What You Need to Start a Food Truck Business in Los Angeles

Posted by Sean Kearney on

Food Truck Los Angeles

As any resident of Los Angeles will tell you, there are plenty of different places selling food in Southern California, but managing to grab a quick bite to eat is not quite so easy. The restaurant world that exists in the Los Angeles area is certainly vast, but not necessarily fast.

Still, you may already have the solution in mind to cater for the fast moving people of the West Coast state—a good old fashioned food truck. These handy little outdoor restaurants and diners may not offer table service (or even tables to sit at) but with a view as good as that in Long Beach, who needs a table? Obviously, customers wouldn't be sitting at your establishment, but they mostly wouldn't have time to stick around for too long either. Then again, you might find that plenty of people congregate around these mini eateries. Regular customers are happy to enjoy the open air and the conversations that they wouldn't get in their place of work and with their colleagues.

The Culture

There is something to be said about the variety of the local food trucks in the area. Whether you frequent a food truck for a fleeting visit or a long chat on a quiet day with the restaurant owner, these little hubs of convenience are quite novel and certainly versatile. You are just as likely to find a burrito truck in Santa Monica as you are an ice cream truck on the Sunset Strip, and though a food truck is not fine dining, the industry in L.A. is quite reputable. Chefs of the highest order often got their start in the food truck business, and some even branched out into one.

If you already have a food truck in Los Angeles, or are thinking about starting a business with one, then there is certainly room for more. However, there are a few things you will need to consider first.

Location, Location, Location

Firstly, establishing a food truck in Los Angeles is one thing, but selecting its whereabouts it will be is another. A city within a county of the same name, L.A. forms a big part of the population of California, and is popular for people on vacation as well. Los Angeles, California is not just the second largest city in the United States either, it is a metropolis of cultures and peoples. In the northern part of the city you have the movie-making industry and TV studios of Hollywood. The pacific beaches of Western L.A. has a climate comparable to the Mediterranean coastline. In the center is Downtown Los Angeles, a sprawling and growing concrete jungle of skyscrapers, and the south is not too far away from mountains and deserts.

Don't forget, L.A. is also the host of the 2028 Olympic Games, which may seem a long ways off now, but preparations for this event will already have begun.

Yes, selecting where you want your food truck to be is not going to be easy, but the best part about starting a business in the City of Angels is that it is hard to pick a bad spot. You'll find that not a lot of time will pass before you establish a customer base, especially if you manage to find a spot that has yet to be graced by a food truck for the first time. With such a large population anywhere you look in the city, you should find plenty of customers everywhere you look, so make sure that you choose somewhere that you want to work in as well.

The Menu

Once you have your spot, you will have to come up with a menu that works. Chefs tend to have a specialty, and if you have already been a part of the dining experience, you'll know not to mix things up. After all, who visits a bakery when they want to eat steak? Food truck menus should be straightforward, and shouldn't have a lot of stuff on there. Again, this isn't fine dining, just choose a few things that you do extremely well quickly, and run with them.

Settling and Fitting In

In addition, be aware of your surroundings. The ethnic diversity of L.A. is second to nowhere else in the world, and every part of the demographic has brought their own tastes to the city and established them incredibly well. Sure, people like to try new things, but ultimately you don't usually find much desire for Cuban cuisine in the middle of Chinatown. Then again Cuban-Chinese food truck that brings dishes such as fried rice, chow mein or shrimp with black bean sauce, while the Cuban aspect brings dishes such as ropa vieja or platanos maduros sounds like a winner. Try to keep your choice of locale accessible to as many people as you can. At the same time, try not to step on anyone else's toes. Even if you are starting out, the owners of the burger van that was there for a decade doing just fine will not appreciate you showing up to sell patties just a few feet away. Plus, that kind of behavior never sits well with customers either, no matter the low prices you have. Remember, there is a big difference between having competitive prices and launching into direct competition.

Equipment

Arguably the largest part of branching into the food truck business is figuring out how to afford everything. Regardless of whether you are a beginner or have years of experience in the kitchen, you should know that restaurant equipment is not cheap. Just to stay compliant with the health and safety laws you'll need correct refrigerators and freezers, as well as cleaning appliances and smallwares. Depending on the food that you are selling, you'll have no small need for various pieces of equipment involved in the prep work. A food truck is a condensed version of a restaurant, but ultimately the parts that aren't omitted are the more expensive goods. Still, there is a possibility to cut costs a little by going with a restaurant supply store that sells previously owned equipment. The amount of places selling used restaurant equipment Los Angeles is home to, is probably much higher in number than you would have thought. Admittedly, there are things that cannot be resold for hygiene purposes, but ultimately if you are starting out then this will be your best bet to save a little money.

Research

Finally, before starting a food truck business you must do your friendly restaurant recon and research. Go to tastings, talk to other truck owners, talk to customers—this is the most important part. You can only really understand that this is a culture, not an industry, if you appreciate the cultural parts of it. L.A. is home to many things, but a food truck culture is one of its finest attributes. There's plenty of room to add to it, it's just a matter of will.

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