Six things you need to consider before opening your mobile kitchen
A couple of years ago, the idea of a mobile kitchen wasn’t something people were pleased to be associated with. For most people, it represented access to quick, unsanitary, unhealthy food. This was understandable as the logistics of the business meant that mobile chefs had to cut corners to make do.
Fortunately, all that has changed. As successful restaurants and popular chefs discovered the potential of being closer to their customers, standards have improved considerably in the mobile food industry. What this means for newcomers is that the bar of entry is much higher than it has ever been. However, this isn’t necessarily a reason to worry.
Food trucks have moved from “roach coaches” to become a viable alternative to brick and mortar restaurants for people looking to break into the food industry. There are six key things you need to keep in mind before launching out, though.
Finding a niche
In any highly competitive industry, carving out an identity for yourself is crucial. You need a differentiating factor that allows you to remain in the minds of potential customers. Although it’s not a simple task, it’s doable.
The first step is to identify what you’re good at. Staying within your area of competence will always enhance your strength and minimize your flaws. If there’s anything you want your service to be, it’s for it to be flawless. Are you better at making confectioneries, fries, or baking? Do you have a preference for vegetarian diets, or are you a steak person?
Once you’ve discovered your area of competence, the next step would be to create engaging brand ideas around it. One of the critical things is your brand name. While you may be initially tempted to associate yourself with your brand, that isn’t always a good idea. It’s always better to associate your brand with your offering. The brand name “Sophie’s Kitchen” is likely more difficult to recollect than a “Lobster Wheeler.” One immediately identifies your business as a lobster kitchen on wheels; the other could as well be describing someone’s home kitchen.
Once you’ve come up with a brand concept that’s good enough, the next step is to engage in the aggressive branding of your business’ materials.
Much like brick and mortar restaurants, mobile kitchens are subject to multiple local and state regulations. These regulations vary significantly from place to place, so you’ll need to familiarize yourself with your city’s licensing process. Standard licenses you should look into include truck permits, parking restrictions, and health department certificates.
Keep in mind that the process won’t be straightforward. There’s a lot of bureaucracy involved in getting permits, and it may take a while. Some cities, like New York, have a limit on truck permits that they give out yearly, so you may have to get on a waiting list.
Getting a truck
This is probably the most important physical aspect of your business. Depending on the nature of your business and your budget, you may need to choose between getting a food truck or a food cart. If you’re working with a small budget, then a food cart is maybe your go-to, as trucks require more significant investments. If your preference is to sell hot foods like BBQ or pizza, you’ll need a bigger vehicle that can take an actual kitchen with all the equipment you need. On the other hand, if you can prepare your food in advance, you might just be able to use a food cart with the option of keeping the food warm.
If you do decide on going with a truck, there are still further concerns for you. Do you prefer to buy an already used vehicle or fabricate one from the start? Fabrication costs more than buying a prefab truck, but it has the unique advantage of being made to taste. If you choose to fabricate your vehicle, you can do so to meet local health requirements and your needs all at once. You can check here for mobile kitchen fabrication.
It’s advisable to look into the parking arrangements before you get a truck. The sheer size of food trucks means that you might find parking a bit problematic to deal with.
The safety and legality of where you park can’t be overemphasized. Some health departments have specific requirements for vendors to park in facilities that have refrigeration and electricity.
To run a successful business, you have to be in the right location, i.e., somewhere a large number of people meet or pass through daily. These are some of the things you’ll need to consider when dealing with where to park your truck.
Just like any other business, you’ll have to take out an insurance policy for your mobile kitchen. Several factors will go into your insurance policy, including the car insurance, the kind of kitchen you’ll be running with the truck, your location, and a lot more.
Although insuring a business of this nature may cost a pretty penny, it’s definitely worth the hassle. Accidents can happen at any time, and you want to be ready just in case.
Understanding your customers
There’s no industry where the customer isn’t the king, like in the food business. Designing your business to cater to the needs of your customers is imperative. While much of this is common sense, it needs reminding as a good number of chefs tend to get carried away with offering what they want, as opposed to what the customers want. Once you’ve selected your niche, try to understand customer behavior in relation to it.
For the most part, food truck customers are looking for speed, so reducing customer wait-time should be at the top of your list. This may require that you strike out meals that take too long to make in favor of quicker ones.
Starting any business requires mental readiness to face obstacles head-on. The good thing is knowing that the challenges are surmountable. As you must have realized, opening a mobile kitchen is no simple task, but the rewards are worth it. The community attention, the satisfaction of doing something you love, and of course, profit, make it a worthwhile endeavor.