Is it worth starting a food truck

Buying a food truck: how to start your mobile business

Rent or buy a food truck?

You can see them not only at events, but also during the week in markets and public places: food trucks. The demand for quick food remains unbroken. Whether with burgers, vegan soups, burritos or the very classic currywurst and french fries: everything is available in the mobile kitchens.

You can buy a food truck for this, e.g. B. at a specialized dealer or via an online marketplace. Of course, you can also rent a food truck to get started so that you don't have to make a large investment. If you are new to business, you should pay particular attention to the price and the ancillary costs, because remodeling or repairs can be expensive.

When buying, you should ask yourself the following important questions:

  • Is there a power supply?
  • How does the exhaust air get out of the food truck?
  • Can all employees find a comfortable place?
  • Is the lighting good enough to work effectively?
  • Is the vehicle equipped for longer journeys?

Remember: if the car doesn't go, you can't do business!

Food truck business costs

In addition to the vehicle costs, you also have to calculate fees for registrations, permits and initial equipment. It also makes a difference whether you want to operate your food truck at different locations or have a fixed location in mind. In the latter case, you need a placement permit or a special use permit in accordance with Section 16 of the Roads Act in order to be able to sell your dishes on public spaces.

However, if you have changing locations in mind, e.g. at street food markets, trade fairs or other events, you can rent a parking space through the organizer. Research major events and ask the organizer about the conditions for a parking space.

Requirements for the food truck business

If you want to get a food truck or snack trailer: Do you actually have the right driver's license? Are you allowed to drive the truck or trailer with your driver's license? If you are not sure about your driving license, seek advice. If you are unsure how well you will get on with the vehicle, you better complete a few hours of driver training.

You do not need any special training in Germany to open a mobile snack bar. However, since you will have to deal with food and people on a daily basis, specialist knowledge and good manners are an advantage. You will quickly find that working with food is one thing and dealing with many different people is quite another. If you fear deficits here, work in advance in an established snack bar or food truck. In this way, you will also find out what is important in everyday work. Some professional experience in the catering industry can generally not do any harm, as this also enables you to better assess what is in store for you and whether the work suits you at all.

As a self-employed food truck operator, you should of course also have a certain commercial knowledge; Start-up seminars by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IHK) and reading the relevant specialist literature are recommended here. Special offers and seminars for start-ups are offered by both the IHK and the German Hotel and Restaurant Association (DEHOGA).

Do you meet the requirements and want to start planning your food truck? In the following sections we will show you step by step how to proceed.

Tristan de Cap, Fritamin B:

"In Germany anyone can open a snack bar. You just have to look for a suitable property and take care of the necessary registrations and then you can basically start."

To the interview

Business idea & target group for your food truck

It is not enough to simply want to offer food and drinks somewhere on suspicion. Without a clear concept and an analysis of the locations where you can find your customers, you will likely generate little revenue.

target group

Think carefully about which target group you want to address and whether they would be enthusiastic about your concept. Your own enthusiasm is usually not enough. Analyze your future customers as precisely and comprehensively as possible. You may also conduct random surveys at the targeted locations in order to find out which food offers are still missing. Find the places and markets that are suitable for your truck and see whether your intended target group actually comes by.

Location analysis

In addition to your target audience, you also need to analyze the competition. At which locations can you sell food in the food truck? Who can already be found there? Does your special offer cover a need or are there already several comparable providers? Drive to food markets in your area and see whether there are already comparable food trucks like yours that compete with you or whether you are serving a niche that is also in demand with customers.

There are also numerous other occasions where food trucks are used. Suitable events for your food truck can be, for example:

  • Weekly markets
  • Sporting events
  • Music festivals
  • measure up
  • Corporate parties

The advantage of a food truck is the flexibility in the choice of location, use it!

Business and financial plan for your food truck

Is your business idea ready? Very well, then you can now move on to the next step: the business plan. This is about converting your business idea into a profitable business model. To do this, you have already analyzed your target group and potential locations. Since you want to start your own business with a mobile business, you have to include several planned locations in your business plan. Furthermore, the so-called SWOT analysis helps you to identify and improve the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and dangers of your concept.

However, the most important part of the business plan is the financial plan. With this you can look at your plan figures in detail and see at a glance whether your food truck will be economical or not. In the financial plan you devote yourself extensively to answering the following questions:

  • What expenses do I have?
  • How is my price made up?
  • How many customers can I expect per day?
  • How much capital do I need and where do I want to get the money from?
  • Do I have a financial buffer that will help me through the low-yield winter months?

A viable business plan with its financial planning is not “only” a signpost and guide for you and your establishment, but also the ticket to financing: Investors take a close look when it comes to the profitability of your project, after all, they want the capital invested in the Most of the time they got it back. So if you are on a bank loan or similar. you need a business plan to convince financiers of your concept and its profitability.

Tristan de Cap, Fritamin B:

"You need solid financing and enough buffer so that you don't have to give up at the first obstacle."

