How to write a food truck business plan

November 13, 2020 • 16 minutes

Mercedes Diaz
Mercedes Diaz
Independent content creator for business and foodservice niches. She provides content aimed to build relationships between customers and companies.

Planning to open any type of business is exciting, and you should always plan. Writing a food truck business plan will ensure you know how you want to operate your business and serve your customers. Business plans follow a general structure that helps entrepreneurs understand common stumbling blocks, including financial management.

A food truck business plan should include all of these parts:

  1. Executive summary

  2. Concept and business description

  3. Market analysis

  4. Management structure

  5. Services and products

  6. Operations plan

  7. Marketing and sales plans

  8. Funding requests or investor proposals

  9. Financial projections

  10. Appendix

A business plan for a food truck can help you start your mobile kitchen on the right foot, seek out financing, and ensure that you’re on the path to long-term success. These plans mainly help entrepreneurs apply for business loans, bring in investors, and maintain financial stability.

Executive summary

Every food truck business sample plan will showcase the executive summary on the first page. An executive summary is the food truck’s business plan overview. When applying for a business loan, the person reviewing your application may only look at this page and the sections relevant to financial projects or funding.

Your executive summary is the elevator pitch or one-page explanation of what your company is all about and why it will succeed. This summary should not be overly optimistic but instead focus on probable success, facts, and your plans.

Items you must include in your executive summary:

  • A clear explanation of your concept

  • What food will you serve?

  • Who are your target customers?

  • Where will you sell your food?

  • One or two-sentence take-aways from your market analysis, management plan, operations strategy, and sales plan sections

  • Quickly explain how you plan to start a food truck business.

  • Highlights from your financial projections

  • Financial management plan

  • Financial goals

An executive summary is the first page of your business plan. You should always write the executive summary of a food truck business plan last. Then dedicate time to making sure that it is clear, concise, and compelling.

Food truck concept and description

This section is your first major stop on your way to learning how to write a business plan for a mobile food truck. Every great business idea starts with a concept, and you need to explain why your idea could be successful.

Items you must include in your business description:

  • Your food truck business description, including the name and general products

  • Explanation of your food truck business model (For example, targeting people on their lunch break vs. weekend foodies)

  • Branding — logo, color scheme, concept, and more

Your food truck startup business plan needs to clearly explain what you provide and why you’re different from other restaurants and food trucks.

In 2020 the food truck industry reached $1 billion in total revenue. The appeal of food service with increased flexibility and reduced risk divide these trucks from traditional restaurants.

Market analysis

Within any food truck business plan template, you’ll see a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis, alongside your insights and plans for this section. Your market analysis will compare your concept against other foodservice providers and demands in your market.

Include the following in your market analysis:

  • Industry description

  • How great is the demand for dining in your area

  • Trends of restaurants in your region

  • Projected growth for the area

  • Target market

  • Identify your potential customers — Be specific. There is no product meant «for everyone.»

  • Local shopping and dining habits

  • Competitive analysis

  • Identify your competitors

  • Have similar food service options failed in the past?

  • How have other foodservice providers succeeded in your area?

  • Project your market share

  • Assess local, state, and federal or national regulations.

  • SWOT analysis

In Hong Kong, food trucks particularly struggle against local ordinances, including required rotation and restricted parking areas.

Management structure

Your food truck startup business plan must address the legal and internal operations structure. One of the most common reasons for a business’s failure is not understanding structural needs. Structural problems with in a small business can quickly become insurmountable and lead to business failure. Conversely, a planned management structure and the ability to adapt when necessary can lead to long-term success. As part of your plan for how to start a mobile food truck business, you must address the legal and internal operations structure.

Legal structure

A business’s legal structure will declare the owners, degree of liability, and how they interact with the government. An LLC, or Limited Liability Company, is the most common as it offers some protection to the owners.

As a small food service business, you may decide to legally structure as a sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, or incorporate the company. If you’re unsure of which is right with you, consult with a local business attorney for guidance.

