Do you want to start an ice cream truck business? If YES, here is a complete guide to starting an ice cream truck business with NO money and no experience plus a sample ice cream truck business plan template.
We all love to have ice-creams. In fact it is one universal dessert that nearly everyone likes to have. It is quite easy to make and there are several variants that can be achieved. One of the businesses surrounding ice-cream is the ice cream truck business.
This is a profit making business that helps you let out the creativity that you have trapped on your inside as you try your hands on the various ice-cream recipes that exists.
Mobile vending has grown noticeably in recent years, producing approximately $650 million in revenue annually. The speedy increase of mobile vending, or food trucks, is attributed to residents’ wish for excellence, worth, and speed; an appreciation for fresh, local food; and a partiality for small and sustainable business.
As such, mobile vending is also commonly used as a means to expand economic opportunity, and enrich communities by improving access to goods and produce not otherwise available through area merchants.
Steps to Starting an Ice Cream Truck Business
Table of Content
- 2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies
- 3. Decide What Niche to Concentrate On
- 4. Know the Major Competitors in the Industry
- 5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch
- 9. Discuss With an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You
- 10. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents
- 11. Get the Necessary Professional Certification
- 12. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate
- 13. Write a Business Plan
- 14. Prepare a Detailed Cost Analysis
- 15. Raise the Needed Startup Capital
- 16. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business
- 17. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs
- 18. Write a Marketing Plan Packed With ideas & Strategies
- 19. Work Out a Reasonable Pricing for your Services & Products
- 20. Develop Iron-clad Competitive Strategies to Help You Win
- 21. Brainstorm Possible Ways to Retain Clients & Customers
- 22. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity
1. Understand the Industry
It is no longer news that some ice cream vendors either succeed or fail. This can be traced to poor planning. More than 50 percent of small businesses don’t get to hit a success mark in the first year. The main reason just might be attributed to poor planning. The ice cream truck vending business is such that needs adequate knowledge and planning.
Interesting Statistics About the Industry
For the last decade; factually from 2008 to 2015, the truck food industry has witnessed consistent growth. Notwithstanding that the food truck business might not be new in the food service and restaurant trade, it is recognized that the food truck industry is still growing in leaps and in bounds and there is still ample rooms for growth inside the industry.
All the same the advent of some disapproving laws and regulations by many cities across the united states and Canada, ice cream truck business is still prosperous. The annual ice cream truck revenue in the United States is over $1000, 000,000 and the Industry income increased by over 8.4%over the past half a decade.
Facts have it that the total number of food trucks in U.S. is put at 4,130. Ice cream truck Industry revenue increased over the past years at the rate of 12.4 %. The average revenue generated per ice cream truck in the United States is about $200,000 and the average spending per order at an ice cream truck is $10.40. The average amount required to own an ice cream truck is about $60,000.
In the United States, the percent of sales generated by ice cream trucks based on market segments are; Street sites or street corners accounts for 10%, construction work sites and industrial sites accounts for 10%, shopping malls accounts for 70% and other locations, venues and event centers accounts for 10%.
Ice cream trucks have been around for years, they are popular when it comes to serving busy areas like shopping centers, plus other locations.
The industry is solving a problem in the society; people who don’t have the time to breeze into malls or shopping areas find it really time saving and inexpensive to support ice cream trucks. Ice cream trucks are not only utilized for their affordability, but also because it saves time.
Recently, there has been appreciable increase in the numbers of ice cream truck business owners in the United States. This increase can attributed to inspiration, the change in lifestyle of the average Americans and of course post – recession and economic factors. In essence the food commerce is upward and the future is still happy for the industry.
Without a shadow of doubt, the popularity of ice cream trucks led to the formation of associations that protect and support the interest of the industry.
Conventional ice cream business owners are attempting the ice cream truck business because it is easier for them to draw sales when they are mobile as against being positioned in one location. For instance; a food truck can visit more than two event venues in a day to sell their foods and drinks.
