If you know how to feed a big group on a small budget without cutting out the flavor, why not open a restaurant? The answer, of course, is that a restaurant is one of the riskiest businesses to start. But that doesn’t stop the ones you feed from suggesting you should get into catering or start a food truck business. Indeed, these restaurants on wheels may prove to be more attainable than a traditional sit-down establishment.
Difficulty arises in trying to decide which to pursue…a catering service or a food truck? For those in the position of trying to choose whether to start a catering company or a food truck service, consider the following:
When it comes to restaurants on wheels, the second-most important element apart from the food is the vehicle or fleet of vehicles being used. The distinction between catering and food trucks is highlighted by the differences in the vehicles themselves:
Catering can be done with a van or a trailer hitched to a car. Other than applying custom trailer graphics to the outside and installing some shelving and other compartments in the cabin and cargo areas, few modifications or specialized components are required for vehicles used in catering.
Food trucks, on the other hand, require a vehicle specifically designed for this purpose; heating elements, coolers, and the adequate power supply are engineered to fit into a delivery style truck. Not to mention the service window and outer paneling is more intricate than with a van or trailer.
In the event that your restaurant on wheels is a big success, scaling it to handle more business will certainly be on the agenda. In many ways, this process is identical across both catering and food truck service, but distinctions exist:
Scaling a catering service will likely involve being able to handle larger events. This means an expansion of the kitchen and prep kitchen used prior to transporting the food, as well as the supplies such as chafing dishes and utensils.
Scaling a food truck business is more about covering more ground across multiple locations, i.e. the focus will be more on expanding the fleet of food trucks. Furthermore, a food truck service is more likely to depend on adequate storage systems, particularly climate controlled storage, to better throttle their flow; catering will be able to count more on plans made months in advance and therefore storage is less important.
Deciding whether to get into catering or the food truck biz may come down to the market in the area. For instance, a place with numerous office parks and business districts will be prime real estate for a food truck, whereas a location with a high volume of organizations, clubs, etc would work well for catering. The two bleed over; companies in office parks may request catering and church functions may want a food truck in the vicinity, but each has their turf which is optimum for their respective wheelhouse.
Are you the type that likes planning, predictability, scheduling, and precision executed across days, weeks, and months? Or, are you the type who likes to work on the fly, think on your fit, and go with your gut when the moment is right? If you’re the former, catering is up your alley, whereas those in the latter category will probably prefer the food truck lifestyle.
Opening a traditional dine-in restaurant is always going to be risky, even with your knockout homegrown recipes providing the foundation. Too many additional factors influence the success. However, putting a restaurant on wheels is a bit more practical, and may prove to be more your style. It’s just a question of whether to get into catering or launching a food truck service.