Starting a Food Truck Business in India: A Complete Guide

Food truck business or a restaurant on wheels has been gaining popularity as a concept in India, among entrepreneurs and consumers alike. In this article, we will take you through everything you need to know about starting a food truck in India.

Let’s start with these things:

  • Costs involved
  • Licenses needed
  • Benefits you can get
  • Points to keep in mind
  • Food truck marketing

What is the cost of opening a Food Truck in India?

An average food truck can cost anywhere between INR 8-10 lakhs in India. On the upper end of the spectrum, a fully equipped food truck can even cost up to 20 lakhs.

Here is a complete breakdown of all the costs involved:

  • Vehicle: To start things off you will need a truck – you can use a second hand one or you could buy a new truck. Typically a truck will cost you a minimum of INR 4 lakhs.
  • Equipment: You will also need to invest in essential kitchen equipment as a one-time investment for your truck. This will include stove, utensils, cooking vessels, cutlery. You may want to put a few tables and chairs so that people would have the option to sit if they’d like (although this isn’t mandatory). All the equipment put together would cost you around INR 2 lakhs.
  • Raw Material: You will need a stock of inventory or raw materials to prepare the meals. That would cost you about INR 20-30K.
  • POS: Your POS is much more than a standalone piece of technology that takes care of your billing and technology. It is linked to several key business functions including CRM, analytics, and inventory. A good POS will cost you around INR 25-30K (6-month pack).
  • Staff: You will need to hire a few resources to handle the key everyday operations of your business, Luckily in India, costs of hiring staff are not that much. You can leave aside around 13-15K per month per person.
  • Marketing:  Like any other business, sales will come in only if you are promoting and advertising your business the right way. Marketing would include both offline and online promotions and can cost you a lot of money. You should keep aside at least 20K a month for your marketing.

What licenses are needed to open a Food Truck in India?

Just like any other restaurant, a food truck needs all the valid licenses. In India, the government has already started clamping down on “illegal” food trucks (sans licenses). Here is how it happened in Gurgaon.

Below we have listed the key licenses you’ll need when opening a food truck.

FSSAI License: A food truck and for that matter, any food business with gross revenue of more than 12 lakh INR needs to have the FSSAI license. It is essentially a 14 digit number. Here is a complete guide on how you can acquire your FSSAI license.

NOC from the Chief Fire Officer:  As food trucks deal with a lot of gas appliances, having a NOC certificate from the Chief Fire Officer is mandatory.  

Permission letter from the local municipal body: When you will zero in on a location for your business premises, you would need to get a written document, stamped by the local municipal body to start setting up.

Vehicle license: As you will be operating out of a commercial vehicle, a license for the same must be issued by the RTO of commercial vehicles.

Here’s the complete guide to navigating licenses and taxes for your restaurant/food brand in India 

Benefits of opening a Food Truck

  1. Low investment, low risk: A food truck would not cost you more than INR 10 lakhs if you spend carefully.
  2. Fewer resources required: One big advantage of a food truck is that you have a low dependency on resources. You can even get started with 1-2 resources (costing you around 4-8K INR per person).
  3. Learning experience: If you wish to learn fast about the various activities involved in running a food business, this is a great starting point. You can gauge processes of analysing data, get a better grip on customer tastes and preferences, do important operational activities, manage marketing, promotions and so on.
  4. Catering at events: Besides your everyday operations, you should consider building a few partnerships and cater at events, corporate festivals and more. The Curry Up Now food truck, for instance, sells excellent Indian street food and caters to a large number of tests and corporate events.

Curry up Now food truck India

Top things to keep in mind while starting a Food Truck

Location

Your food truck will run well only if the location is good. Keep these factors in mind:

  1. Vehicle Parking:  A truck would need a considerable amount of open space. Also, you need to ensure that you are allowed to park a vehicle in a specific area. You could check up with the local municipal authorities about this.
  2. Visibility: You should choose an area which is frequently visited by people. Good areas might be outside popular parks, movie halls, and universities.
  3. Competitor mapping:  Check out where your competition is stationed. Plan your location accordingly.
Your brand

A restaurant is as good as how it clicks with people. And above everything else, people love a good story. Your brand must have a unique story that people can associate with.

How do you build a strong brand?

  1. Finalise a target audience: Decide whether you want to cater to a young crowd or families. That will help you with your content marketing and social media strategy.
  2. Do competitor research: Find out how your competition is faring, the food they sell. Their promotion channels, their unique selling proposition, Everything you can dig up about your competition will be useful when you go about building your brand.
  3. Build differentiators:  What makes you stand out and why should people buy from you? To stand out from the crowd, you must have a clear answer to this question. 
  4. Finalise a name:  Choose a name that clicks with the target audience you finalised. One that resonates with them and one that they can relate to. Here are a few names for your inspiration: What the Truck, Eat and Run, Oh Buoy, What the Fork. Check out this resource if you need help finalising a name for your restaurant.
  5. Finalise a logo and a theme: A logo is an important piece of your branding It will show up on all your designs, on your food truck, on your banners and promotions and all your online platforms and promotions. Make sure it speaks to your brand.

