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Are Food Truck Franchises Worth the Investment?

For many franchisees, the food truck model offers a low-cost-of-entry opportunity to join the quick-service restaurant space.

The cost of a food truck franchise can vary greatly, depending on any fees associated with the franchisor, vehicle requirements, and other training and inventory costs. However, for many franchisees, the food truck model offers a lower initial investment relative to brick-and-mortar concepts and allows the business owner more flexibility in bringing its goods to market. 

“It’s definitely easier for us to get up and running with a food truck than it is with brick and mortar,” explained Annie Tselikis, director of marketing and franchise sales at Cousins Maine Lobster. “From the time that we award a franchise agreement to the time that they open is a matter of months, whereas building out a restaurant is a much longer process and is much more capital intensive.”

While a mobile model offers a more streamlined startup, it also presents franchisees with an opportunity to conduct sales and marketing simultaneously.

“There’s a lot that you can do with the food truck to leverage your brand,” Tselikis added. “We also have a restaurant concept, and we have franchisees who started with food trucks and are expanding to brick-and-mortar. Those concepts work really well together because the food trucks end up being like a rolling billboard in the city, and that benefits the brick-and-mortar location in that market.”

Though food truck franchises still have dedicated territories, like many other mobile concepts, its ability to move throughout that territory over the span of a day, week or month allows the franchisee to reach a wider range of customers, targeting various locations or events. As it moves through the territory, the branded vehicle also serves as a sort of free advertising, encouraging the general public to look into the brand and seek out its next stop.

Special Considerations for Food Truck Investments

While there are many benefits to the food truck model, there are also a few things to consider, Tselikis explained.

“Doing your due diligence on your market is really important,” she explained. “What is available for resources in your market? What are the regulations around food trucks in the primary market in which you want to be vending? There are a lot of regulations around where you can and cannot park a food truck. You need to know what you need for your commissary support—cold storage and logistics.”

Understanding the operations within the truck is just as important. Because the inside of a food truck is generally pretty small, there is not much space for excess inventory or many employees. This circumstance can cut down on both material and labor costs, but it also means the franchise owner must be confident in their ability to operate efficiently in a more confined space and with a bit less flexibility.

Ultimately, though, Tselikis says the food truck model can be a ton of fun.

“In a market that you know and care about, you get to partner with other entrepreneurs,” she explained. “Whether it’s brewery owners, wineries, other small business owners, garden centers, events managers … There’s a lot of collaboration in managing a food truck. I think that’s really fun for people who are social and love, in our case, bringing food to people who have not necessarily tried lobster before. It’s a really joyful experience, and I think that partnership is really the spirit of entrepreneurship. Collaboration makes us all stronger.”

So, Is It Worth It?

For the right person, yes. The food truck model is certainly different from a brick-and-mortar investment. For some people, these differences are appealing, and for others, they may feel overwhelming. 

However, from a purely financial or timeline standpoint, food trucks are a quicker, more affordable way to get in business. With adequate planning for the long-term operational requirements, the business can be just as successful as any other model.