All you need to know when it comes to learning how to start a juice truck – from budgeting, to equipment, branding, building-out your truck, and more.
A juice truck business is a unique concept based on the growing novel trend of the food truck industry. It’s essentially a mobile kiosk-style juice bar, that’s a smaller-scale operation than the typical juice and smoothie bar business concept.
Starting and running a juice food truck will be a very different experience from opening and operating a juice store concept, and the actions that you need to take and their respective costs will be different for each business.
What are the benefits of a juice truck business? What are the first steps you need to take? How do you secure funding and where do you park?
There are so many questions that will come up for first-time entrepreneurs of this unique concept. When our founder, Andrew, opened his first juice concept in Los Angeles over a decade ago, he opened a juice truck.
There are many things that he didn’t realize he needed to know, until it came down to the wire, and learned as he went. Looking back, he shares that having more guidance, a helping hand, and the willingness to invest in his learning, he would have saved thousands of dollars and lots of sleepless nights trying to wrap his head around what this kind of business requires to be successful.
Fast forward many years, he since opened a successful juice store after the truck, and has helped people from around the world open, scale, and succeed in their juice and smoothie businesses, with a full-team Agency of designers, chefs, copy-writers, and more.
Learn about what you need to know when starting a juice truck, and how you can make it a profitable, and enjoyable business for the long-term.
Andrew started his own juice truck with an investment of around $40,000 – which is much cheaper than what a storefront would cost. With less space comes the need for less equipment, which leads to a lower startup cost.
The potential to change locations is an advantage. When you have a store, you are committing to that one location. Later, if you find out that the demographic of that location isn’t matching your target market, that is a much bigger deal than simply moving your truck’s parking spot.
Opening up a whole new location of a store is generally not a viable option for 99% of business owners. You can test different areas with your truck to find the best location for consistent sales. It’s actually a good tactic to use a juice truck at first to test potential locations if opening a store is a future goal.
Your truck’s exterior is a giant sign for you to advertise your business and menu, especially when you are on the move. It’s a moving billboard, essentially.
Food trucks hold a certain charm to people. For the growing number of healthy consumers, a juice truck is an even more novel and exciting idea, bringing locals and tourists in the area visit the truck on their day out, or for the convenience of getting something quick and healthy to-go, rather than wait in a busy cafe for their smoothie.
The very first step is to get clear on what will set your juice truck apart from the rest. By this, we mean having clear and powerful branding. As food trucks are becoming more popular, and healthy food concepts continue to grow, it’s vital to put energy into finding a way to stand out from the competition.
Your branding never ends. It’s more than just designing a logo, website, and truck wrap, and you’re done… your business will be continuously communicating your brand through your marketing and customer interactions, including how your staff communicate with your customers. Having a strong position and understanding of the answers to these questions above will be beneficial for your business to develop a loyal long-term customer base.
To work out the capital you’ll need to invest in your juice truck startup, you’ll need to have an understanding of the low-to-high ranges of overall costs involved.
Start off with a general budget, and overshoot it, because, in 99% of the cases, you’ll spend more than you initially think.
Know that your budget will continue to change and become more defined once you have made decisions about your truck (leasing, purchasing, build-out needs), equipment, menu, branding, licensing, and more.
Below is a mock-up budget with low and high ranges displayed, with low-range being the case where the truck is already outfitted and equipment needs are basic, and the high-range referring to a more complex build-out, and high-quality and/or multiple equipment devices, for example.
Even a small business like a juice truck will need a good chunk of capital to invest. Most entrepreneurs will need outside financing for their business, and there are a number of external sources to explore to secure this funding.
To secure funding from external sources from the bank or angel investors, for example, you need to have a professional and well-crafted business plan to present to potential investors which outlines your mission, industry research, location analysis, financials, and more, to express your vision in a clear way.
For more in-depth information about how to secure funding, check out our blog post here.
Creating your menu is a fine art. Not only do you have to come up with great-tasting recipes, but they also have to be cost-effective and actually make you money. Too many juice bars and truck owners don’t consider the ingredient cost-breakdown for their menu and may actually be losing money when they are making sales.
Juice trucks can choose from the following items to create their menu:
Obviously! But also, consider which method you will adopt: cold-pressing or regular juicing. (This will have a significant impact on the price of your equipment, as cold-pressed juicers are a substantial investment).
Made from a variety of fruit and vegetables, and extra superfood add-ons, smoothies also have a great profit margin.
Selling these will access the consumers who are looking for a meal, rather than just a beverage. Plus, smoothie and acai bowls are only continuing to rise in popularity.
These can be easy to sell and serve, as you can make the shots in bulk and simply pour into the cup when customers order.
