Food trucks are a popular type of business for entrepreneurs who love food. They can be less expensive to start than a bricks and mortar restaurant, and can provide owners with a creative and flexible way to reach customers.
Starting and running a food truck requires capital, though. If you’re looking for financing for your food truck business, here’s a guide to your options.
Start Up Costs for a Food Truck
How much you’ll need to start a food truck depends on a lot of factors, including whether you are able to buy your truck used, how much retrofitting or customizing is needed, the cost of licenses and more.
Food truck startup costs may include:
- Renovations, repairs and/or retrofitting
- Business formation costs
- License and permits
- POS system
- Commercial kitchen costs (if needed)
- Food & beverages
- Paper products
- Initial labor costs
- Social media marketing
Each of these costs can add up quickly. Food Truck Nation reports, for example, that the average food truck operator spends 37 days dealing with business regulations, at a total average cost of $28,276 in average cost for permits, licenses and compliance.
FoodTruckEmpire.com offers a helpful free spreadsheet for estimating food truck costs.
Is Buying A Food Truck A Good Investment?
A food truck can be a profitable business, but it’s certainly not guaranteed. According to IbisWorld, the market size of the food truck industry in the US grew 7.9% per year on average between 2017 and 2022.
While there is certainly potential to make a good return on investment from a food truck, as with any small business, some will do well and others won’t. A lot of different factors can go into determining whether a food truck will be profitable, including the menu and the cost of ingredients, the location and competition, labor costs and availability of labor, advertising and more.
One way to help ensure your food truck is a success is to create a solid business plan. There are several sources of information on how to create a food truck business plan.
Two great resources are:
- LivePlan: This highly regarded business planning software is comprehensive and adaptable for your food service business.
- SBA Resource Partners: You can get free help with your small business plan and other services from SCORE and Small Business Development Center (SBDCs). Find local help here.
What Are The Business Loan Options Available For Food Trucks?
Food truck operators may find they need to explore several types of financing depending on the stage of their business and qualifications. These may include:
- Equipment financing
- Working capital loans
- Lines of credit
- Business credit cards
- Merchant Cash Advances
- SBA loan
We’ll explore each of these in more depth, but it’s important to understand that your financing needs will be different at various stages of your business. It’s unlikely that a single loan will cover all your needs, so be prepared to be flexible and creative as you explore food truck financing options. You may need to piece together several options to get to where you need.
Keep in mind that many lenders will require a combination of good credit (personal credit scores and/or business credit scores may be checked), strong revenues or cash flow, and at least two years in business. There are fewer options for startups, and we’ll mention those in a moment.
Make sure you open and use a business bank account from the beginning. Many lenders will require business bank statements to verify annual revenues.
Best Loans for Food Truck Financing
Here are some of the best best food truck financing options to help you start or grow your food truck business:
Equipment financing can be useful for acquiring new equipment or upgrading existing equipment without a lot of money out of pocket. Equipment leasing may have significant tax benefits as well.
Working Capital Loans
Working capital refers to the day-to-day expenses of your business, whether that’s supplies, payroll or fuel for your truck. Working capital loans are short-term loans that help business owners finance those immediate needs. Offered by traditional bank lenders as well as online lenders, they are sometimes referred to as cash flow loans.
Lines of Credit
A business line of credit gives your business access to a certain amount of money when you need it. You can borrow up to your credit limit, pay it back, and borrow again. This is one of the most popular types of financing for small businesses, and can be especially helpful for food trucks where seasonal changes in business or unexpected expenses like a costly repair must be handled quickly.
With a term loan, you borrow a lump sum of money and pay it back over a specific period of time. Often that means making monthly payments for anywhere from a few months to several years.
Business Credit Cards
Business credit cards can be essential for a business that needs access to financing but is having trouble qualifying because the business is too new or doesn’t have sufficient revenues yet. Most business credit cards are approved based on the owner’s personal credit score and income from all sources (not just the business). They are available to startup food truck owners who qualify.
Merchant Cash Advances
Most food trucks accept credit and debit cards for payment. Merchant cash advances (MCAs) offer an advance against future sales, based on past sales history. A portion of future credit or debit card transactions will then be deducted to repay the advance. This type of financing can be very fast, and good credit is not typically required. Costs can be high though.
There are several types of small business loans that are guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA). These include 7(a) loans and SBA microloans, both of which can be helpful for food truck businesses. SBA loans may also be used to purchase an existing business. Lenders will require good credit, though specific minimum credit score requirements vary, and a personal guarantee is often required. The loan application process for an SBA loan can take several weeks to a few months.
If you have loyal customers, they may help you fund your business through crowdfunding. There are several types of crowdfunding that have been used successfully by restaurants and food trucks, including rewards-based crowdfunding and investment crowdfunding.
Frequently Asked Questions About Food Truck Financing
If you need equipment for your food truck business, an equipment loan or leasing can help you finance it over time. Equipment loans and leasing help food truck business owners preserve cash flow so you can save it for other purposes.