The first vegan food truck in the United States didn't hit the road until 2010, but it quickly inspired fellow entrepreneurs across the nation. These mobile restaurants serve cuisine that's free of both meat and animal byproducts. Proprietors don't just supply convenient meals; they improve local access to vegan food and introduce new people to the lifestyle. They promote healthy eating while preventing the slaughter of animals. The mobile nature of this business enables chefs to offer catering services as well.
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Learn how to start your own Vegan Food Truck and whether it is the right fit for you.
Start a vegan food truck by following these 10 steps:
- Plan your Vegan Food Truck
- Form your Vegan Food Truck into a Legal Entity
- Register your Vegan Food Truck for Taxes
- Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
- Set up Accounting for your Vegan Food Truck
- Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Vegan Food Truck
- Get Vegan Food Truck Insurance
- Define your Vegan Food Truck Brand
- Create your Vegan Food Truck Website
- Set up your Business Phone System
There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your vegan food truck. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
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STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a vegan food truck?
Mobile Cuisine Magazine estimates the cost to open a new food truck at $40,000 to $250,000. Most chefs find it more affordable to start a food truck instead of a conventional restaurant. Nonetheless, it involves leasing or buying a large vehicle and various equipment.
Entrepreneurs need to purchase the initial inventory and supplies as well. Remember that many vegans prefer eco-friendly containers, which can be more expensive than typical packaging. Business owners must also pay fees for parking, licenses, permits, and certifications. To limit upfront expenses, prioritize in-season vegetables when creating your first menu.
What are the ongoing expenses for a vegan food truck?
At a minimum, you'll need to pay for ingredients, food packaging materials, fuel, equipment maintenance, commercial vehicle insurance, and liability coverage. You will add wages and workers' compensation insurance to the list if you hire anyone. Other possible expenses include commercial kitchen rental, credit card processing, marketing, storage, and loan interest.
Who is the target market?
While vegans and vegetarians usually rank among the most enthusiastic patrons, health-conscious customers and other curious individuals also visit vegan food trucks. Non-vegans in search of healthier meals represent a major target audience that most chefs can't do without. Just 1 in 20 Americans eat strictly vegetarian meals, and only 3% embrace veganism, according to Gallup. Although they're a relatively small group, people with entirely plant-based diets often spend more than average customers. Vegetarianism is most common among women over 40.
How does a vegan food truck make money?
Mobile restaurants earn cash when customers order menu items and pay prices that exceed the cost of supplies, truck ownership, and labor. The proprietor might benefit from a few tips, but gratuities remain less common at food trucks than restaurants. Weather and travel trends have a big impact on revenue. Vegan chefs may gain extra income by offering gift certificates or reselling ingredients in small amounts. They can also charge a flat per-guest fee for catering services.
How much can you charge customers?
Prices vary significantly depending on local incomes, business expenses, and competition levels. For example, the Palm Beach Post reports that a vegan food truck in southern Florida charges around $12.50 for the average meal. These businesses command higher prices than typical food trucks, but ingredients also tend to cost more. Catering clients pay at least $10 for each guest served. High-end venues like weddings might yield per-guest fees as high as $35.
How much profit can a vegan food truck make?
Numerous factors affect profitability, such as pricing, location, and suppliers. Comparatively, few businesses of this kind exist in America, so financial data remains scarce. The average food truck attains a profit margin of around 7 percent, higher than equivalent restaurants. Conventional vegetarian eateries often achieve relatively high margins.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Try to cut the cost of ingredients without sacrificing the quality or freshness. Consider buying directly from farmers or wholesale clubs. You might also benefit from selling meals at special events where people have a willingness to spend more, such as eco-friendly fairs and festivals.
- Sell hats, shirts, or magazines that are of interest to vegans.
- Catering generally delivers more profit than direct food sales.
- Learn basic truck repair skills, and buy a mechanic's tool set.
- Save fuel by running a diesel engine on used vegetable oil.
- Think about supplying packaged, labeled snacks to stores.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is very important. Read our detailed guide on how to name your business. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your vegan food truck is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
- LLC Taxes
- Sole Proprietorship vs LLC
- LLC vs Corporation
- LLC vs S Corp
- How to Start an S Corp
- S Corp vs C Corp
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
Open a business bank account
Besides being a requirement when applying for business loans, opening a business bank account:
- Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- Makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank or credit union.
Open net 30 accounts
Net 30 accounts are used to establish and build business credit as well as increase business cash flow. With a net 30 account, businesses buy goods and repay the full balance within a 30-day term.
