Frequently Asked Questions
How long will it take me to set up my business?
To source the right truck, plan to spend at least 3 months. If you buy used, you want to look around for a while and make sure you are getting the best price on the right piece of equipment. You want to have a finalized menu in place so you know exactly what you are going to need on the truck.
To get the proper licensing and permitting in the Washington DC area, plan to spend 2 months after you have sourced your truck. There are lots of stops at places with inconsistent (and inconvenient) hours, encyclopedias worth of paperwork, and various inspections along the way.
Once you can legally operate, spend at least a week in low traffic areas "practicing" your craft and getting a good idea of where the best spots to operate are.
How much money will I be able to make off of my food truck?
For a good food truck in DC that has a streamlined process from start to finish, you may be able to serve 100 people per day between April and October, and roughly half of that between November and March. Industry guidance suggests a net profit margin of under 10%, but this is far too low of a number in DC with a good process in place.
How do you get to be a "good" food truck in DC, with a "good" process in place? Proper planning and leveraging as much industry knowledge and know how as you can get. Spending the time and money to ensure that the truck you have is the right truck, the product you are selling is the right product, and the people you have in place are the right people. Once you have a truck purchased and in service, it is nearly impossible to retrofit that truck if you do not have the correct equipment, layout, and design in place.
A minute of time spent planning is worth an hour of work later on, easily.
One of our most request services is a quick, ballpark estimate on potential earnings for a food truck, and annual costs of that truck to operate. A complete financial projection spreadsheet is available for a nominal price here, with more information on our services page. We have received only positive feedback on this spreadsheet and posted it for sale due to popular demand. The numbers listed are based on ACTUAL historical numbers (rounded to the nearest whole number) of operating an ACTUAL food truck in Washington DC. You will NOT find information this comprehensive or transparent anywhere else on the internet.
**NOTE: These numbers should in no way be relied upon. They represent a specific period of time for one truck. Many factors impact the numbers illustrated or mentioned on this site.**
How much does starting a food truck cost?
The answer you don't want to hear - it completely depends on the truck. There are tons of variables on the value and price of the truck, including electrical needs, fire surpression, cooking equipment, and plumbing to name a few. The ballpark estimates for starting a food truck in Washington, DC, complete with licensing, design, a new vinyl wrap on your truck, and a truck, for both new and used trucks-
Used: $30,000 for the truck, $2,000 for licensing and business organization, $3,000 in maintenance or redesign on the used truck, $5,000 for vinyl wrap and design, $3,000 for rent and security deposit at a commercial kitchen = roughly $43,000
New: Depending on needs, between $50,000 and $90,000 for the truck (70 is a good number), $5,000 for vinyl wrap and design, $2,000 for licensing and business organization, $3,000 for rent and security deposit at a commercial kitchen = roughly $80,000
More information, including a comprehensive description of different trade-offs to buying new versus used is available for sale here, and on our tools page for a nominal fee. The guide includes actual quotes from vendors, as well as full cost information about running an actual food truck. Food truck costing is a largely unpublished and unknown area to the general public, and certainly one of the most valuable tools in determining the economic viability of a business.