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How to start a food truck business

Street food vans can be a smart way for entrepreneurs to combine their passion for food with a potentially profitable business idea.

From loaded burgers to vegan burritos, British classics and South Asian bites, there’s likely a food truck for every taste and occasion.

Far from the days of being the last resort on the roadside, delicious street food can now be found wherever people gather, from festivals to weddings.

But there’s much more to starting a food truck business than being good at cooking and staying calm under pressure.

Find out how to start your own food truck business with our handy business breakdown, covering everything from market research to promotion and marketing.


Do your research

Market research opens in new window is the process of collecting information about your target market and customers.

This could include potential market size, what your competition is – and isn’t – doing well, customer likes and dislikes, and average prices.

Your research can help you decide which foods would be most popular based on demand – whether gourmet hot dogs, bubble tea, or doughnuts.

The information could also help you decide on practicalities such as your opening hours, prices, and whether to keep your food truck in one location or move it around.


Create a business plan

A business plan is a written document that describes your core business objectives and how you plan to achieve them.

Pricing, funding options, marketing strategies, overhead costs, and financial projections are key parts of a business plan.

For a food truck business, you might also include what kind of food you want to serve and whether you plan to make your business available for private hire.

Read our guide on how to write a business plan opens in new window.


Consider the business basics

There are several elements to consider before opening a food truck start-up.

These include choosing a brand name for your company and getting it registered – read our guide on how to register your company name opens in new window.

You will also need to decide on your company’s business structure opens in new window (whether you will be a sole trader, a limited company, or a partnership) for tax purposes.

Consider how your finances will work – setting up a bank account solely for your business can keep personal and professional funds separate and make your finances easier to manage if you plan to operate as a sole trader.

If you set up as a private limited company, you’ll need to open a dedicated business bank account.


Source your funding

Think about where you might source the funding to get your food truck business up and running.

The typical street food entrepreneur will spend less than £5,000 opens in new window at start-up level, but a roadside or small event start-up will invest on average £5,000-£10,000, with larger businesses spending up to £50,000 or more.

When it comes to your new business, consider the costs of ingredients, equipment, the truck and its maintenance, vehicle and business insurance, fuel, licenses, and marketing.

If you’re not self-funding, you may wish to get a bank loan, borrow from friends and family, or try crowdfunding opens in new window.

Start Up Loans opens in new window offers UK entrepreneurs government-backed loans of up to £25,000 with fixed interest rates and a year of free business mentoring.


Comply with regulations

As with all UK food businesses, you must comply with several regulations to run a food truck legally.

To begin with, you’ll need to submit a food business registration opens in new window at least 28 days before you start trading.

Because a food truck isn’t a permanent location but a vehicle, you will need several licences, including a valid driving licence opens in new window and a street trading licence opens in new window from your local council.

Although it isn’t a legal requirement, food truck businesses typically need insurance to protect the owners and the business in the event of any claims – such as public liability insurance opens in new window and product liability insurance opens in new window.

In terms of health and safety, you will need to have a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan in place – find out more through the Food Standards Agency opens in new window.

Food trucks also need several certificates, including a portable appliance testing opens in new window (PAT) certificate, a food hygiene certificate opens in new window and either a Commercial Gas Safety or Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) certificate opens in new window, if applicable.


Get your equipment organised

The most important piece of equipment you might need to invest in is the truck itself.

Buying a pre-fitted food truck with all the cooking appliances you need is possible, but you could also buy an empty truck (new or second-hand) and renovate it.

This way, you can customise your truck to suit your needs – a pizza truck and a barbecue truck may need different appliances, for example.

You might also need adequate food storage for fresh ingredients, including fridges and containers.

Also, consider the costs of smaller pieces of equipment, such as kitchen utensils, serving boxes, cleaning products, fire safety tools, first aid boxes, timers, and an ordering/payment system.


Promote your food truck

Promotion is key to ensuring your potential customers know where to find your food truck.

Consider how you will market your start-up to get it off the ground and help your business grow in the long term.

Promoting your business could help foodies discover your delicious products and catch the eye of other businesses looking to partner with you, such as festival organisers.

You could promote your food truck in several ways – why not try the following?

  • create eye-catching social media posts
  • set up a website for your business
  • distribute leaflets in target areas
  • join online food truck forums.

Marketing a start-up doesn’t have to be expensive – read our guide on how to market on a shoestring budget opens in new window.


Learn with Start Up Loans and help get your business off the ground

Thinking of starting a business? Check out our free online courses in partnership with the Open University on being an entrepreneur.

Our free Learn with Start Up Loans courses opens in new window  include:

Plus free courses on finance and accounting, project management, and leadership.


Reference to any organisation, business and event on this page does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation from the British Business Bank or the UK Government. Whilst we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.

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