To the interview

Foundation checklist for a food truck

Whether it is a local snack bar or a food truck: Before you can sell your first sausage, your sales rooms must meet the legal requirements for the catering industry, because a food truck is considered a catering company in Germany. This means that you not only need a permit to operate a food truck, but also have to tick off various other formalities when setting up your business. Make sure you plan enough time for visits to the authorities and registrations. The following points are part of the formalities for establishing a food truck:

  • Catering instruction and infection protection instruction
    In the first step you have to take part in an instruction from the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, unless you are already familiar with food law regulations through your training and can present the necessary documents. This involves questions of food hygiene and disease prevention, the correct handling of perishable food, food monitoring as well as regulations on the protection of minors and price information. You will then receive a health certificate.
  • Restaurant permit
    For the restaurant permit, you need the layout of your car and a rental, lease or purchase agreement, because the concession is tied to you and your food truck. You must obtain permission from the responsible trade office.
  • Business registration
    You have to register your food truck with the local trade office. In addition to the restaurant license, you need an identity card or passport, a police clearance certificate and possibly a clearance certificate from the tax office.

  • Travel business card
    You may need a travel trade license to operate your food truck. This depends on where you want to sell your dishes - because you only need the travel business card if you want to sell food and drinks outside the location specified in the business registration. You do not need a travel trade card to sell in your own place of residence.

  • Request for outdoor entertainment
    In order to be able to entertain your customers outside, you have to submit an application for outside entertainment to the regulatory office.

  • Placement permit or special use permit
    In order to be allowed to work commercially in public areas, you need a permit from the public order office.

Tristan de Cap, Fritamin B:

"If you set up your own business with a snack bar or food truck, you are also a cook, cleaner, accountant, buyer, organizer and driver. It simply takes a lot more than just opening the door and selling french fries."

To the interview

As soon as you have registered your food truck with the trade office, other authorities will automatically be informed of your establishment:

  • Tax office
    After you have registered your business, the tax office will send you the tax registration questionnaire. Please fill this out properly. Based on your information, we will determine how you will be assessed for tax purposes in the future - you will also receive your tax number.
  • IHK / HWK

    Membership in the IHK or HWK is your duty. That is why the relevant chamber will also contact you after registering with the trade office and welcome you as a member. The annual fee is calculated from your profit.

  • Building Regulations Office
    The health and building authorities will also be informed of your business registration. However, if you have obtained all the necessary permits and have already had your vehicle inspected by the health department, you do not need to worry about it.

  • Trade association
    The “Berufsgenossenschaft Nahrungsmittel und Gastgewerbe” (BGN), as the statutory accident insurance provider, is responsible for start-ups in the catering sector. Membership there is free for you - as long as you have no staff. You shouldn't wait until the trade association gets in touch with you, but get in touch with them early on.

Insurance, business account, employees

Unfortunately, you cannot get started with your food truck even after the founding procedure, because ongoing business operations must first be secured - with the help of insurance, a cash register system and, if necessary, employees who support you in operating the food truck.

Insurance for founders

In addition to accident insurance, you should also look for other relevant insurances - e.g. professional liability insurance - care for your operation. Furthermore, comprehensive vehicle insurance including the protection of your goods is of fundamental importance. Because even if you don't want to think about something like that, unpredictable things can happen: an accident on the way to the next event, power failure or damage to the cooling system and thus loss of goods and supplies. These things can be secured and show the financing bank (if you need financing) when submitting your financial and business plan that you have considered everything well and that you are covered in the event of damage.

Business account & cash register system

You also need a business account and a cash register system, because proper recording of income and expenses is also mandatory in a food truck. It also facilitates goods control, purchasing and, ultimately, bookkeeping.

Register employees

If you hire employees, you must also register them properly with all authorities and insure them. In addition to the wage costs, there are other fees. It is best to find out early in order not to be surprised by these "additional costs".

Hygiene regulations

The health department regularly checks whether you meet the hygiene requirements. This includes drinking water and wastewater connections or, in the case of food trucks, appropriately labeled tanks, hand basins and sinks, easy-to-clean surfaces and the ability to store and prepare food in accordance with regulations. Even during ongoing operations, unannounced inspections by the health department can occur again and again. Make sure that all hygiene standards are always met by keeping records of your kitchen hygiene and food monitoring. If you have staff, make sure that they also strictly adhere to the hygiene regulations by training them regularly.

Promote the food truck: Marketing

Because you will be traveling a lot with your food truck, online advertising and PR are of the utmost importance to you right from the start. Your future customers need to know where your food truck will be. You should therefore think carefully in advance which marketing channels you want to use and how your idea can best be conveyed - because you can also generate regular customers with a rolling snack. The cheapest and probably also the best method how you can get the drum started for your food truck at the beginning of your self-employment is social media marketing. Post visually appealing photos on the relevant channels (Facebook and Instagram for starters) and let your fans know where the truck will be today.

Start advertising as early as possible to get your name and concept known and to get customers curious. You should be clearly visible in the squares and markets where you will stand later and not get lost in the crowd. You should therefore pay a lot of attention to the food truck itself and its effect. In addition, think about small but nice ways to stand out from your competitors.

Conclusion: starting your own business with a food truck

Although food trucks are still a relatively young industry, the business is booming. So if after reading this guide you feel like starting your own business in the mobile hospitality industry, we will provide you with all the tools you need to take the next steps. Just start with the business plan!

Create an online business plan

Author: Für-Grü editors

As editor-in-chief, René Klein has been responsible for the content of the portal and all publications by Für-Grü for over 10 years. He is a regular interlocutor in other media and writes numerous external specialist articles on start-up topics. Before his time as editor-in-chief and co-founder of Für-Grü, he advised listed companies in the field of financial market communication.