Quick example: Southish Food Truck based out of Chennai, India has been positioned as a strong South India food selling truck. Note the name, the images used on the truck, the leaf as part of the company logo all scream out South Indian food.

Southish Food Truck India 

Health and Hygiene

Food trucks usually operate (cooking and selling) in very small areas. Business owners must be very mindful of kitchen hygiene, air pollution levels, and food waste management. 

Environmental pollution has had a drastic impact on the food truck business. For example, food trucks in Gurgaon have seen a dip in the business of about 40% owing to high levels of smog. 

News: Air pollution puts a break on Food trucks in Gurgaon

Here is a small checklist of health and hygiene pointers:

  1. Make use of chimneys to control air pollution.
  2. Conduct a check on the food waste twice a day and keep the cooking area clean.
  3. Ensure that your staff maintains good sanitation.
  4. Keep a few dustbins near the food truck. 

Marketing a Food Truck

Needless to say, good marketing and promotions will decide the success of your business. Keeping this in mind, we will point out some ways you could promote your food truck, both online and offline. 

Online Promotion Ideas

There are a large number of things you can do digitally. We have listed down a few of the key points here:

  • Have your own website and app.  Build a brand, tell your story loud and clear on the website. Make use of attractive images and discounts.
  • Tie up with the large Indian online food ordering aggregators like Swiggy and Zomato. Here’s the complete guide to get you started.
  • Build a strong Social Media presence. Restaurants and food trucks make use of Instagram and Facebook to build their brand. Ensure that you are visible and active on social media channels.
  • Search Engine Optimization: Shortlist keywords around your niche and build all your content around it. Be mindful of page load times, site meta-tagging, directory listing so that you could be found on Google.
  • Run online ads: You could run advertisements on search engines and social to either increase online orders or build your brand awareness. Both ways, you must set aside some money and target audiences. You can also add custom audience sets and run your ads on them.
  • Run CRM campaigns: Punch in customer details using POS and use customer data to run your restaurant CRM campaigns via SMS and Email.
  • For a complete list of marketing ideas, check out this list.

 

Offline Promotion Ideas

Here is a list of things for you to try:

    • Distribute pamphlets, use printed advertisements
    • Tie up with local sellers and event planners
    • Have contests, reward a few lucky customers
    • Provide free WiFi at the truck
    • Get food reviewers and bloggers to your truck
    • Keep an eye out for all food events and fests.

Food Truck Festivals see size-able participation from many players around India and are visited by foodies from all around. You could check out these festivals hosted in the cities – Delhi and Mumbai.
Delhi Food Truck Festival returns for 3rd edition
Navi Mumbai is hosting the Food Truck fest 2019

In fact a lot of food truck owners say that focusing on events, catering, and regular vending opportunities from the beginning will make all the difference as opposed to just hitting the streets.

Now that you have all the information on how to get started with your own food truck. We’ve listed down some Indian food trucks that you can take inspiration from. They have been in business for long and have certainly mastered their craft.

Successful Food Trucks in India to take inspiration from

Lalit Food Truck

Located in Connaught Place Delhi, the Lalit Food Truck is one of the best food truck success stories in India. It is owned by the Lalit Group and has been operational for about 25 years. It has a diversified product line which includes a food truck, outdoor catering, events and parties.  It boasts of an impressive client base including top companies like ADB and Audi.

Lalit Food Truck India
Go Fish Food

Situated in Bangalore, the truck is known for its lip-smacking seafood. Some of its hottest items include prawn biryani, bangda fry. It is modestly priced at 300 for 2 and typically opens after 7 PM on an average weekday.

Eat and Run

Stationed in Borivali West, Mumbai the truck is known for its beverages and fast food. It is priced at a very reasonable level of 200 INR for 2 and facilities for outdoor seating.

Eat and Run Food Truck India
S.W.A.T Food Truck

Another one from Bangalore, S.W.A.T is short for Serving with a Twist. They serve American fast food – their pasta, burritos, burgers are the most popular items. Their average price for 2 is 450 and they welcome guest even as late as 3 AM!

SWAT Food Truck India
Oh Buoy Noida

Oh Buoy is located in the outskirts of Noida, Delhi NCR and serves Mexican, Italian and Chinese comfort food. Its popular menu items are pizzas, lasagna, chinese noodles/fried rice, falafel, and hot dogs. Its average cost for 2 is around 550 INR. It offers outdoor seating and home delivery.

Well, that’s all for now. Time to get the wheels of your desi truck rolling then? If you have more questions, let us know in the comments.

Further readings on restaurant promotions, new technology and customer experience. 

Starting a Food Truck Business in India: A Complete Guide
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Aditya Sarkar

Aditya Sarkar

Aditya Sarkar is a Marketing Manager at LimeTray. When he isn't being a Marketer, he likes solo-travelling, playing all kinds of sports and chilling out with friends!