5 Things We Did Wrong When Starting A Food Truck

Whether you are an established restaurant looking to expand with a food truck or just starting with one, there are a few things you should know. We are of the philosophy that you don’t need to recreate the wheel. Therefore, you can learn from our experiences. When starting a food truck, we got a front-row education on the dos and don’ts to getting it up and running. Here are five things we did wrong when we first started.

#1. Buying a Truck from a Different State

Not something you think of when buying a personal vehicle. Aside from tags and title, it is relatively easy to buy a car the next state or county over. However, this isn’t so simple when it comes to food trucks. Depending on the state or county, the standard for their food trucks differ. This could be standards of sizes, fire suppression, drainage, etc.

Our advice to anyone looking for a food truck is to know your county and state standards for food trucks before purchasing. This will help you avoid many costs when it comes to modifying an existing truck. Our mistake was not doing this, and if you are lucky, may it not be an expensive one.

#2. Not Practicing Driving a Large Vehicle

If you are only used to cars or large pickup trucks, that isn’t necessarily enough to be used to driving a food truck or trailer. Our first mobile venture was a 24′ food trailer. None of us had experience driving it. And it was not an easy, on-the-spot learning opportunity. There were many curbs hits, rims smashes, and tires popped. We even rolled over a road sign, but we don’t like to talk about it too much.

Let’s just say a little practice goes a long way. So does being humble. Even if you are a good driver, driving a truck takes practice. Your blind spots are different, and people don’t always recognize what it takes to make a wider turn. So take the time to learn or even ask an experienced driver for their advice.

#3. Not Looking at the Fire Marshal’s Food Truck Checklist

Many people, like us, are more concerned with the health department standards. This is pretty drilled into our heads if you have worked in any aspect of the food industry. However, when starting a food truck, the fire marshal’s office is just as important. Go get their checklist for food trucks. They provide an outline of the items the Fire Marshal’s office will be looking for during your mobile food vehicle inspection.

Familiarize yourself with this list. Knowing it and following it will make getting your truck on the road smoother. We would have been on the road at least two months sooner if we had done this. It not only saves time but money.

#4. Buying Before Having a State Inspection

This goes hand-in-hand with #1. We live and run our business in Maryland, so therefore we needed a Maryland State Inspection. However, we didn’t do this before buying the truck because it was bought out of state. If you purchase in-state, they are more likely to have already passed state inspections, but that isn’t always the case.

Therefore, our recommendation is not to buy any food truck without ensuring it passes your state’s inspection first. Every vehicle will have repairs before a title is transferred to another party. Getting an inspection lets you budget for those repairs, or at least ask the seller to repair parts of the vehicle. Or altogether, look into a different food truck. Keep this in mind when looking for one.

#5. Having a Grand Opening

It sounds great, grand even. But that isn’t always the case. Having a soft opening can actually help create more buzz and allow you the opportunity to iron out the logistics. This could be finalizing the workflow or testing out the equipment. When you have smaller traffic, this is easy to do. However, when you have a grand opening, these can make for bad reviews. The last thing you want the first time you are out.

For us, a soft opening allowed us to learn a lot. This was a completely different business model that we expanded to during the pandemic. So, there were a few things to adjust and change to make it work well. Everyone will find their own groove in time but take our word, don’t try to do it all on the first grand opening.

Want to Learn More About Starting a Food Truck?

Our most significant piece of advice would be to get experience in a food truck before starting a food truck. It seems simple enough, but really, there is so much to learn that could give you a head start on your own business. It helps to work with a team to learn the ins and outs before investing your hard-earned money. It is also a great way to see if you are interested in it for the long haul.

We have seen and heard many horror stories of people that cannot get their permit to sell or, worse, have everything ready to go and don’t know how to get business. If you want to learn more, reach out to our team. We would love to have you work on our food truck (we now have two!) to learn more before starting your own. For hiring information or consultation for your new food truck business, just email me here.