Again, this would require additional equipment, though it’s a great idea to offer warm beverages, especially in climates that will have seasonal weather changes and get cold! Matcha, turmeric, and medicinal mushroom lattes are some of the current favorites among healthy consumers.
Think power balls, nutty fruit slices, healthy cookies, oat bars, and other quick and easy grab-and-go snacks.
Though we don’t recommend offering much food, since it is already such a small working area and food requires additional storage space and equipment, some trucks may choose to offer oats, toast, wraps, salads, and more.
Organic or conventional? Choosing to market your truck as an organic business means sourcing organic produce
You’ll need to set aside capital to purchase your ingredients for the menu creation and testing phase, and testing recipes can add up if you are purchasing the ingredients many times.
Some start-ups choose to hire a consultant to create your menu for you (we offer this service, more info HERE).
Also, although it’s tempting to extract recipes online, don’t make this mistake! Free juice recipes online are not specifically tailored to a food service concept, which means that they don’t take into account the economic use of ingredients, as well as the time it takes to create and serve the menu items.
This is why it is important to create your own original recipes. In this way, you will ultimately save the most money even by investing some time and resources by creating your unique menu or having it created for you.
If you take only one thing away from these points about creating your menu, it would be to keep your menu SMALL. You can start small, and see how the operations feel once you open, with an option to expand later if you feel that you have space (physically, to store ingredients and prep the items) as well as the bandwidth (your employees are too busy to potentially take on more).
With the limitations of a juice truck’s size, a small menu will always equal more ease to execute to a high level. If you go too big too soon, you’re at risk of overwhelming your staff, losing customer rapport with wait-times and lower quality products, and potentially even failing before you have really given yourself the chance to succeed.
There are many different styles of trucks out there that can be used for juice and smoothie concepts – each with different sizes, equipment capacities, and for different budgets.
Additionally, how you acquire your truck will have a big impact on your entry-cost. Buying a truck outright will cost more. So too will converting it, if you are repurposing a different kind of vehicle (see below where we share on different types of juice and smoothie trucks).
If you decide to lease a truck, the costs will differ depending on the terms of the lease and the truck type.
In terms of overall costs, out-fitting your juice truck will incur the biggest costs in your startup phase (unless you purchased it or are leasing it with the elements for production already there).
After deciding to buy or lease a truck, you’ll then consider what needs to be done in terms of internal upgrades. Get quotes from various contractors and, and also don’t underestimate the cost of branding your truck – some truck wraps can be up to ($5,000).
Note that your menu will impact how your working-space is organized when you out-fit or choose your truck. It’s best to have a good idea of your menu (next section) when deciding on your truck, or making changes to it.
Horse Boxes: Used (Not Including Conversion): $1200 to $15000
Caravans: Used (Not Including Conversion): $1200 to $9000
Piaggio Ape: Used (Not Including Conversion): $2000 to $7000
Shipping Container: Used (Not Including Conversion): $2300 to $6000
Tuk Tuk Taxi: Used (Not Including Conversion): $170 to $800 (imported from India)
Every region is different when it comes to the required licenses and permits, as well as their respective costs, for juice truck businesses. Though they vary country-to-country and state-to-state, they will generally include health department licenses, business licenses, parking permits, and more. The following permits are the most common permits you may need, as well as information on how to find the right information on what is applicable to your business. Note that some of these may be called different names, depending on your region, and some may be grouped together under one license, rather than having each separate.
The following are the primary structures people will create when starting a business. Ask a lawyer or accountant for advice as to which will be most applicable to your business model.
As part of this corporate identity, you’ll also get an EIN number, which is your Tax ID number, used by the government to identify the business.
This will only be applicable to some, in the instance where your business has a different name to that of your corporation (e.g. an umbrella company having multiple businesses operating under it). You will likely not have this for your juice truck.
Depending on your area, there are different requirements to access this. Some may need more paperwork, while others simply require a small fee. Generally, a local business license is easy to obtain. Note that this will impact on how you operate your juice truck, in terms of traveling to other locations, which may be out of the jurisdiction of your local business license. Make sure you know where you are permitted to do business under this license, so you stay compliant when you move location. Your local City Hall will generally have all the information you need about this, as well as valuable information for the other permits and licenses.
This one is important to research before you make any physical changes to your truck if you are converting it and building-out the space, as it may dictate what you can and can’t do to the truck, and having to go back to reconstruct something you already did will be a significant waste of capital. Get approval for the design before you make these changes.
In the case of renting an outfitted truck, be sure that the company that you are leasing the truck from has licensed trucks.
Some regions won’t need you to get these licenses. When required, they are connected to the sale’s tax on your products.
