How to start a food truck business

From picking the truck to securing some finance - your FAQs answered.

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If you think you might be up to the food truck challenge – we’ve put together a brief guide to the ins and outs of starting a business.

How do I pick the type of food truck I want?

There are a few different variables to note when you think about what type of food truck you want:

  • The local market: is it saturated with a certain style of food? What can you serve people that they would want?
  • Your own cooking skills and equipment limitations
  • Types of food that are “food truck friendly”

The physical layout of the food truck itself might also have an impact on the types of food you’re able to offer.

What types can I choose from?

You don’t have to opt for the most expensive food truck on the market when you’re new to the food truck business. There are multiple options in your venue selections, including the following:

  • Food carts. These are small and mobile, ideal for targeting lunch and weekend crowds.
  • Food trucks. You’ll have more options here, both in terms of the quantities of food you can prepare and the venues you select.

As to your individual food style, consider choosing from these “big three” options:

  • Casual. Fried snacks and classic favourites tend to fall under the “casual” menu.
  • Gourmet. Look for a higher level of ingredients and produce them for casual eating.
  • Specialty. Do you live near the coast where seafood is king? Do you focus on a specific group of ingredients?

How should I plan my menu?

Choosing a menu comes down to two things: serving your market and dealing with the realities of local supply.

If you’ve chosen a seafood specialty food truck, for example, your menu should revolve around the best-quality ingredients you can find within the market. It may even vary depending on the suppliers you’re able to identify.

Make sure you get feedback from customers as you go. They’re ultimately the final “test” for all of your menu items and will determine the overall popularity of your food truck.

How do I finance my food truck business?

You have a number of options when it comes to funding your food truck business. You will need to cover costs like the purchase of the truck itself as well as fund any initial and ongoing business expenses. You can take advantage of one of the following finance options to help you cover costs:

  • Equipment finance.
  • Business line of credit.
  • Secured business loan.
  • Unsecured business loan.
  • Fixed-term business loan.
Name Product Min. Loan Amount Max. Loan Amount Loan Term Upfront Fee Filter Values
Swoop Finance Business Loan
1 to 20 years
Depending on your loan contract
Apply online and borrow between $18,000 and $90,000,000. Options for good and bad credit borrowers.
Zip Business Loan
Up to 5 years
No establishment fee
Borrow up to $500,000 with loan terms of up to 5 years. Flexible weekly, fortnightly and monthly repayment options available with no early repayment fees.
Lumi Unsecured Business Loan
3 months to 3 years
2.5% establishment fee
Apply for up to $300,000 from Lumi and benefit from short loan terms, no early repayment fees and once approved receive your funds in just one business day.
ANZ Unsecured Business Loan
No maximum amount
1 to 30 years
Subject to negotiation and will be detailed in your Letter of Offer
Apply for a loan from $10,000 with no security required and benefit from flexible repayment terms.
ebroker Business Loan
1 month to 30 years
$0 application fee
Small business loans available between $5,000 and $5,000,000. Get access to 70+ non-bank lenders on this independent platform.
Valiant Finance Business Loan Broker
3 months to 5 years
$0 application fee
A Business Lending Specialist from Valiant Finance can give you access to competitive business loans from over 70 lenders. Loans between $5,000 and $1 million are available. Request a call – your loan can be funded in 1 business day.
Moula Business Loan
1 to 2 years
2% Establishment fee
A loan of up to $250,000 that can be approved and funded within 24 hours. Available to businesses with 6+ months operating history and $5,000+ monthly sales.
Max Funding Unsecured Business Loan
1 month to 1 year
$0 application fee
An unsecured business loan from $3,000 that offers convenient pre-approval and no early repayment fees.
OnDeck Business Loans
6 months to 2 years
3% of loan amount
Apply for up to $250,000 and receive your approved funds in one business day. Minimum annual turnover of $100,000 and 1 year of trading history required.
ANZ Secured Business Loan
No maximum amount
1 to 30 years
Subject to negotiation and will be detailed in your Letter of Offer
Benefit from a low rate when you secure this loan with property and/or business assets. Loans from $10,000 available.
Octet Trade Finance
1 month to 2 years
Transaction fee 2.5%
Access a line of credit to pay suppliers in over 65 countries. Borrow from $200,000 up to $7 million.
Prospa Business Loan
3 months to 3 years
3% origination fee
Small business loans are available from $5,000 - $500,000 on terms of up to 3 years. At least six months trading history and a monthly turnover from $6,000 is necessary.
Westpac Business Loan
1 to 30 years
$0 application fee
Purchase a new vehicle, equipment or support your cash flow with a business finance solution from Westpac.