Management team

Who is in charge? Who makes decisions? In a few short sentences or with a chart, outline the structure of the management team. Food trucks may not need a large hierarchy of managers. They may only need a general manager, possibly a kitchen manager, and maybe shift leaders.

Operations and milestone plans

Give a food truck description, including what you expect regarding operations and milestones. For example, you might create an operation and milestone plan that sounds something like this,

«Danny’s Chicken Roost operates as a family-run business. After five years of success, we would evaluate the option of establishing a permanent location and allowing leaders of the team to advance into larger management roles.»

In your management structure section address:

  • The legal structure of your company

  • Management structure, including your general manager and any others in a leadership position

  • The general structure for your managerial operations and plans for significant milestones

Services or product lines of food truck

Services or product lines

An example of a food truck business plan should include a space for the menu items. Your mock menu does not need visual appeal, but you must layout everything that your region requires for a menu.

In 2008 New York City enacted a Calorie Count Law requiring that menus show caloric values. California quickly followed, and now many places world-wide require nutritional insight on menus.

Address what services and products you will provide. Food trucks typically work with a niche menu because of their restricted kitchen space and working area. For example, a taco truck may only have two or three varieties of meats and a handful of topping options. Their menu may look something like this:

Menu Items

Tacos Carne with Cilantro and Onions — $ 4 each

Tacos Al Pastor with Cilantro and Onions — $ 4 each

Tacos Pollo with Cilantro and Onions — $3 each

Nachos with choice of meat — $6

Additional Items

Additional toppings (Crema Fresca, Queso,…) — $1 each

Salsa sides — $.50

Chips and Queso — $3.50

Creating a food truck menu takes careful planning. Ideally, you’ll get the most use out of a small collection of ingredients while providing a meaningful variety that caters to your target market.

Your services and products section must include:

  • Main and side menu items (detailed information)

  • Plans for rotating menu items or additional products

  • Ingredients and materials you will need to provide all items on your menu

  • Plans for services such as catering, weddings, and acting as a vendor in community events

Food truck operations

Your food truck operations plan will need to include who performs which tasks to keep the business running smoothly. Who has what responsibilities and what duties are necessary for the company to reach success? Those are the big questions this section targets.

Food truck location

Food truck location options

As a mobile food service provider, you have the unique opportunity to go to your customers. Map out where and when you can get your truck to ideal locations. Address whether you’ll need permits, how you’ll access them, and if there are costs associated with that location.

Supplies and inventory management

Who orders the supplies, and who are your vendors? This section outlines your vendor options, who provides the best quality and prices, and who will manage the inventory. Suppliers and inventory management require someone with a knack for high-levels of organization and mathematics.

Showcase in your business plan who will handle these tasks and what qualifies them for this position.

Food truck day-to-day operations

This section is what you need to operate a food truck. Answer these questions:

  • Who will prep or cook the food?

  • Will the team prep or cook on the truck or in a commissary kitchen?

  • How will you hold food at the proper temperature?

  • What happens if you run out of product?

  • How many people will work a shift?

  • Will you process payment when the customer picks up the food or when they place their order?

  • Who will handle customer service complaints?

  • Who will run the register?

  • How will you communicate with your guests?

  • What measures will you have in place for food and guest safety?

Use your food truck business plan to address technical issues as well as everyday people issues. Think of every potential element of daily operations, and then consider how you should respond. Include all of these factors in this section but keep each aspect of operations and response concise.

Customer service in food truck

Customer service

Your food truck should have a clear policy for handling customer service. Some go with the «The customer is always right» approach and refund everything. Others use a «half-eaten, half-refunded» rule. It is up to you but being consistent with complaints and returns is critical.

Include all of these in your operations section:

  • How you will plan where to park

  • Who is in charge of what duties and responsibilities

  • Outline a perfect day of operations identifying who performs what tasks and what systems are necessary for smooth operations.