2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies
- Demographics and Psychographics
The psychographic and demographic composition of people who require the services of an ice cream truck are everyone, because there is no age barrier to those who love to have ice-cream
3. Decide What Niche to Concentrate On
Just as it is with other businesses, there are plenty of niches in the ice-cream business that you may look to start out in. Here are some niches of ice cream truck business;
- Bacon ice cream
- Bastani Sonnati, a type of Persian ice cream
- Blue Moon
- Brown bread ice cream – ice cream with Grape-Nuts breakfast cereal
- Butter Brickle
- Butter Pecan – smooth vanilla ice cream with a slight buttery flavor, with pecans added
- Chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream
- Chocolate ice cream
- Cookies and Cream
- Crab ice cream
- Garlic ice cream
- Grape ice cream
- Grape nut ice cream
- Green tea ice cream
- Halva ice cream
- Hokey pokey
- Mango ice cream
- Mint chocolate chip
- Moose Tracks
- Neapolitan ice cream
- Oyster ice cream
- Pistachio ice cream
- Raspberry Ripple
- Rocky road
- Strawberry ice cream
- Superman ice cream
- Tiger tail ice cream
- Tutti frutti
- Vanilla ice cream
The Level of Competition in the Industry
There is a high level of competition in this industry as the food vending business has come to stay. The ice cream Trucks industry has experienced an extraordinary growth over the past five years and loads of people are starting to delve in with food trucks because it saves them time and money.
Because of the growth in the support for food trucks, many businesspersons who are concerned about the business or those who are already in their own conventional the industry. With this expansion, the competition level in the industry is becoming stiffer; the more the competitors, the stiffer the competition.
Notwithstanding the fact that there are sturdy routine in the industry, high rivalry rate and unfavorable regulatory circumstances in some cities have destructively impacted the growth in the industry; it has limited the growth of mobile food vendors.
Aside from the fact that Ice cream trucks contest with themselves, they are also contest with regular bricks and mortars restaurants and fast food joints; it is for this reason that food trucks are required to park 200 feet away from any restaurant restricting the positions they are to station their food truck.
No doubt, the detail that the competition has hardened does not deter the performance of some ice cream truck businesses. Most of them know how to recreate and re – strategize to reach out or attract more customers. Creativity and many food and drinks options is key to surviving the competition in the food truck industry.
4. Know the Major Competitors in the Industry
There are several brands of the ice-cream business in the United States of America. Here are some of them;
- Abbott’s Frozen Custard
- Baskin-Robbins (US)
- Bassetts Ice Cream (US)
- Ben & Jerry’s (US
- Blue Bell Creameries (US)
- Blue Bunny (US)
- Bonnie Doon Ice Cream (US)
- Braum’s (US)
- Bresler’s Ice Cream (US, defunct)
- Breyers (US)
- Brigham’s Ice Cream (US)
- Bubbies (US)
- Double Rainbow (US)
- Dreyer’s (US)
- Drumstick (US)
Starting an Ice cream truck business means that you should have done all the things that you are supposed to do. Some of the things that you have to carry out include, feasibility studies, seeing an expert who would be able to teach you and guide you on how you can be the best at all times.
You will also have to figure out on what scale that you wish to start out from. Will you like to start small or big? If you are looking to start big, do you have the wherewithal to do so? If you think that starting small would be your best bet, how small are you looking to start?
The ice cream truck business is exposed to the same variety of worries as other food businesses such as restaurants and fast food eateries, amongst many others in some cases or cities, the ice cream truck operators are mandated to make their ice creams in a commercial kitchen that can be examined and not on the truck. These issues may add to increase in the running cost of the business.
Also, there are a number of permits that is compulsory to run an ice cream truck business, and there are also public health codes to notice. Other cost that should be measured during planning and budgeting are slide cost; labor cost, supply of raw ingredients and foods, and fuel and maintenance costs.
It is significant to be sure to cut down on overhead costs when wanting to start an ice-cream truck business and also to function in cities where it can be tolerable to cook and prepare your ice creams inside your truck.
5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch
Ice cream truck is one of those businesses that sell franchise. Any businessperson, who is making an allowance for starting a food truck business, has the choice of either starting from the scratch or buying an existing franchise. There are tons of issues that should be measured before choosing the option to follow.
