Due in no small part to emergency regulations put in place by the New York City council, many food truck owners were forced to place their vehicles into storage for the last few months. Business owners who took the opportunity to do some extra maintenance during this time may end up a little better off than most since their vehicles will be in better condition the moment that everyone is allowed to go back to work.
A number of obstacles would have still stood in the way of operating a truck in the five boroughs even if the recent pandemic hadn’t happened, however. Experts believe that a few savvy business tips can help you avoid all of these.
Starting & Maintaining a Food Truck-based Business
Learning how to open a food truck isn’t exactly an easy task because it’s not like you can simply go to school and train for it. While the industry grew by around 20 percent between 2017-2019, there were quite a few people who tried to start their own businesses around this time and weren’t able to make it.
The good news is that the industry should continue to grow regardless of major world events. Since food trucks can serve customers without requiring them to get too close to your staff, they’re an excellent idea for areas that have strict social distancing guidelines in place.
That being said, you’ll still need to get a certificate from the city’s health department before you go into business. Make sure that your truck is up to the standards set forth by the NYC council. These are publicly available due to freedom of information rules. You shouldn’t have any difficulty tracking down all of the relevant regulations for your preferred type of business.
Keep in mind that different sizes of food trucks have to abide by different rules. Gross receipts and other metrics are sometimes used by city agents to manage regulatory issues. However, these can be difficult to predict beforehand. Depending on your particular circumstances, it might be best to start small and grow your business over time.
You’ll also need to think of where to park your food truck, which isn’t small at all. If you lack the necessary parking slot, you can check out Neighbor to find one near you. Referred to as the “Airbnb of storage”, Neighbor is an alternative option for finding parking or storage for food trucks. Their concept is simple: they allow anyone with extra storage space to list the availability of their garage, warehouse, covered parking, or open lot on their platform.
You’ll want to factor in the possibility of having to shell out money for some other miscellaneous expenses. Insurance and legal fees can cost up to $5,000 in the first year. While you probably aren’t anticipating any particular issues, there’s quite a bit of legal red tape to jump through when you’re first starting out. That could mean you’ll need the services of a skilled attorney.
This is especially true for those who haven’t yet gotten a food service permit.
Earning Your Permit from the City
The Big Apple has an estimated 12,000 food vendors throughout the city. The New York Department of Health, however, has apparently issued only 5,100 vendor permits. Some people are therefore operating outside the boundaries of the law while others have shut down.
A good rule of thumb is to locate an area where an existing business is either selling out or retiring. When someone moves into another industry, they usually have to surrender their vendor permit. That means you’ll have an opportunity to earn it if you can prove that your organization isn’t going to breach any of the city’s numerous guidelines.
You may remember that 20 different SoHo-based trucks were shut down for operating without the appropriate paperwork. Take the opportunity to hire a business specialist or another type of skilled attorney now. It can help you avoid this kind of situation. With over 68 pages of regulations to follow, you’ll certainly need the help.
Assuming you’re able to surmount these hurdles, you’ll need to establish a brand for your business.
Marketing in a Crowded Marketplace
With so many food vendors in the city, it can be hard to make a living. Quite a few people end up sleeping in their trucks with very little to show for it.
You’ll need a creative way to differentiate your business. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t serve the kind of food you enjoy the most. In fact, serving bagels and bialys can get you quite a bit of business if you know the place to sell them in.
Figure out your intended market and make sure your truck is located in a good place to serve it. Get the word out on social media and soon enough you’ll be making it in the challenging world of inner-city food trucks.
As long as you have the appropriate paperwork and don’t park in a red zone, you should be able to sell food wherever you want.