Writing A Food Truck Business Plan: Lessons from a Lemonade Stand
So you want to open a food truck business because you have some great recipes and a go-get-‘em attitude. Fantastic! Passion is important. But you’ll also need a food truck business plan. While the food truck is a much more grown-up version of a lemonade stand, there are some parallels to make the task feel a little less formidable.
A Food Truck Business Plan Begins With An Executive Summary
Don’t worry about the word “executive” just yet. Focus on the summary. Think of this as the proposal you presented to your parents when you wanted to set up a lemonade stand in the front yard. You already had some kind of plan in your head, but you just pitched the big picture.
An executive summary is just that: a one-page summary of your overall plan. It’s the last thing you write, but the first thing you present to lenders or investors so they know you’ve thought through it and aren’t acting on a whim. You can also think of it as the movie trailer of your business plan. It’s just a taste of what’s to come.
What did you tell your parents when they asked why you wanted to set up a lemonade stand? Chances are, depending on your parents, they had other ideas for how you could make money (i.e. chores). However, if you told them it would prepare you to own a business or would meet the needs of thirsty neighbors, your parents were more likely to get on board.
You’ll need to spell out similar motivations in your company description. Talk about what sets your food truck apart or how it meets a need in the community. Do you have a passion for serving gluten free dessert items to those in the community with sensitivities? Talk about it. Is your goal to provide a less expensive catering option for wedding venues? Then explain that. Share your passion and your motivation behind wanting to open a food truck, something more than just making money.
Seeing another kid on your block with a lemonade stand may have sparked some ideas, but you knew you’d have to either wait until another day to open yours or you would have to open yours in another neighborhood. One city block just isn’t big enough for two lemonade stands.
Whether you recognized it or not, that was a market analysis. You assessed the competition, set parameters around your target market, and addressed trends in the industry. You’ll need to do the same for the market analysis in your food truck business plan. Piggy-backing on the company description examples, you might talk about the rise in the number of people trying gluten-free diets or the trend for couples to get married at more unique venues. Who is your competition? Would it be other food trucks only, or would you be competing with fast food or sit-down restaurants, too?
In other words, show that you know your “audience”. If you live in rural Mississippi, there probably isn’t a very good market for organic, gluten free Korean tacos.
Organization and Management
“Okay, but you have to let your little brother help.” Your parents liked the idea, but it wasn’t going to be a solo venture. To appease your parents (and to keep him from annoying you with his whining), you gave your kid brother a specific assignment: to stir the lemonade.
The organization and management section of a business plan is basically a delegation chart. Who’s in charge of what? What experience or qualifications do they have to perform that duty? Going back to the lemonade stand, your brother wasn’t old enough to know how to handle the money, so you gave him a job you knew he could do. Show the same type of consideration as you explain the people who will help you open your food truck business. Will you handle the books or be the cook? Who will you trust to cover the other and why? What’s the chain of command when the rubber meets the road?
Services and Products
Did you sell lemonade made with a powdered mix, or did you sell fresh squeezed? How did you decide? Were there different sizes available for your customers? Could they purchase a cookie or muffin, too?
Services and products is where you talk about the food. Make mouths water by describing menu items that will one day go viral with praise. This is also the section where you discuss the possibilities of future expansions. Do you hope to one day open a brick and mortar store? Would you like to have a fleet of trucks franchised? Will you now (or in the future) offer catering services or cooking classes? If you’re a foodie, this is the heart of why you want to open the business. Make that evident in the business plan.
Marketing and Sales
It wasn’t long after you opened the lemonade stand that you realized you needed some way to let people know about it. You probably made a sign, called your grandparents, or flagged down passing cars. This was your marketing strategy. If you had a certain amount of money you wanted to earn, you did the math to figure out how many glasses of lemonade you would have to sell to meet that goal. That was your sales goal.
A marketing and sales strategy is the plan for how you will attract and retain customers to your business. Using an average cost per meal, how many sales will you have to make to break even? How many to turn a profit? Lay out all the gory details now to save yourself the time in the future when business is booming.
If your parents were fiscally minded, or really took you up on the learning how to run a business angle, they made you pay for your start-up supplies: (lemonade, cups, etc.) That or you had to go to the store and purchase the supplies yourself. Before you hopped on your bike to go to the neighborhood grocery, how much money did you ask for? How did you come up with that figure?
Writing a business plan is a good practice for any business, but it’s a necessity for anyone looking for outside funding. As you’ve likely seen on shows like Shark Tank, investors want to know how much you need. Be prepared to show them a specific number and, like your math teacher always said, be sure to show your work. As you consider start-up costs, you need to think about the cost of:
- Permits, licenses, and certifications
- The food truck itself
- Cooking equipment
- Payment processing (an iPad point of sale system is ideal for food trucks)
- Parking spot leases
- Paper goods and serving utensils
- Vehicle maintenance
Once you know the “how much” and the “what for”, you need to think through a repayment plan as well as your financial projections based on the sales plan you drafted, which takes into consideration your market analysis. (See how this all fits together?)
Nobody said it would be easy, but the lessons you learned at your lemonade stand have prepared you. Now go! Start writing. You have a food truck business to open.