Some of the issues to consider are the cost of starting from the scratch or buying a franchise, your financial ability, vision, and business skills and experience. If your goal of beginning an ice cream truck business is to grow outside one city, if you want to have existence in key cities in the United States, then starting your food truck business from the scratch is your best option.
6. Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face
If you choose to begin your own ice cream truck business in the United States, you are going to face some tests and pressures that is peculiar to ice cream truck business. Some of the challenges that you are going to be faced with is finding your way about the government regulations that exists.
There are numerous laws out there that you are expected to follow if you want to run an ice cream truck business; some of the laws are exclusive to each states in the U.S.
7. Choose the Most Suitable Legal Entity (LLC, C Corp, S Corp)
The best legal entity to use for this business is to register the business as a Limited Liability Company. You should also consider discussing with your attorney to advise you on the most suitable legal entity to use for your food truck business.
This is important because the law that regulates the food truck industry varies from state to state and even from cities to cities in the U.S. and in Canada.
8. Choose a Catchy Business Name from the ideas Below
There are several good names of ice cream businesses that are seen today in America. If you want to choose a name, you can look at choosing from the following:
- Sugary Sense
- Cheese cream
- Tasty Creamy
- Pure Cream
9. Discuss With an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You
Just like any other business, there are key insurance policies that you must have in place if you operating a food truck business. Besides you can’t be permitted to run a food truck business in the United States, in Canada, Australia and in Europe if you don’t have the basic insurance cover for your business.
These are some of the basic insurance cover that you should consider purchasing if you want to start your own ice cream truck business in the United States of America;
- General insurance
- Health insurance
- Liability insurance
- Kitchen Insurance
- Workers Compensation
- Overhead expense disability insurance
- Business owner’s policy group insurance
- Motor Vehicle Insurance (Comprehensive)
10. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents
Generally, an ice cream truck business does not need intellectual property protections. This is so because of the nature of the business. The only instance where an ice cream truck business can seek for intellectual property protection is when they have got a highly unique recipe and they want to monopolize it.
11. Get the Necessary Professional Certification
Before you can be permitted to operate an ice cream truck business; be it in the United States of America or in other parts of the world (developed world most especially), you are expected to apply and obtain certain certification or permits as the case may be.
You are supposed to get clean health certificate, you are expected to have undergone training as well as obtain food handler certificate. You can also check up with your state or city to know if you will require a professional certification before you can be licensed to run your own food truck business.
12. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate
The requests for ice cream truck business differ widely from country to country, states to states and from cities to cities. For instance in some places in America, some of the requirements for an ice cream truck business include business and liability insurance, a food handler certificate, appropriate driver’s licenses for drivers, assistant’s licenses for assistants, and a health inspection. Proof of ownership, proper identification and vehicle license et al.
These are some of the basic legal requirements needed before you can successfully start and run your own ice cream truck business;
- Business and liability insurance
- Commercial Vehicle Operator’s Registration for the truck
- Permits for each municipality being operated in (downtown, various suburbs),
- Food handler certificate
- Appropriate driver’s licenses for drivers
- Assistant’s licenses for assistants
- Health inspection Certificate
- Proof of ownership, proper identification and vehicle license
- Proof of district-issued food manager identification card
- Food purchase record storage and record keeping
- Depot, commissary or service support facility meets vending unit operation needs
- Copy of license for the service support facility and/or a recent inspection report
- Tax Payer’s ID
- Fire certificate
- Kitchen insurance
- Certificate of Incorporation
- Business License
- Business Plan
- Non – disclosure Agreement
- Employment Agreement (offer letters)
- Employee’s Handbook
- Operating Agreement for LLCs
13. Write a Business Plan
writing a business plan can look so weighty. Though, truth is that it something that you can overcome- whether you choose to write it on your own, or if you want an expert to help you out. To positively run an ice cream truck business, you would need to have a good business plan.
A Business plan is the plan that is needed to effectively run a business. You will be able to approach your business with purpose and perhaps precisions. So, if you want to start your own food truck business, you are mandated to write a detailed business plan that can pass reality test when subjected to it.
The whole idea of writing a business plan is not just for the sake of having a business document; but a thorough guide on how to efficiently run your business. Your business plan ought to summarize and cover strategies on how you aim to achieve your ice cream truck business.
