Free ‘How to Start a Food Truck Business’ online course now open

The Michigan State University Product Center is pleased to support entrepreneurs interested in launching a mobile food business with a new, self-paced course.

Two individuals standing outside a taco food truck parked curbside.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com.

Michigan State University (MSU) Extension and the MSU Product Center are pleased to announce the launch of a free, online course: How to Start a Food Truck Business. This is course was designed for entrepreneurs considering starting a food truck or mobile food business in Michigan. This self-paced course was developed in partnership with the Grand Rapids Food Truck Association, GROW, Prep Space and the Kent County Health Department. The online course was pilot tested by 40 participants during the summer of 2021 and received positive reviews.

Each module walks through the process of developing a business plan based on SCORE’s business plan template, developing a menu, selecting a food truck/trailer/cart, writing a marketing plan, and identifying your target customers and competitors as well as Michigan’s Mobile Unit and Special Transitory Food Unit (STFU) licensing processes. To earn a certificate of completion, participants must earn a 100% score on all nine quizzes (each quiz can be taken up to three times).

This course will take approximately four to ten hours to complete. The end result will be a completed business plan and the knowledge necessary to initiate the licensing process for a mobile food business in Michigan. If you wish to have an MSU Product Center Innovation Counselor and/or Grand Rapids Food Truck Association member review your business plan, that is an option. More information can be found in the course materials.

Why start a food truck? Food truck industry trends

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the restaurant industry has been one of the hardest hit with closings and staff layoffs. Unlike many of their brick and mortar counterparts, food trucks and mobile food businesses were able to stay open and provide valuable services to frontline workers. The flexibility and lower start-up costs (versus a brick and mortar restaurant) make food trucks and mobile food businesses an attractive option for food entrepreneurs.

Renowned as leaders of food industry analysis, IBIS World reported 35,512 food trucks operating in the United States in 2022. The number of food trucks in the U.S. has been growing 13.7% per year on average over the years between 2017-2022. California, Texas and Florida are the top three states with the most operating food trucks. Food Truck Nation, a project from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, found Portland, Oregon to be the friendliest city in the U.S. to open a food truck business in their “Food Truck Index” report.

Mobile food business fire safety course

Fire safety is extremely important to food truck business owners and their customers. Unfortunately, several people have been killed by mobile food business fires in the U.S. The MSU Product Center partnered with the Grand Rapids Fire Department to launch another free, online course in 2021:  Mobile Food Vehicle Fire Safety. This course is taught by Lieutenant William Smith of the Grand Rapids Fire Department. Lt. Smith describes the fire safety regulations in place in the City of Grand Rapids and notes that these standards are best practices on a national level. Entrepreneurs considering launching a mobile food business are encouraged to take the free, self-paced course. Fire inspections of mobile food vehicles are required in many jurisdictions before licenses/permits are granted.

MSU Product Center

Entrepreneurs wishing to work one-on-one with a food business counselor on their food truck or mobile food business plan are encouraged to join the Michigan State University (MSU) Product Center. The MSU Product Center is an organization that brings together on-campus expertise in the sectors of food, agriculture, and natural resources to help entrepreneurs define and launch businesses and products. Field-based innovation counselors advise entrepreneurs on business planning, regulatory requirements, and product development needs. To access business development assistance, select the “Become a Client” button on the MSU Product Center website or call 517-432-4608.

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