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How to compare loans for your food truck business

Finding the right loan option for your food truck will depend on your specific financial situation. If you are just starting the business and need to purchase the vehicle and equipment, your loan needs won't be the same as someone who's expanding their existing business.

However, no matter what loan option you choose, there are some general features that you should consider before applying for a loan:

  • The loan amount. Different loan types will have different minimum and maximum borrowing amounts, so it's important to consider why you need the funds before committing to a specific loan.
  • The interest rate. The rate you receive will also vary based on the type of loan you need. For example, a secured loan will generally have a lower rate than an unsecured loan.
  • Fees and charges. These include application or service fees as well as any fees or charges if you break the loan or fail to make repayments on time.
  • Loan terms. How long you want to repay the loan will narrow down which loan options are available to you.
  • Repayment schedule. While most loans will require you to make regular repayments against the amount you owe, the time frame will vary and some repayment schedules may suit some businesses better than others.

Licences and costs: a brief guide

Starting a food truck business does require that you jump a few hurdles, but that doesn’t mean it will be impossible. Because a food truck has to address the vital issue of food safety, you’ll be expected to qualify for basic food safety handling permits and licences. (See for more information about each state and territory’s requirements). Mobile food units face the same stringent requirements as restaurants, including the following:

  • Proper training for any staff that you hire, through nationally accredited food safety courses
  • In many states – such as NSW, VIC and QLD – you’ll be required to keep a Food Safety Supervisor on staff. They should be properly trained and certified; here in Australia, you can search through resumes to find people already properly accredited recommends applying with the local authority for the proper business and food safety permits. Because they differ from state to state and territories, there’s no one single answer for your licensing and costs questions.

And what about those costs? With food trucks, much of it is upfront – acquiring the truck itself. But you may also have to front the following ongoing expenses:

  • Maintaining the Food Safety Supervisor on staff (in relevant states)
  • Maintaining, cleaning and replacing cooking equipment
  • Maintenance on the vehicle itself
  • Labour costs
  • Ongoing insurance costs

What types of insurance will I need to consider?

As is the case with any business that poses some potential risk to the public, you’ll want to make sure you have the proper insurance coverage for your food truck. You may want to look into the following insurance:

  • Vehicle coverage
  • Public liability
  • Damage and theft
  • Income coverage

Make sure that your public liability insurance coverage is comprehensive. This is true for all of the insurance you need for your food truck, but the wide exposure of food trucks to public liability means that a single lawsuit could potentially wipe out your business if you don’t have the proper coverage.

Watch: Learn about the small business instant tax write-off

Want more information? Check out our guide to the small business instant tax write-off.

Tips for success

We know that it sounds like a lot of steps, but operating a food truck can still be the fun, independent venture you thought it would be. Here are a few tips for your ongoing success:

  • Buy the proper insurance upfront. The more you know your ongoing costs, the better you’ll be able to budget your business properly.
  • Make food safety a priority. Not only will it help the quality of your product, it will ensure you don’t run into trouble with regulators.
  • Serve your market. It’s not enough to serve food; you have to serve the food people want to eat in your local market. Take the time to properly research your niche and discover what people want.

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