14. Prepare a Detailed Cost Analysis
Here below is the detailed start – up cost for small scale Ice cream truck business in the United States of America;
- Food truck (includes wrap & equipment) – $85,000
- Initial product inventory – $1,500
- Permits and Licenses – $300
- Website – $700
- Register / POS – $500
- Uniforms for employees – $500
- Paper products – $250
- Miscellaneous Expenses – $500
- Pots, Pans, and other cooking utensils – $1,500
- Fire Extinguisher – $150
Total Startup Cost – $90,300
The estimated cost of starting a medium scale Ice cream truck business in the United States of America is $200,000 and above.
15. Raise the Needed Startup Capital
Raising start – up capital is perhaps one of the main worries for entrepreneurs; it can be thought-provoking rising capital to launch a business idea. Your idea must be practical and hopeful for you to lock finance from financial institutions or from investors.
The foremost thing to put in position before sourcing for start – up capital for your business is to draft a detailed business plan. With a good business plan, you can straightforwardly persuade investors to invest in your business. There are several options when it comes to raising money to finance a start – up business. Some of the options are;
- Raising money from personal savings and sale of personal stocks
- Raising money from investors and business partners
- Applying for loan from bank
- applying for business grants and seed funding from donor organizations
- Sourcing for soft loans from family members and friends.
16. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business
There are key issues that inspire where ice cream trucks can be located, at least there should be a large numbers of people in a site and perhaps there shouldn’t be any restaurant around the place where you intend to locate your food truck.
Ice cream truck business flourishes in deeply focused vicinities in urban areas- particularly in the central parts of large cities.
If you are bearing in mind to start your ice cream truck business in the U.S., then you should look towards operating in cities such as L.A, Portland, New York, Austin and San Francisco. From recent survey, it was observed that ice cream truck business thrives in those cities mentioned.
The idea of starting an ice cream truck business is to sell ice cream and desserts on a mobile truck in areas where people find it difficult to access fast food eateries; areas such as carnival sites, construction sites, sporting event centers, campgrounds, and beach et al.
Ice cream truck also takes advantage of places like campuses, office complexes, military bases, mechanical village, industrial parks, farmer’s markets, cinemas, and religious centers. This should guide you in choosing a location for your Ice cream truck business.
17. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs
Starting an ice cream truck business means that you will have to obtain a truck that is suitable for the nature of the business; a truck that has the essential feature. The first equipment that you need to start your ice cream truck business is a standard truck that has a kitchen, cooling facility and space for storage and dispensing ice cream.
You can obtain a new truck if you have the financial capacity. If you aim at cutting down your start – up cost, then you should deliberate on buying a fairly used food trucks; it will still help with the same purpose. Purchasing a food truck is the major expenditure you will make.
When you want to hire workers, it is significant to note that most ice cream truck business owners try as much as possible to cut down on the numbers of employees they can take in per time. Essentially ice cream truck businesses hire Manager, Cashier, Truck Driver and Assistant Truck Driver. Everybody on board the ice cream truck is likely to handle additional job description.
The Service Delivery Process of the Business
There are several processes involved in different business. Just like it is with others, so it is with the ice cream trucking business. The productions process is as follows;
List of ice creams and drinks to be sold on the truck are listed, the raw materials are bought, and different food and snacks are prepared and packaged. The foods and drinks are loaded in the truck (especially when they are prepared in a commercial kitchen and not on the truck) and then sold to customers.
After the day’s job, the truck is cleaned, plates, pots and pans are washed and cleaned and positioned for the next day’s business. Accounts are balanced and lodged in the bank. The process continues the following day. In summary, the process to follow is;
- Preparing and serving ice cream from a mobile truck
- Preparing and serving beverages from a mobile truck
- Preparing and serving dessert from a mobile truck
18. Write a Marketing Plan Packed With ideas & Strategies
The amount of loyal customers that you are able to boast of at the end of each business season depends solely on the marketing strategies that you followed and how you were able to follow it through. In recent times, tracking ice cream trucks has become much less difficult; many thanks to technology.
With the help of social media platform such as Facebook and Twitter, it has become easier for a person to locate where their favorite food truck will be at any moment.
