How to Start a Food Truck in Miami, FL

miaMiami. Ohhh Miami, it may not be the capital but is it not the real centerpoint of Florida’s interest and intrigue? Well, besides maybe Orlando. When you think of the sun and beach and transplanted palm trees in America, you think Miami; and thus does it get flooded throughout the year with a steady flow of people going down to enjoy the warmth and beautiful weather. Without a doubt it’s one of the perfect environment for food trucks, so it’s no wonder why this and various other Florida cities were some of the first east coast regions to start up the trend.

Today the food truck scene in Miami is thriving with tens of different trucks in operation, from the classic taco stands to the fun modern loves of grilled cheese or fried risotto balls, and everything else within and outside those ranges. A staple for daily lunches, catering events, and their typical uses, it’s safe to say that any food truck that can make it through the initial year of starter business can make a living in this city of sun. But being able to gather that customer base won’t be as easy as we want it to be; with tons of food trucks comes tons of competition and the taking up of good parking spots if you’re a little slow.

mia1Working together is definitely what these trucks do, the amazement of food truck owners is how well they stick together, but unless one can get through those initial negative factors, harder and harder to do the more crowded the streets get, you won’t be able to reach that pinnacle of cooperation. Luckily, we’re always able to find a great truck to help us with the questions we need answered for survival purposes. This week it’s Mike from Pirate Brothers BBQ, a competition-turned-truck team that slings out tasty sauce-slathered goodies to locals and tourists alike. As always, we are very grateful for the time and help he has taken to assist us on the subject of Miami. We also suggest any trucks getting started look into the Food Truck Association of Miami for any additional help and tips.

Question: First off, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself and the food truck? How did it all start?

Mike: We started off this journey as a semi pro BBQ competition team. After winning our first couple of events we thought “we just might have something here…” Everyone who tried our BBQ would be fascinated about our sauce. Over the next few years we kept up with several bbq circuits and after some soul searching decided to follow through with everyone’s advice and open a BBQ food truck. The first couple of events were rough to say the least. We were using our bbq competition trailer which is just not structured to serve the public. Logistically, it just didn’t work. We finally invested in a custom built bbq trailer with a state of the art smoker. We took our passion for BBQ to the next level and haven’t looked back since.

business-kit

mia3Q: How did you originally learn to operate a truck in Miami? Did you read a book, peruse internet resources, have a mentor, etc? Are there any of these, or other, resources you would recommend new food trucks use in order to help get started? Any organizations to be aware of?

 Mike: “Google”…It was our best friend throughout the whole process ! We also had a great friend who helped us immensely (@tutoscuisine). He had been in the business for several years and gave us tips on how to make what seemed to be a long scary process bearable. In the end, every food truck owner we have had the pleasure of working with or meeting has been great. It truly is a “fraternity” so to speak and I think that’s due to the fact that we all understand each other.

Q: It’s no secret that Miami has quite the thriving food truck scene nowadays, I imagine it can be quite difficult to get into and survive in. What are some of the main difficulties trucks have to contend with there?

Mike: To be honest with you I don’t really worry too much about what everyone else was doing. I think focusing on providing people with good quality food and a smile was our main concern. Like you mentioned, South Florida is a very populated city and a city with a large amount of cultural diversity, so finding customers isn’t the issue. It’s keeping customers that we focused on.

Q: Are there any advantages to operating in Miami’s particular food truck environment?

 Mike: Weather does play a role… and so does the nightlife. Because South Florida has so much to offer in regards to its nightlife that you have to keep up the times and the hot spots nightly.

Q: What is the current regulation system like for food trucks? What notable rules seem to mainly impact how truck owners can operate there, and should definitely be taken note of for new owners? Any particularly unique codes compared to other cities that you’re aware of?

 Mike: Over all South Florida has been pretty accepting of food trucks so there aren’t too many places we can not venture to. The beach areas are the only parts that have strict regulations and I think that’s mainly due to the fact that there isn’t much room to operate there. Traffic congestion becomes an issue.

Q: What strategies would you suggest for handling and finding parking locations in the city? How are the streets for daily parking, are there anything like breweries that one can make regularly scheduled connections with, and/or are there regularly scheduled events/festivals which offer good frequent gig opportunities?

 Mike: Selling food is just one small piece of the pie when it comes to owning and operating a food truck. You have to not only market yourself to potential customers but before that you have to market yourself to business owners who will give you the opportunity to operate on their property. Just like everything in life its ultimately a gamble. You could work your tail off to land a spot you feel would be great and when you finally get it, it’s a bust. But there’s been times we sold out in a couple of hours in the most random places. We were getting the truck serviced on time at a shop off of a semi busy street and people just started flocking to the truck wanting to try our food.

Q: One of the ‘cool’ part of Miami’s climate is that it never really gets unbearably cold in the winter, meaning easy year-long street parking opportunities. That said, the summer’s must get extremely hot; how much of a bane is this really for the food trucks? Can one implement certain strategies, like the offer of fun frozen treats or chilled beverages, to easily bring out customers?

Mike: The South Florida climate during the summer changes with the blink of an eye at times. Your right, it gets hot here during the summer but it’ll be 98 and sunny with 100% humidity one minute and then pouring rain the next. We don’t “re-invent the wheel” during the summer or winter times in regards to our menu. Weather seems to be our issue here just as much as I’m sure it is everywhere else in the country.

Q: Are there any last tips and considerations towards operating a food truck in Miami that you would like to say?

Mike: Be yourself…If you know your product is good then the people will follow. Don’t be afraid to ask questions…To not only your peers but also your state. We called the State office so many times during our set up process that we were on a first name basis with most if not all who answered the phone. Most of the paperwork is straight forward but before you do anything call them. Not only will you get your questions answered, but you might get tips and tricks from them to make the process go smoother. As far as your peers, go to food truck events. Meet others in the business and interact with them. I would be surprised if your are not greeted with open arms. But if you are email us, we’ll help you. Websites like foodtruckempire.com are a great resource. I wish I would have known about it before it would have made life a whole lot easier.

About Andrew

A graduate in Bachelors of the International Culinary School at the Art Institutes, Andrew Steifer has spent his days obsessing over everything food and drink. While working towards his Wine Certification, he started writing his own Food Truck Blog focused on reviewing all the mobile vendors of Minnesota.Being the first person to stubbornly pursue a blog like this for their newly budding street food scene, it's safe to say Andrew's love of food trucks is almost dangerous, at least to his wallet. He's been writing since 2013, drinking since 2010, and consuming every delicious morsel he can find every chance he gets.