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If our situation ever dictates that we need to find work, any work, just to put a roof over our head, we can do a lot worse than working in a food truck and still, we can learn so much.
We might have previously worked in mega blue chip companies with awesome people but we will rarely know teamwork and life-experience like owning a food truck.
At the recent 1st Asean Young Food Entrepreneurs Conference in Kuala Lumpur, organised by food portal and TV channel FriedChillies and initiated by the Finance Ministry, food trucks were all any of the 650 registered participants could talk about. .
New York magazine noted in 2009, that the food truck had “largely transcended its roach-coach classification and is now a respectable venue for aspiring chefs to launch careers”.
The Food Truck Invasion In Our Cities
The same can be said here, in Malaysia.
In downtown Kuala Lumpur, Jalan Ampang, TAPAK, is a spot deemed as the happening place for food trucks where they converge daily. It allows Malaysians to experience urban street dining right in the heart of the city and has already become the perfect ‘lepak’ spot for urbanites. Other hot food truck locations gaining popularity are the Anggerik Mall Shah Alam parking area, Jalan Kenari USJ 1 and SS 15 Subang Jaya.
Selangor state executive councillor for Youth, Sports, Culture and Entrepreneur Development Amirudin Shari had also just announced that Selangor is the first state to introduce a ‘Food Truck’ business licence to allow operation of food business with this concept.
“The State Government just approved a new ‘Food Truck’ and ‘Smart Truck’ business license policy which makes the State the first state and leader in introducing a business license with this concept.
“The policy includes business operation requirements that can be initiated across the state in 2017,” he said during a speech at the Food Mega Festival Launch Ceremony at Melawati Stadium, Shah Alam on 31 December 2016.
Amirudin had outlined the steps needed to get the proper permits and license in the state during a recent interview.
The first step for those intending to operate a food truck is they must purchase the vehicle which must then be sent to the Computerised Vehicle Inspection Centre (Puspakom).
Next, they have to submit the Puspakom certification to the local councils which govern their business venues and then apply for a permit, which must be renewed every six months. This business permit, Amirudin said, costs RM1,080 for a six-month period and includes a garbage collection service charge by the local council.
There is also a parking charge for food truck operators who use the special parking lots prepared by the local councils. The charges vary, depending on the time and duration of their operation.
A time limit of between two and four hours is imposed on each food truck, after which it must leave and operate at another venue. The parking lot charges also differ in different local councils.
“It’s normal that when you have a truck, you will then park at potential areas 24/7. Then, it’s no longer a food truck business,” Amirudin said, adding that the local councils have also prepared several special lots just for licensed food truck operators, MalayMail reports.
“Also, in other countries, the food trucks are for takeaways but so far here in Malaysia because of the ‘lepak’ culture, they also want to have a place to sit and open some chairs. So we have to look into all this,” he added.
He stressed that the state government is taking the food truckers seriously and have even appointed managers in every local council specifically tasked to manage food trucks, overseeing their timing, locations, movement and adherence to guidelines.
He said that the monitoring period will be for the next three to four months after which any necessary amendments will be made to improve the food truckers welfare. Currently Selangor has about 130 licensed food truck operators and Amirudin projects the numbers will double come 2018.
With the growing interest among the younger generation to strike out on their own in business, Malaysian Digest also spoke to relevant stakeholders to find out how fast can one start a food truck business here.
What Does It Take to Launch a Food Truck?
We spoke to Fakharudin Nasir, a seasoned F&B professional who currently heads the food service division as a manager at Pelabuhan Tanjung Pelepas Gelang Patah Johor in the Amenities Management Department.
He broke it down into a step-by-step guide on how one should embark on this food-truck-business path.
“Firstly, they would need to identify the product. Then after finalizing, look into the capital source and the amount of manpower needed for the business. Ensure all set-up and training is provided for excellent service and outcome.
“Next, look into selecting an appropriate location that strongly attracts customers and finally, give it your all and start selling,” he added.