NetMany net 30 credit vendors report to the major business credit bureaus (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Business, and Equifax Business Credit). This is how businesses build business credit so they can qualify for credit cards and other lines of credit.
Recommended: Read our best net 30 vendors, guide and start building business credit.
Get a business credit card
Getting a business credit card helps you:
- Separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money later on.
Recommended: Apply for an easy approval business credit card from Divvy and build your business credit quickly.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
Make LLC accounting easy with our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
If you already have a logo, you can also add it to a QR code with our Free QR Code Generator. Choose from 13 QR code types to create a code for your business cards and publications, or to help spread awareness for your new website.
How to promote & market a vegan food truck
Eye-catching signs, ads on local bulletin boards, and high-visibility locations draw people to these eateries. New customers will learn about a truck when they see it at an event, such as a farmers market or food festival. Roaming Hunger offers a service that helps truck owners gain catering clients. Many mobile restaurants benefit from promoting themselves on Twitter and Foursquare.
Consider entering a food truck contest or restaurant competition that allows trucks. An award could create excellent publicity. Think about writing articles on veganism, cooking, or dining for local publications, and be sure to mention your business.
How to keep customers coming back
Look for parking locations near complementary businesses, such as natural food shops, vitamin stores, and health-oriented supermarkets. You might find a vegan clothing or cosmetics retailer in a major city. Give menus with coupons to these businesses. Try to introduce unique yet appealing snacks, and offer free samples. Think about accepting credit cards as well.
To keep existing patrons, focus on serving delicious meals promptly and providing friendly customer service. Try to memorize names and favorite menu items. You could start a loyalty program or donate a percentage of profits to a vegan-oriented charity. Provide a consistent experience by minimizing staff turnover.
Still unsure about what kind of business you want to start? Check out the latest Small Business Trends to help inspire you.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2022 to find the best phone service for your small business.
Recommended Business Phone Service: Phone.com
Phone.com is our top choice for small business phone numbers because of all the features it offers for small businesses and it's fair pricing.
Start a Vegan Food Truck in your State
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
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Is this Business Right For You?
Consider starting a vegan food truck if you enjoy interacting with unfamiliar people and work quickly without frequent mistakes. This opportunity appeals to entrepreneurs who embrace change, like to travel, and are willing to put in long hours. It also helps if you feel enthusiastic about the vegan diet and thoroughly understand it. For example, you should know that vegans don't eat honey or gelatin.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at a vegan food truck?
Some chefs cook all of their food in the truck. Others use a commercial kitchen, which is required by certain cities. You'll drive to a busy location, take orders from customers, and safely package meals before serving them. After-hours tasks range from cleaning to waste disposal. Chefs may transport excess food to homeless shelters or soup kitchens. You'll also need to order supplies regularly.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful vegan food truck?
Any job involving customer interaction will help prepare you, but working in a kitchen provides better training. State law normally requires a food handler certificate. An optional vegan certification assures customers that they're consuming genuinely animal-free cuisine. Certain universities offer food truck courses, and you can attend the Food Truck Academy online. You'll typically only need a standard driver's license, as commercial licenses are only necessary for unusually heavy vehicles.
What is the growth potential for a vegan food truck?
Many entrepreneurs limit their operations to a single truck, yet growth potential is theoretically unlimited. A business can add more trucks and employees after achieving reliable profitability. Some chefs choose to develop traditional eateries based upon a successful truck. For instance, Seabirds Kitchen in New York began as a vegan food truck in 2010. It opened a stationary restaurant three years later and a second cafe in 2017, according to the Press-Telegram.
Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Learn from other business owners
Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a vegan food truck?
Develop an appealing, unique brand with beneficial goals. Highlight the story of how you became vegan and started your business. Use genuine, specific marketing language rather than unclear or exaggerated words that could foster skepticism about the food. Try not to alienate non-vegans.
Plan ahead and don't hesitate to get help or advice from experienced business owners. If any competitors serve the area, differentiate your truck by focusing on a more specific niche like meatless, organic, gluten-free, or ethnic cuisine.
How and when to build a team
Many entrepreneurs run vegan food trucks alone at first. If the business attracts customers and seems likely to prosper, consider hiring someone to take orders while you prepare meals. This will expedite service and reduce mistakes. Try to find a person with customer service experience and a genuine interest in veganism. This job generally pays around $10 to $12 per hour.