These are ‘food handler’ permits, in the United States. The entire team of your juice truck needs to have this permit. Sometimes staff can work up to 2 weeks before they are required to have this permit, while some regions will have the policy for these permits to be granted to staff before they start working.
Some areas will require juice trucks to access a bathroom letter, which relates to compliance with the health department. In the case of our original truck in California, we needed a letter from a business within 100 feet of our parking spot that had running hot water, for customers and staff to be able to access the bathroom and necessary sanitation.
Finally, certain regions will also have regulations around mobile food and juice trucks needing to use a commissary kitchen to clean, restock, and park the truck overnight.
As mentioned, check in with your local City Hall for the required licenses and permits for your state and region.
Your equipment will be based on two things: the space that you actually have to work within your truck, and your menu (as that will dictate what equipment needs to be used to make certain menu items).
Some trucks will already have certain equipment that you may need – like sinks, prep tables, refrigerators, etc. If you are leasing a food/juice truck that is already outfitted, you may find that you only need juicers, blenders, and prep tools. Some trucks may come outfitted with existing refrigeration, freezers, and storage spaces, so this wouldn’t be an extra expense (though might make the truck lease or purchase of your truck more expensive upfront). If you are converting a truck, you might need to acquire everything from scratch.
The following equipment list details the general pieces you’ll be considering to out-fit in your truck.
How to Assess Costs for Equipment:
As based on your menu, you’ll have an idea of the appliances needed for your juice truck – especially how much storage space, how many devices for each piece of equipment, refrigeration, and more.
Once you have an idea of the pieces of equipment, our advice to keep costs as low as possible is to contact many different commercial suppliers, asking for quotes and comparing them to each other. Additionally, read reviews on the models, and this will ensure that you’re sourcing your equipment in the most economic way.
In the case of renting or purchasing trucks that have not been converted and outfitted, this is the stage to organize and design the interior of the truck to be operational. Some trucks may have partially been converted, to have sinks, storage, and prep areas, while others may need full conversion.
As based on the regulations from the previous step, hiring an interior designer to help with the conversation will be advantageous for the most effective use of space. Since it’s such a small space to work with, having an intelligent plan for the interior can literally make, or in the case of not using the space wisely, break the business. Operational issues, leading to effective service and, long wait times, are some of the main issues that come about from bad design.
Your truck design will also be based on the equipment that you’ll need, based on your menu, so take that into consideration when constructing the interior of the truck. In the case of the truck conversion not working with the equipment needs, changes to the menu may need to be made, so keep these aspects of your start-up phases flexible enough to be responsible for future changes.
As mentioned above, consulting with your local health department before making any changes to the internal space of the truck will be necessary, as it could shift the initial plans you have made. If you wait until you’ve already made these changes to then check in with the health department, this could mean more unnecessary costs to go back and re-build the truck to be compliant.
Once you have your truck converted and ready-to-go, you’re free to design and complete your truck wrap anytime from then until opening for business. Hiring a professional to design your truck wrap can get costly, especially if you’re looking for something more complex and niche – which is definitely an advantage when it comes to standing out and grabbing consumers’ attention. Truck wraps can generally cost between $2,000 and $5,000.
Before starting your business, it is important that you have mapped out the best spots to park in the city where there is a potential of high foot-foot traffic, as well as ease of people driving to your truck to park. Though you have the option to move about the city to different locations throughout the day, the ideal scenario is to have one core location that you stay, so that your customers know where to find you each day. Consistency is key in developing a local and strong customer base.
Now that we’ve given you some valuable insight and tips on what it takes to start your juice truck business, you can begin from scratch and handle your branding, design, menu, operations, and marketing. However, without the right knowledge and experience, this can lead to a far more costly start-up, as well as more time, energy, stress, and sleepless nights trying to get it all right.
If you’re a little overwhelmed at what you need to do and already feeling anxious as you consider how much each of these component stages will cost, we understand, and we can help.
We’ve created a one-of-a-kind concept that will save you tens-of-thousands of dollars, as well as stress and sleepless nights, with a turn-key juice truck package.
The Juice Bar Business in a Box is the perfect solution for any aspiring juice or smoothie entrepreneur who wants to start their business with the least amount of risk… why? Because so much of it is already done for you, with a professionally curated menu, branding, marketing strategies, and more.
Too many juice truck business entrepreneurs quit before they can even truly begin, due to confusion, stress, fear, or lack of budget. Our company has a mission to have more healthy foodservice businesses open than unhealthy fast-food establishments, and helping you to create the business of your dreams is how we can fulfill our mission.
Basically, everything you would need to do to start your business, done for you.
How much can you save?
Check out the breakdown of what you receive in the package, and what it generally costs you if you were to do it on your own.