Most ice cream truck companies leverage on social media platforms to give up-to-the-minute updates on where they are, where they will be in couple of hours, the type of menu that they have on board and any special discount available per time. With that, it is now pretty easier for food truck companies to attract customers and increase sales.
Technology is a major tool in marketing fast food business. As a matter of fact, there are mobile apps that you can use to track your favorite food truck. Other strategies is to ensure that your food truck is well branded, and you are always playing good music on your truck.
The truth is that people naturally get attracted to colorful designs and good music. You can as well network with event managers; they are in a better position to help you increase sales especially when they are involved in outdoor events.
19. Work Out a Reasonable Pricing for your Services & Products
Every business must set the required price for it to compete positively, while making profit. This is why necessary research is needed before starting any business. There are several influences that can allow you get the right pricing for your services and they include, trying to keep your operating cost on a minimum level.
This can be done by operating from home if you are just starting out on a small scale. Another factor is in ensuring that you purchase the required tools for your ice cream truck business as fairly used, that way you get them cheaper, thereby lowering your overhead cost.
20. Develop Iron-clad Competitive Strategies to Help You Win
There is no industry that is deprived of participants. The ice cream truck industry which is the same as any industry has competitors that are in every niche and on every scale, which usually give customers options as regards cheaper pricing or better services or both.
This is why before starting this business; you must determine why you want to go into the business and also why you think your ice cream truck business would be different from that of your client.
Branding is a very vital part of every business, it portrays the fact that you know exactly what your clients need and are ready to provide accommodations for them on any level. Your business must be one that can attend to several clients no matter their level – lower, middle or upper class.
Another way you can beat your competitors in the same industry is to ensure that you offer additional but related services that customers are likely not to be able to resist.
21. Brainstorm Possible Ways to Retain Clients & Customers
Retaining customers is less costly than obtaining new customers according to research. The amount used in attracting new customers to a company dips more into the advertising budget than that used in retaining customers to your business.
The aim why customers leave a business is usually due to numerous reasons, which might be a better service offering from your competitors or better customer service. This is why you would need to draft strategies that are aimed at retaining customers and not giving them reasons to move to your competitors.
One way at ensuring that customers do not leave your business is ensuring that you offer excellent services always. If customers are continually satisfied with the services you offer them, then you would not need extra efforts to keep them.
Also, customers expect their complaints and enquiries to be answered on time, which means you, would need to create an excellent customer system that would attend to customers promptly.
22. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity
If you want your business to stand out and be exclusive from that of your competitors, you would need to certify that you produce the wanted plans that will help boost brand awareness while also creating a corporate identity for your ice cream truck business.
Listed below are some of the avenues you can use in boosting the brand of your ice cream truck business, while also promoting and advertising your business;
- Ensure that you advertise your ice cream truck business via relevant magazines as well as local newspapers and even on television and radio
- Create awareness for your ice cream truck business by vigorously promoting the business on your official website.
- Ensure that your loyal customers help in referring others to your business by offering them incentives.
- Ensure that your ice cream truck business is listed in local directories offline as well as online directories
- Use the social media platform on the internet such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus to promote your ice cream truck business
- Ensure that you distribute your handbills and fliers in target areas
23. Create a Suppliers/Distribution Network
Ice cream trucks create their own markets; hence, they ensure that they source for places where people will need their services and products. One of the plans that you need to adopt to sustain sales is to network with event managers and facility managers; they can help you generate sales.
As regards, purchasing ingredients and raw foods, your best bet is to locate the nearest farm market around you. You can get the best price from farm markets.
24. Tips for Running an Ice Cream Truck Business Successfully
The day to day organization of an ice cream truck business is slightly dissimilar from the day to day administration of the conservative bricks and mortars eatery.
Running an ice cream truck business involves listing the menus and drinks you want to sell for the day, purchase raw food and food ingredients, prepare the foods, package the ice cream and snacks, load your truck and then drive to the location where you intend selling your stuff.
After the day’s sales, the books will be well-adjusted, the truck will be cleaned, plates, pots, and pans get washed and kept safely and lastly the truck will be packed appropriately.