rack n grill
Muammer Kasu's food truck Rack 'n Grill. (Image: Rack 'n Grill)
  • Starting a food truck business can be less expensive compared to a brick-and-mortar establishment, but it still requires a lot of work.
  • From location licence to insuring your business, there's a string of paperwork you need to get through.
  • A key element in any food truck business, often overlooked, is marketing and adverting.
  • Here's what you need to know about starting a food truck.
  • For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Starting a food truck business in South Africa may be no easy feat, but it's still less expensive and easier to get it going than a traditional brick-and-mortar restaurant.

While the food truck phenomenon is more deeply entrenched in the street culture of many other countries, the trend in South Africa has been picking up steam. Popping up in city centres, food trucks are also becoming an even bigger element of large festivals, events, and other private functions.

Here's what it takes to get your mobile food truck business on the road.

Research

Like most business ventures, you'll need to do thorough research and assess whether what you want to offer aligns with your market and intended locations, head of the Cape Town Food Truck Association, Rob Munro, told Business Insider South Africa.

"Finding a location and finding a product is the biggest challenge," he said.

"You have to properly study your market; make sure that the product that you have developed is something people will buy. I'm not saying that you can't convert people into eating really great food, but sometimes most of those people in food trucking don't make those breakthroughs," Munro said.

One success story is that of Muammer Kasu, owner of Cape Town-based food truck Rack 'n Grill.

Curating a menu to its last details before everything is crucial and is essentially what determines the next step - the type of truck you need - Kasu said.

"Firstly, you're going to have to know what kind of menu you want to do. That will determine what size food truck you'll need, what kind of equipment you're going to need, and how many staff members you're going to need to train," Kasu said.

food
rackngrill.co.za.

Getting your truck

Several options are available when it comes to getting a truck, including renting, building from scratch, or purchasing the truck either second-hand or brand new.

Munro, however, advises going for a second-hand food truck, given it is more likely to already have most or all of the kitchen equipment you may need. A standard second-hand food truck may cost anything from R25,000 to R100,000, he said. The older it is, the cheaper it will be.

If you intend to first pilot your food trucking business, renting one, which may cost around R5,000 monthly, is a more prudent approach, he said.

For a brand new one, you may need from around R120,000 for an average truck that is not equipped and closer to R600,000 for a bigger one. These you will more likely still need to equip with cold storage, stoves, and other equipment; and if you need more specialised paraphernalia such as shawarma making equipment, you may need around R250,000 to kit your mobile kitchen.

Legal paperwork and licences

Once you have registered your business and it is operational, you'll need a business licence and a certificate of acceptability which can both be sourced from your closest municipal office.

Any business that manufactures, stores, distributes, prepares, transports, or sells foodstuff for public consumption must hold a certificate of acceptability.

Similarly, any operation that includes the sale or supply of meals must have a business licence.

The municipal office will send out an environmental health inspector to you to ensure you follow the required food safety practices. If passed, it will grant you a licence of acceptability.

Food truck owners also need permission in the form of location permits from city governments to allow them to trade in public spaces.

"I just can't rock up at the beach or on the side of the road and start selling my product, you need a location permit, and each city has that for different areas," said Kasu.

If you're located on private property, you also need the owner's permission to trade there.

Insuring your business

You typically need two types of insurance cover, normal comprehensive business insurance, and public liability insurance.

The business insurance covers the contents of the business, including the truck itself and the equipment should it suffer damage from hail, national disasters and theft, among others.

The public liability insurance is if, for example, your patrons get food poisoning from one of your meals, so that you can cover any medical costs should they occur.

Spreading the word and keeping connected

While one of the most significant marketing advantages about food trucks is that they virtually market themselves if branded properly, many food truck owners make the mistake of overlooking the marketing and online interaction step of the business, but visibility and communication are paramount, Munro said.

"Online presence these days is vital; it's the number one most important part," said Munro.

"Make sure that you cover your bases on how to market yourself and responding to customers [on social media] and getting customers," he said.

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