In terms of figuring out an excellent business idea and how young food truckers should filter their decision-making, he strongly advised newcomers to try to find a business which taps into an existing niche in the market and then set it in motion by turning that dream into reality.
“To filter their decision making, they have to do Yearly Sales Projection in retrospect to the Profit and Loss Projection then only they would be able to determine their Return On Investment (ROI),” he added.
As for the period needed until one is able to get their truck business up and running, Fakharudin regarded the matter on how it really depends on their capital.
“If they have zero experience, they would have to find a Food and Beverage Consultant to set-up the business for them. Usually once they complete the training module set by the consultant, they would then be more mentally prepared,” he further explained.
Since competition is growing as more food trucks ensure the scene, in terms of building their customer base, he stresses on how branding and quality is the most important factor in selling a product.
“For the customer base, for starters, try to engage with corporate customers to sell your brand,” he advised, that way it can help build connections within the industry.
The peak hours of operating a business and suitable locations should also be identified and food truckers should plan their strategy according to the products they are selling, he also noted.
“Some would research for the type of buildings, the demographic factor and customer spending capability as well as for their wants and needs,” he added.
So whether the focus is more on the interior, meaning the food truck operations, or the exterior in reference to catering to customer’s interests – all food truck owners should broaden their goals to fulfil all demands.
And to put matters more simply as to whether financial assistance are a necessity, he advised in using our savings instead if possible and setting aside a loan for the capital to roll in.
If the need to start a food truck is still being put on hold due to financial restrictions, he also encourages those to engage with PUNB, TEKUN or Dewan Perniagaan Melayu as these agencies have business loans to be offered to entrepreneurs in the Food Truck Business.
“You Really Have To Be Mentally Prepared And Just Stay Focused, ” Says Food Truck Owner
To get some first hand experience, we spoke to Ahmad Faris Zulkifli, owner of SundayDo, a mobile dessert truck that sells various cakes and sweet delicacies.
“Beforehand, we must know what we are planning to sell. Whatever you intend to sell, make sure it is good.
“Head over to Suruhanjaya Syarikat Malaysia (SSM) to register your business. Then open a bank account,” he shared his experience with Malaysian Digest.
In regards to the procedure, Faris was able outline his own strategy and approach to setting up a food truck.
“As for the cost, it’s subjective. As for myself, I bought my truck second hand at RM32k. A brand new truck will cost you around RM70k-90k. As for the interior, roughly RM5k-12k. Be sure to set aside some money for the branding and marketing,” he added.
He further explained as to when a food trucker intends to set up a proper business entity as opposed to a sole proprietor outfit, then one would have to go through the proper procedures to register a company under the Companies Commission (SSM) and get a proper food truck license.
As previously highlighted by Fakharudin on how branding and quality is an important factor, Faris says his personal touch is to focus on the customer’s well-being.
“Treat them well and keep good relations with your regulars. Try to also make full use of social media and don’t be afraid of mistakes. Just stay focused and keep improving each day,” he added.
There may come a time during the food truck set-up process when the going gets tough, and like the rest of them, Faris too had his fair share of struggles.
From his experience, we have to ensure the business idea we have is achievable. Everything else that comes later, we have endure with patience, as he shared a few pointers.
“Do a proper planning and projected cash flow, always make sure your business is profitable. If possible avoid bank loan and instead, borrow from your family or relatives.
“You really have to be mentally prepared and just stay focus. At the end of the day, it’s something you are not forced to do, but you love doing.
“Family support is all you need,” he added.
It took Faris almost two months to start and get his food truck business up and running and he explained that in deciding the location set up a food truck, although it really depends on the product, but offices area during lunch hour is a good spot and time.
And today, SundayDo has gained much popularity among dessert-lovers out there especially with their bestsellers like Nutella Red Velvet Cake and Devils Food Chocolate Cake. As everything is homemade with love and at our convenience, this sweet truck will go far.
Shakespeare once said that if there is a good will, there is a great way. If the want is certain, there will always be a way to achieve it so we at Malaysian Digest wish all those starting a food truck the very best and may the odds be ever in your favour.