structure that is popular among small businesses. It is an agreement between two or more people who want to start a food cart business together. The partners share in the profits and losses of the business.
The advantages of a partnership are that it is easy to set up, and the partners share in the profits and losses of the business. The disadvantages of a partnership are that the partners are jointly liable for the debts of the business, and disagreements between partners can be difficult to resolve.
3) Limited Liability Company (LLC)
A limited liability company, or LLC, is a type of business entity that provides limited liability to its owners. This means that the owners of an LLC are not personally responsible for the debts and liabilities of the business. The advantages of an LLC for a food cart business include flexibility in management, pass-through taxation (avoids double taxation as explained below), and limited personal liability. The disadvantages of an LLC include lack of availability in some states and self-employment taxes.
4) C Corporation
A C Corporation is a business entity that is separate from its owners. It has its own tax ID and can have shareholders. The main advantage of a C Corporation for a food cart business is that it offers limited liability to its owners. This means that the food truck owners are not personally responsible for the debts and liabilities of the business. The disadvantage is that C Corporations are subject to double taxation. This means that the corporation pays taxes on its profits, and the shareholders also pay taxes on their dividends.
5) S Corporation
An S Corporation is a type of corporation that provides its owners with limited liability protection and allows them to pass their business income through to their personal income tax returns, thus avoiding double taxation. There are several limitations on S Corporations including the number of shareholders they can have among others.
Once you register your food cart business, your state will send you your official “Articles of Incorporation.” You will need this among other documentation when establishing your banking account (see below). We recommend that you consult an attorney in determining which legal structure is best suited for your company.
4. Secure Startup Funding for Your Food Cart Business (If Needed)
In developing your food cart business plan, you might have determined that you need to raise funding to launch your business.
If so, the main sources of funding for a food cart business to consider are personal savings, family and friends, credit card financing, bank loans, crowdfunding and angel investors. Angel investors are individuals who provide capital to early-stage businesses. Angel investors typically will invest in a food cart business that they believe has high potential for growth.
5. Secure a Location for Your Business
To find a location for your food cart business, start by looking for areas with a lot of foot traffic. You’ll also want to consider whether there are enough people in the area that will be interested in your type of food. Additionally, make sure the location has space for your food cart and is in a safe area. Finally, check with your local government to see if there are any restrictions on food trucks in the area.
6. Register Your Food Cart Business with the IRS
Next, you need to register your business with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) which will result in the IRS issuing you an Employer Identification Number (EIN).
Most banks will require you to have an EIN in order to open up an account. In addition, in order to hire employees, you will need an EIN since that is how the IRS tracks your payroll tax payments.
Note that if you are a sole proprietor without employees, you generally do not need to get an EIN. Rather, you would use your social security number (instead of your EIN) as your taxpayer identification number.
7. Open a Business Bank Account
It is important to establish a bank account in your food cart business’ name. This process is fairly simple and involves the following steps:
- Identify and contact the bank you want to use
- Gather and present the required documents (generally include your company’s Articles of Incorporation, driver’s license or passport, and proof of address)
- Complete the bank’s application form and provide all relevant information
- Meet with a banker to discuss your business needs and establish a relationship with them
8. Get a Business Credit Card
You should get a business credit card for your food cart business to help you separate personal and business expenses.
You can either apply for a business credit card through your bank or apply for one through a credit card company.
When you’re applying for a business credit card, you’ll need to provide some information about your business. This includes the name of your business, the address of your business, and the type of business you’re running. You’ll also need to provide some information about yourself, including your name, Social Security number, and date of birth.
Once you’ve been approved for a business credit card, you’ll be able to use it to make purchases for your business. You can also use it to build your credit history which could be very important in securing loans and getting credit lines for your business in the future.
9. Get the Required Business Licenses and Permits
There are a few licenses and permits you will need to start a mobile food business. You will need a food handler’s permit, a business license, and a zoning permit. You may also need a health permit depending on your state and local laws. Check with your local authorities to find out what you will need.
10. Get Business Insurance for Your Food Cart Business
The type of insurance you need to operate a food cart business depends on the size of your business and the risks involved.
