Firstly, if you’re not experienced in the food cart business, my advice is that you work in one for the next six months or so doing everything from busing tables and washing dishes to waiting tables and cooking if they’ll allow you and if you have the skills. This will give you some of the work experience that you’ll need to understand and run a food-cart profitably.
If this is your first business venture, I would strongly recommend that you talk to a business counselor before you do anything especially spend money. You can call us or if funds are tight, I’d call the local office of SCORE (input your zip code to find the chapter nearest you), the advice is FREE. Ask for someone who has a background in restaurants/food-carts and they’ll try their best to match you with the right counselor.
We, and the counselor at SCORE, will advise you to write a business plan which is very good advice because it will force you to dig out all of the start up details and the costs of starting a food-cart/restaurant and force you to also understand all of the aspects of this business including the customers you’ll concentrate on (your market) and how you’ll get them to find out and want to come to your fabulous cafe/restaurant,food-cart.
The location of the food-cart is important but doesn’t make it successful. To prove that all you have to do is walk down a street in your town where there are several nice food-carts all in a row and you’ll find one or two that are empty or with no lines of customers while the others are very busy. It has to do with your menu, the ambiance of your cart, and your reputation at the beginning and over time.
You also have to have food handling licenses, the right zoning, the right city and county licenses and permits and you have to be skilled at negotiating with your about the cost of the retrofit or the changes to the cart to make it ready for your look and feel. Food carts generally have the same health and safety requirements as restaurants, so you can expect regular inspections for fire and health issues. You also have to worry about the normal business planning and management issues related to starting up any business.