Food Trucks: Powered by Community Banks

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Imagine three million food trucks parked in a row. Yes, three million. That’s how many food trucks there are these days in the U.S. alone. You’re looking at about a $1-billion industry. Not bad for something that’s a distant relative of a Wild West chuck wagon. And, as you can imagine, 9,000 miles of must-have food requires a lot of local banking.

Food Truck Frenzy

Amazing food, parked right in front of you at lunchtime. That combination of cuisine and convenience has created opportunities for millions of chefs all across America. Maybe they’re not all gourmet chefs, but they’re pursuing their passions, making a living, and business is booming.

If one of the top dreams for opening a business is restaurants, then the more attainable dream of opening a food truck must not be far behind. All a food truck needs is a great chef with some business sense, a few excellent food options, and a decent street location where locals and foodie tourists can find it, and they’re revved up for business.

Well, not so fast. The truck, the fuel, the cooking and refrigeration equipment, the ingredients, the staff, and everything else will add up. That’s going to require some financing, some place to manage the money and, hopefully, some experienced community bankers to guide the new food truck owner along the way.

Financing All That Food

Starting a traditional restaurant—one that stays where it’s put—can easily cost $500,000 or more. A food truck business can get itself on the road for an average of $60,000. That’s a major reason why food trucks are getting so many green lights. It may not be easy to get that first small business loan for your business on wheels—many end up leasing the vehicle itself—but the ongoing finance needs will definitely require a solid local bank.

And it’s not just about loans. While most food trucks take credit cards, cash is still a popular king. You may not be driving your restaurant through the bank’s drive-through every night, but you will be making a steady series of cash deposits. Community banks serve cash businesses very well, and having them already know your name when you show up to make your deposits can be a real time saver and great experience as well.

Fleet of Food

When food trucks hit it big (in a safe way, that is), the next step is often to add a second vehicle so they can literally be in two places at once. The days of the food truck just showing up at a single place every day or night are long gone. Food trucks need to go where the action is, and that can include fairs, concerts, and even events where the main feature is, well, food trucks.

Then, when everyone in town wants to line up for the same food truck, it’s time to start thinking about the next big journey:  an additional location that has no wheels. In other words, a restaurant. Thousands of successful food trucks have either morphed into regular restaurants or added a brick-and-mortar version to their fleet.

At every phase, a food truck owner would benefit greatly from the advice of a community banker who has been there and done that for other food truck folks.

The Takeaway

Everyone loves food trucks, especially since the quality and variety of food truck food keeps getting better and better. If reading about food trucks and finance has made you hungry—or maybe even inspired you to start one of your own—consider stopping at a community bank to learn more about the industry. Yes, it’s okay to stop at a food truck on your way.