2023 new business idea #1: Start a food truck

Image by Ksabios from Pixabay

By Michelle van Schouwen

Welcome to the first in an occasional 2023 series of hot new business ideas well-suited to solopreneurs or partners.

The food truck business is growing steadily, and still has room for more. Once the province of hotdogs and french fries, the business has expanded to include everything from Mexican and Asian options to vegan, barbeque, cupcakes, and lots more. Food trucks are particularly popular with Millennials and Gen Z, so successful, creative trucks are often found in lively downtowns, tech areas, adjacent to crowded breweries, and in other spots frequented by the young and/or savvy. Food trucks have become desirable choices for serving large outdoor parties – even trendy weddings!

The main advantage of starting a food truck over a restaurant is pretty obvious – it’s more affordable, although not cheap. Currently, estimated start-up costs are cited as $50,000-60,000, and annual revenue streams average $290,000.

As you create your food truck business plan, consider the following:

Plan your food offerings, theme, and business name. Consider your market area, competition, and skill set.

You will need a vehicle, and your choices are many, ranging from a used van or delivery truck to a converted trailer or shed you tow behind your own vehicle. You’ll have to work with pros to convert it to a kitchen and serving counter. Decorating the exterior may be half the fun, helping assure you attract the customers you want.

Your city and state will regulate your business, so it’s wise to thoroughly check into the permits, rules, and procedures for your area before you make specific decisions. You’ll also need business, vehicle, and employment-related insurance, so talk with a good agent.

Food trucks typically find customers via social media, including Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, and more, to let customers know where they are. Don’t neglect broader marketing and PR as well.

Picking your location(s) is also key. It depends on the food you offer and the community you serve, but here are a few ideas. On-street parking in a busy, walkable area is ideal. Adjacent to a brewery that allows bring-in food is also excellent – or near nightclubs. College campuses can be great, too. Food truck parks are wonderful for attracting diners who are looking for the best lunch or dinner. If you are serving hot or cold treats, look for recreational areas where people will be ready to buy. Farmers markets, business parks, concerts, festivals, and art shows can be good opportunities as well.

Consider the following when scouting out locations: Do you need a permit or permission? Will you need to pay for parking or your right to be there? Is there room for your rig? Many times, you should get there early, or have another vehicle hold a space for your food truck. The best spaces are popular – or they will be once you’ve built a following!

You know that you’ll need good ingredients, good chef(s), and additional counter servers in time. But also remember that you’ll need maintenance for your vehicle and your cooking equipment. Plan on these ahead of time.

Food trucks can be very lucrative businesses. And if your ambition is eventually to own a brick-and-mortar restaurant, your food truck can be the first step toward achieving that dream.

Also note: It’s not just trucks that are hot! Custom home-cooked meals for pickup are on-trend, too. One successful example is North Carolina based Viv’s Fridge…. a “vending machine” offshoot of one local restaurateur’s well-loved brand.

Bon appétit et bonne chance. (Good appetite and good luck.)


Michelle van Schouwen is principal of Q5 Analytics, providing advocacy and communications for climate change mitigation and adaptation. For 32 years, Michelle was president of van Schouwen Associates, LLC (vSA), a B2B marketing company. In 2017, van Schouwen Associates was acquired by Six-Point Creative Works, Inc. of Springfield, MA. Michelle is available for speaking engagements on topics including her work on climate crisis mitigation and Florida coastal water issues. She speaks to business and student groups about marketing launches and entrepreneurship and works with start-ups to support their development.


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