If you often buy lunch from food trucks or vendors, you might wonder about the people who stand behind the counters of these little trucks day after day. Where do food trucks go at night? Are the people who work within them the same people who own them? How is it that some of the best street food on earth can be produced inside the confines of the tiniest vehicles? How does one become a successful street vendor? Does a street vendor need a formal culinary education?
Some of these questions are easier to answer than others, and of course the answers vary depending on the specific street vendor or food trucks in question. Most of the time, as long as you aren’t pestering a street vendor during the busy lunch hour, the best way to satisfy your curiosity is to simply put your shyness aside and ask. But there are also a few general trends that prevail among street vendors and food trucks depending on their specific cities.
A Day in the Life of a Street Vendor
The best street food is often produced by experienced vendors who are able to keep prices low and quality high. This is often easiest for franchises, or multiple carts owned by one person who hires employees to handle individual transactions. These owners often bring their food trucks back to the same location on weekend nights and deploy them strategically around the city during the day. Trucks may be moved off the street at night, or they may simply be shuttered and cleaned, waiting to receive deliveries and open to customers the following morning.
No matter who owns them, food trucks are usually customized to offer specific and limited types of food, much of it prepped beforehand so it can be finished with minimal fuss and handed over quickly. But this only solves one portion of the food truck mystery. The rest usually lies with the skill of the street vendor herself, who often handles multiple tasks with octopus-like flair that can’t be learned overnight. The blur of coordinated activity taking place inside of a busy food truck can be mesmerizing to witness.
Mobile Food Trucks: Starting Out as a Street Vendor
Food trucks have traditionally provided an honorable rung on the path to financial independence. Becoming a street vendor offers many benefits, including the opportunity to share your love of a certain type of food with the world. But small businesses ownership also requires a high tolerance for risk and responsibility. Location and pricing decisions, recipes for the best street food, production methods and hiring decisions often lie with the street vendor, and her guidance often comes from experience alone.
If you would like to start a mobile food business, your first step should involve selling food at local street fairs, which usually only requires a temporary license. If you enjoy the process and find it profitable, you may want to take the next step and apply for the necessary paperwork, including a state sales tax permit, a local government tax certificate, a general business license for your city and a city peddlers license.
If you’re successful selling at local street fairs and farmers markets, eventually you can invest in your own mobile food truck, which you can customize for your specific purposes. Before you take to the streets, you’ll want determine your location and pricing methods and the best ways to procure fresh ingredients. After all of this, you’ll finally be ready to perfect your recipes and methods in order to make the best street food possible.