  • Create contingency plans for likely challenges and struggles.

Marketing and sales

A mobile food truck business plan needs a reliable marketing and sales strategy. How will your customers know where to find you? How will you process sales once you start taking orders?

Potential marketing strategies include:

  • Marketing through social media platforms

  • Engaging the community through events

  • Paper marketing with to-go menus, flyers, and promotional cards

  • Free samples

Potential sales strategies can include:

  • Cash-only model (slowly fading and not ideal)

  • Cash and Card

  • Card-only model (still not ideal)

  • Undercutting competitors with extremely low pricing

  • Pricing according to quality

  • Provide discounts to loyal customers

  • Offer discounts to a business that welcomes your truck during lunch hours

Poster POS enables food truck owners to process credit and debit card sales, offer loyalty discounts, and track customer buying habits. Get the most from your point-of-sale system.

Cloud POS for restaurants

Poster POS

Use Poster to make sales faster, manage your inventory and finances.

Poster POS

Items you must include in your sales and marketing plans:

  • Marketing strategy

  • How will you find your target market?

  • What will you show about your business to bring in customers?

  • What platforms will you use for marketing?

  • Will you need a website or an app?

  • Do you need to connect with existing apps for food trucks?

  • Sales strategy

  • Pricing strategy

  • Sales and discount options

  • How your pricing strategy will impact your financial planning

  • How will you process payments?

  • Which pos for food truck will you use?

  • Will you promote customer loyalty?

Funding requests

Every business plan for a startup food truck should include a food truck start up costs. Small business owners have many options for funding their business, but they should always have a clear plan. Whether you’re going to a bank, requesting a government loan, looking to private investors, or asking friends and family for help, write out this part of your plan!

When writing out your funding requests, include:

  • How much capital you need

  • Determine if you may need additional funding in the future

  • How you will use any funds received

  • How you will repay loans

  • Potential investor benefits (percentage of the company, etc.)

  • How these funds will impact your opportunities for success

Financial projections

Wondering what to do with a food truck business plan? Although the rest of the plan might seem like it’s mostly for you, this section allows you to use the plan to seek out financing and investors. Besides your executive summary, the financial projections and your funding requests are the most critical parts of your business plan. To achieve an effective food truck business plan, you need accurate financial projections.

The financials section of a food truck business plan should include:

  • Projected income statement

  • Projected expenses and expense handling

  • Projected balance sheets

  • What you will accomplish with funding or business loans

  • How you will pay back loans or pay off assets

  • Plans for the financial wellness of the business

Appendix of the business plan

Crafting a business plan for a food truck should always end with an appendix. This section is where you provide greater detail on elements that might present challenges. In this section, you may have charts of a food truck business plan or even maps to show where you can or cannot park.

Items you must include in your appendix:

  • Detailed financial forecasts for the food truck business plan

  • 3 years of projected income statements

  • 3 years of projected cash flows

  • 3 years of projected balance sheets

  • Detailed menu with any necessary nutritional information

  • Details on any regulations that may impact your food truck operations

Completing your food truck business plan

Hopefully, you now have a good grasp of what a food truck business plan should have and how to present that information. Everything from the executive summary to the appendix should be clear, concise, complete, courteous, and factually correct. This plan should focus on your business, how you’re different from other options, and why customers choose your truck.

Use your food truck business plan as an opportunity to compare it to other types of foodservice. Restaurants and cafes are notorious for high failure rates, especially in their early years. Often inexperienced owners make the mistake of underestimating high food and labor costs. However, food trucks can avoid those common pitfalls by closely controlling costs and limiting operations hours to when the business is busy.

It’s possible that when creating your plan, you’ll see how pricing, sales, or marketing strategies could improve. During your research, you might find local opportunities for food truck vendors to engage in community events.

Ultimately, the process of writing a business plan will give you a better chance at success with your food truck. Understanding your market, products, and opportunities will build a better experience for you as a business owner and your customers.

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