Entrepreneurship 101: Starting Your Own Food Cart Business

With the global rise of the “foodie” culture, the street food business is worth $2.7 billion, growing 12.4 percent in the last five years. This encouraged savvy entrepreneurs to offer not only new taste experiences but also quality cuisines. So why is street food so popular nowadays?

Why is Street Food Popular?

According to some, the increasing popularity of street food is a direct result of the slow-growing economy. Furthermore, in today’s fast-paced world, with busy schedules at hand, people prefer to look for breakfasts and lunches which are inexpensive, quick, but delicious.

From a business owner’s perspective, opening a street food business offers a huge benefit when it comes to start-up costs and mobility. Food trucks, kiosks, and food carts have lower overhead expenses than typical restaurants. It also allows your business to move from one location to another where it can generate more business.

From a customer’s standpoint, street foods are convenient and cost-friendly options. It is popular with everyone, whether locals or tourists, students or professionals, and thrifty singles or large families.

Popular Street Foods

Apart from the classics, namely, hamburgers, hot dogs, doughnuts, and ice creams, you can opt to sell ethnic-inspired cuisine like sushi, crepes, empanadas, and tacos. The possibilities are endless. It is all up to you what dishes you will serve to set your business apart from the rest.

Pros and Cons of Starting a Food Cart Business

Before diving in and starting a food cart business, you need to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of this endeavor.

While the food cart business may be less risky than opening a restaurant and it offers you flexibility, the competition in the market is fierce. Nonetheless, with a lot of hard work and determination, you will see significant profits in the long run.

How to Start a Food Cart Business

Step 1: Do a Market Research

In doing market research, you need to answer the who, what, where, why, and when of your business. Although undergoing this step is not exciting, it is crucial as it is one of the factors that would help determine the success of your business.

These are the following aspects you need to address when doing market research:

  1. You need to figure out where to set up your food cart business.
  2. You need to determine how the weather will affect your business.
  3. You need to determine the demographics of your customer.
  4. You need to find out more about your competitors.
  5. You need to know the prime hours of your chosen locations.

Step 2: Determine the Legal Requirements

Licensing and permit requirements to open up a food cart business varies from each state, even cities. Thus, there is no one-size-fits-all tip on how to get these legal requirements.

Nonetheless, checking with your local health department is the first step in knowing what permits and licenses you need to start your business.

Step 3: Chose Your Street Food Business Platform

You have plenty of options on what platform or vehicle you will choose for your mobile food business. It all depends on your budget, time commitment, vision, experience, and target market. You may opt to open up a food stand, concession trailers, food carts, or food trucks.

Step 4: Select Your Concept, Menu, & Suppliers

Nowadays, it is not only food that you are selling. It is the concept. Regardless of whether you opt for food carts or concession trailers, successful street food businesses have themes or concepts that are reflected in all elements of their business — from the branding, menus, recipes, and exterior design.

Step 5: Create Your Business Plan

Even if starting a food cart business has low start-up costs, not having a foolproof plan will leave your business to a complete disaster. Before taking the plunge, take time to write down a clear business plan. From the bigger picture, down to the smallest detail, ensure that you have answers to that.

One important aspect is your financing. You need to figure out how you will get capital to start your street food business. You may consider dipping into your savings, applying for a loan from the best mortgage company in your area, or taking advantage of any government grants.

Step 6: Estimate the Startup and Running Cost

Since the niche is quite broad and there are endless possibilities in the food cart industry, there is no exact formula to determine how much money you need to start a street food business. However, costs usually range from 8300 to 20,800 depending on whether you opt for a simple food cart or a food truck.

A background in catering or hospitality is not necessary to succeed in the street food business. As long as you have passion for what you do, you can weather any storms that come your way.