What does it cost to start a food truck business?

With the food truck trend continuing to grow across the nation, you can now grab gourmet, artisanal fare ranging from Korean BBQ tacos to melt-in-your-mouth beignets from these mobile eateries.

What does it cost to start a food truck business?

With many food trucks serving up street food interpretations of global delicacies, nowadays it seems like the very best food comes from a truck – without the creepy serving candy out of the back of a van feel – and that this gourmet fare often comes at affordable prices. Cities best known for their thriving food truck scenes include Los Angeles, Austin, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Washington DC and Boston, among many other hotspots.

According to IBISWorld, a Los Angeles-based industry research firm, the street food business, which includes food trucks and nonmechanized carts, is a $1 billion industry that saw an 8 percent growth rate from 2007 to 2012. Employees pressed for time on their lunch break or headed into the office (or back home from the office) can grab a quick, delicious meal along the way without having to take the time to sit in a restaurant and wait for the food to be served.

As a strong indication that food trucks may be here to stay, cities have had to change their laws to keep up with this growing food truck movement. But just what goes into being a part of this force de cuisine? Is owning and operating a food truck really a viable business opportunity?

Everybody knows that opening and running a restaurant is a risky and expensive venture, but what about a restaurant on wheels that requires no wait staff, nor permanent brick and mortar location? True, the initial start up costs associated with food trucks are usually significantly lower than the price of opening a traditional restaurant; but food trucks present a variety of hidden operating costs you may have never even thought about. Here are some of those hidden costs:

The truck itself can be an extremely expensive purchase. Quality, commercial kitchen- yielding field trucks aren’t your run of the mill, hey let’s just borrow my uncle’s van and serve tacos out of the backseat, kind of vehicles. Food trucks can run into the tens of thousands of dollars range, and upward. And it’s important to purchase and maintain a quality truck, since a food truck without a truck is just not going to cut it. So on top of the actual truck and kitchen equipment purchases, throw fuel and maintenance, as well as regular vehicle inspections into the mix.

Running a food truck is about more than cooking up great grub and finding a great parking spot. You need to make your food truck venture legal with a permit. You must determine licensing requirements via your city or county health and environmental department, and these licenses can cost upwards of a thousand bucks. That’s if you can even get a permit – larger cities often have a cap on how many food trucks are allowed to operate within city limits, which leads to some truck owners having to buy a permit on the black market. Imagine that, a black market for food truck licenses. Yep, it’s a real thing.

As with any business, food trucks need the proper insurance to protect their employees and the overall business venture. Food truck operators need to be sure that their insurance protects them should they get into a car accident, if their truck is stolen or vandalized, and protect those items and kitchen requirement in the truck that require special coverage, among many other coverage areas. Put those coverage areas on top of the usual worker’s compensation, general liability, and commercial liability requirements, and you’ve got a whole lot of insurance costs.

The beauty behind food trucks is that they can move around to different locations. The bummer behind food trucks is that they can around to different locations. In stark contrast to traditional brick and mortar restaurants, food trucks that move around have to make sure to keep their customers informed of where they can be found. For that reason, advertising and marketing costs (in terms of both dollars and time spent) must be factored into food truck operation costs.

At the end of the day, you’ll need a place to park your food truck. Storage and parking costs can quickly add up, and you need to make sure you’re leaving your food truck in a safe place, free from those looking to snatch a tasty treat (or the entire truck) after operating hours.

RELATED: The Food Truck Handbook: Start, Grow, and Succeed in the Mobile Food Business

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Where are some of the best food trucks in America?

Since we’re on the topic of food trucks, and now starving, we compiled a quick list of the best food trucks around the US. If you’ve got a favorite, let us know in the comments. If you’re looking for killer food trucks in your area, check out Roaming Hunger.

Off the Grid — San Francisco, CA

Off the Grid started in 2010 with one simple idea — grouping street food vendors of similar tastes and flavors and create and experience that would allow people and cultures to connect. Off the Grid currently operates twenty-three weekly markets in the greater Bay Area and works with over 150 vendors weekly.

Kogi — Los Angeles, CA

In 2008, on Thanksgiving, Kogi BBQ rolled out as “a little Korean-taco-truck-that-could,” selling $2.00 Korean barbecue tacos on the streets of L.A. Within a few short months, Kogi BBQ would become an icon of Los Angeles street food. The truck considers itself a “roving symbol of rebellion, independence and the belief that excellent food can be had on a dime budget.”

John Mueller Meat Co. — Austin, TX

John Mueller Meat Co. continues the revered institution of Texas meat markets by bringing the traditional butcher and smokehouse back to Austin.

Roxy’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese — Boston, MA

Roxy’s isn’t grandma’s grilled cheese. They’re about taking grilled cheese to the next level by adding ingredients you never really thought possible.

Korilla — New York City

Korilla is a complex combination of classic Korean recipes in contemporary forms. They make wraps, chosun rice bowls, and salad bowls and turn them on their ears.

For more, consult this list of the 21 best food trucks in America.

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