Starting a Food Truck Business in South Africa

At almost every public outdoor event, whether it be a festival, market or a concert, you are very likely to spot a few food trucks providing a variety of culinary experiences. The popularity of food trucks has greatly increased in the last few years. These days the quality of food truck menus have also expanded to include gourmet options and a variety of speciality dishes that you may not expect to find, coming out a food truck business. “Street food” had become a very popular trend within the hospitality industry throughout the world. The idea is simple: gourmet trucks, carts, or vans pop up in often unexpected parts of a city to offer anyone and everyone a chance to taste their delectable, mouth-watering food at a good price. This trend has gained a lot of traction within South Africa, with a number of South African food trucks emerging.

The food truck movement as we currently know it evolved from a direct response to the recession around 2007 in the US, where restaurants had to downscale operations and patrons had less cash to spend on lunch. Since launching in South Africa, food trucks have rapidly been causing an exciting alternative to your usual food outing.

Other than enjoying a good old fashioned boerewors roll, have you ever wondered what it takes to start or run a food truck business? Being an independent vendor can be costly, sometimes with little ROI. A big consideration for these kinds of business is budget and the start-up cost of financing the business needs to be considered.

Firstly start with finding your business’ unique identity and brand. Sure, you can have a simple and easy to produce menu but you can get creative with the ways in which to promote yourself – find your Unique Selling Point. Business owners need to decide at which events they would like to trade at, whether publicly at markets or festivals or at private or corporate events. Knowing which events you will be attending will help you fine-tune your brand.

As your largest expense, your truck is a key investment. Make sure you find a truck that can be converted into a food truck or a second-hand truck that already has all the equipment you will need to run your business install. Trucks can also be costly to drive and maintain – but they do allow freedom of movement.

To start a food truck business you also need to aware of the laws and regulations of owning a food truck. Business owners will need to access the correct permits such as a business licence, health and safety certificate and a liquor licence if you want to sell alcohol. These requirements may vary from business to business and from one local municipality to the next. Your first step is to fulfil all your legal obligations by applying for a business licence and health and safety certification, formally known as Certificate of Acceptability. You may also have to get special zoning permission to operate in public areas.

Business owners also need to decide how they will be staffing their truck or store and the level of skills they would require, whether it is a gourmet chef, chef-in-training, mid-level staff or temporary staff. You also need to ensure that you have the correct equipment.

Lastly, you should enjoy it. At its core running a food truck business is all about passion and community. Those who know your business and food will keep coming back for more and will keep an eye out for you at events.
Starting a food truck business can be a high-risk investment so you need to ensure that you have the passion and drive, as well as business know-how to make a success of it. Enjoy the ride!

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