Some business insurance policies you should consider for your food cart business include:
- General liability insurance: This covers accidents and injuries that occur on your property. It also covers damages caused by your employees or products.
- Auto insurance: If a vehicle is used in your business, this type of insurance will cover if a vehicle is damaged or stolen.
- Workers’ compensation insurance: If you have employees, this type of policy works with your general liability policy to protect against workplace injuries and accidents. It also covers medical expenses and lost wages.
- Commercial property insurance: This covers damage to your property caused by fire, theft, or vandalism.
- Business interruption insurance: This covers lost income and expenses if your business is forced to close due to a covered event.
- Professional liability insurance: This protects your business against claims of professional negligence.
Find an insurance agent, tell them about your business and its needs, and they will recommend policies that fit those needs.
11. Buy or Lease the Right Food Cart Business Equipment
To start a food cart business, you will need a few pieces of equipment. First, you will need a cart or stand. You will also need cooking equipment, such as a stove or grill, and serving utensils. Finally, you may need a refrigerator or freezer to store food.
12. Develop Your Food Cart Business Marketing Materials
Marketing materials will be required to attract and retain food truck customers to your business.
The key marketing materials you will need are as follows:
- Logo: Spend some time developing a good logo for your food cart business. Your logo will be printed on company stationery, business cards, marketing materials and so forth. The right logo can increase customer trust and awareness of your brand.
- Website: Likewise, a professional food cart business website provides potential customers with information about the products you offer, your company’s history, and contact information. Importantly, remember that the look and feel of your website will affect how customers perceive you..
- Social Media Accounts: establish social media accounts in your company’s name. Accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and/or other social media networks will help customers and others find and interact with your food cart business.
13. Purchase and Setup the Software Needed to Run Your Food Cart Business
You will need software to manage your food cart business, including a point of sale (POS) system, financial software, and inventory management software. You may also need software to track your business expenses and create invoices. Choose software that is compatible with your computer system and that will meet your specific needs.
14. Open for Business
You are now ready to open your food cart business. If you followed the steps above, you should be in a great position to build a successful business. Below are answers to frequently asked questions that might further help you.
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How to Start a Food Cart Business FAQs
No, it is easy to start a food truck business. You just need to know what you're doing and have a good business plan. There are many resources available to help you get started, including books, websites, and even food carts for sale.
The best way for aspiring food truck owners to start a food cart business with no experience is to do some research and get organized. Plan out your food truck concept, create a budget, and learn everything you can about the industry. Networking with other food cart businesses can also be helpful in learning the ropes.
There is no definitive answer to this question because profitability depends on many factors including location, target market, and competition. However, in general, a profitable type of food cart business is a mobile hot dog stand. This type of food cart business can offer a variety of hot dogs, sausages, and hamburgers that are affordable and are enjoyed by a wide range of customers. In addition, a mobile hot dog stand is perfect for catering events and providing food for large groups. Finally, hot dogs typically do not cost too much, and can therefore be sold at a healthy margin.
Food truck startup costs can vary depending on a number of factors, including the type of food and the size of the business. However, in general, you can expect to spend between $2,000 and $10,000 to start a food cart business. This includes the price of the food, cart, and marketing expenses.
The most significant ongoing expense for a food cart business is the cost of the food itself. Other ongoing expenses may include the cost of repairs or maintenance for the cart or truck, and marketing and advertising expenses.
There are a few different ways a successful food truck business can make money. The simplest way is to sell food items. Another way is to offer catering services, which can be more profitable since the business can charge a higher price for the food.
Owning a food cart business can be profitable because it offers a low-cost way to start a business. There is a growing demand for food carts, and you can customize your food cart to meet your customers' needs.
One of the most common reasons food cart businesses fail is that they don't have a solid food truck business plan. To be successful, you need to have a plan for marketing your cart, attracting customers, and growing your business. You also need to understand the costs associated with running your cart, from the food and supplies you need to the rent or lease for your space. If you're not prepared to handle the financial side of things, your business will fail. In addition, become familiar with the regulations governing food carts in your area, as there may be specific requirements you need to meet. Failing to comply with these regulations can shut your business down.