From Food Truck to Restaurant: How to Know You’re Ready (and How to Prepare)

There comes a time in every successful food truck owner’s life when they are confronted by the question of whether or not to expand to a restaurant. 

If you’re ready to join the ranks of food truck owners who have expanded to a brick-and-mortar restaurant, make sure you’re able to answer these two questions:

1. Are you cash flow positive? 

2. Have you built a strong core team? 

Question 1: Are You Cash Flow Positive?

When it comes to running a food business, cash really is king. Ask any food and beverage establishment and they’ll say that achieving positive cash flow is the holy grail. 

Cash flow refers to the net amount of cash moving in and out of your food truck at any given time. Notice we say “at any given time.” It’s crucial to stay on top of your cash inflows and outflows at all times to avoid getting caught off-guard.

Ways to Stay Cash Flow positive 

There are two rules of thumb when it comes to staying cash flow position: 

  • Don’t get weighed down by debt because even if you are cash flow positive, you’ll find yourself constantly paying your notes down due to interest rates. 
  • Monitor your labor and food costs and aim to keep them under 60 percent of your prime costs. 

Here are other creative ways to keep that cash flow consistently coming in: 

Direct private money: This refers to any time a company or promoter books you directly. This is especially great because you don’t pay third party fees and you’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to fully owning your revenue. 

Offer catering: Expanding into catering is the fastest way to grow your food truck business. By opening up your food truck to cater to office lunches, weddings and other special events, you’ll be able to supplement your revenue.  

Having the right technology matters: Invest in a POS system with reporting capabilities to ensure you’re staying on top of your  numbers and operations. You’ll want a system that enables you to check out your incoming and outgoing cash flows, real-time sales data and a dashboard to give you a quick snapshot of your food truck’s financial health. 


Question 2: Have You Built a Strong Team?

As a food truck owner, you’re only as strong as your team. As your business grows and you take on new responsibilities, you likely won’t be regularly bound to the location of your food truck anymore. This is when you need to rely on a stable support system to ensure that your food truck runs like a well-oiled machine even without you at the reins. 

Ways to Build a Strong Team 

High turnover remains a costly concern for any food service establishment—and food trucks are no different. As a food truck owner, you need to anticipate and prepare strategically for that throughout your hiring process and onward, even after onboarding. Here are some best practices:


Word of mouth recommendations: Referrals are a time-saver—it saves you the hassle of going through a stack of resumes, and plus, these individuals have also been vouched for by your employees. Another reason for referrals? A vast majority of employers—88 percent—say they are the best source for quality hires, according to HR software company iCIMS. 

Cast a wider net on industry-related job sites: For more diverse and highly qualified candidates, you can also consider posting ads on industry-related sites like Poached. Candidates on such sites are more likely to be invested in a long-term career in the food service industry.

Offer meaningful incentives: Try out attractive strategies like letting employees keep their tips; also, show you trust them by gradually increasing their responsibilities and empowering them to make a greater impact on your food truck.

Ready to Expand from Food Truck to Restaurant? 

There’s no such thing as the perfect timing when it comes to brick-and-mortar restaurant expansion. However, if you’ve answered “yes” to both questions of whether you have more than enough cash flow and whether you’ve built a strong and reliable team, then you’re in good stead to launch a successful restaurant with just the right foundation in place.