How to start a mobile food business

How to start a mobile food business

Whether you use a cart, trailer or vehicle; you can sell food or snacks from one location to the other as a mobile food vendor in Nigeria.

That being said, the ideal way to succeed is to find that kind of food or snack combination you prefer, stay on it and develop your skills at producing them.

And, you cannot be an expert in your business unless you do your own research on what area has been covered already to avoid duplication and unhealthy rivalry. After that; come up with your own creation.

For example, some of the successful food vendors we see around have created special niches for themselves- maybe in the area of how to combine costumes and enticing language to enhance their image or otherwise.

According to the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, the term “street foods” describes a wide range of ready-to-eat foods and beverages sold and sometimes prepared in public places. Like fast foods, the final preparation of street foods occurs when the customer orders the meal which can be consumed where it is purchased or taken away. Street foods and fast foods are low in cost compared with restaurant meals and offer an attractive alternative to home-cooked food. Despite these similarities, street food and fast food enterprises differ in variety, environment, marketing techniques and ownership.

 “For mobile food business, even though they use movable carts; mostly they always have permanent locations where they sell their foods. Although the advantage is that it is easy for them to move their food to anywhere their services are needed. But most times, they always have a permanent location,” said Motunrayo Adisa, a Chef and Chief Executive Officer of The Kitchen Warriors.

“Mobile food business is capital intensive. The last time, around last year when I made an enquiry about a mini mobile truck; the van can accommodate two people but not conveniently, it was around more than N1 million. This means an average Nigerian can’t afford such. In terms of weather, during raining season; one may need to shut down operations completely. Another challenge is that; because it is always small when it comes to the menu, one has to prepare, display and sell from that same spot. So because it is always smaller in size; I mean the trucks, it is space constrained because you have to manage the space,” she told The PUNCH during an interview session.

Apart from the costumes and enticing words, a mobile food operation has unique requirements and regulations. See some of them below.

Financial cost

The Enterprise Mind explained that many factors are involved in determining start-up costs. There are one-time costs such as those for equipment such as plates, spoons, cooking wares, aprons and others. There are also recurring start-up costs such as those for materials for food items, salaries, and those costs that can change based on the location. This includes purchasing a food truck, register a point-of-sale system, truck wrap, office supplies, marketing/advertising, public relationship, and other professional, legal or consulting fees. While the list does not cover everything that might be needed in the long run, however, it is a glance, which gives one an idea of what to do and expect.

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Prepare a Menu

Having a food menu you would specialise in after your survey helps you stay ahead of your contemporaries in the same business. The more food you are able to sell, the more money you will be able to make. So it is imperative to plan a menu based on items that you can serve to your customers quickly without any complaints. Choose items that use a minimal number of ingredients and can be prepared and served in just a few minutes of time. Use ideal ingredients that can be incorporated into multiple menu items such as carrots and other vegetables that can be used in preparing multiple meals vegetable.

Acquire all Legal Requirements

You have probably noticed that most How-To guides on this subject place sorting out the legal requirements at the bottom of their To-Do list.

And that is why: the permits and licensing requirements for food cart businesses vary from country to country, state to state, and even city to city, so making a definitive list with everything you need is close to impossible. At this point, you are going to address issues such as: The street food vending regulations in your city, certified licenses and permission required, the kind of food you will be selling and how they will be handled, stored, thawed, and cooked, commissary requirements (the requirement to operate from a licensed commercial kitchen), size, quantity, and quality, material and equipment of your street food vehicle. Others are:  vehicle’s fresh water and wastewater management holding capacity, safe food handling course requirement, proper Hygiene policies and pre-approval inspection of the equipment

Making good use of the social media

We are in the technology age, so as a mobile food vendor in Nigeria, you should not be left out. The power of digital marketing is so great, to say the least. Twitter, Instagram, Google, and Facebook are currently the hottest social media platforms for mobile food entrepreneurs to stay in constant touch with their customers. Marketing and creating awareness for your mobile food business requires a great deal of social media presence.  Twitter, in particular, has become the favourite of mobile food vendors. You can go to twitter and set up an account under your business name. Twitter is totally all about engaging your followers. You can also build and set up a website for your business

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Recruit your Staff

The real reason why you will need to hire staff is that if you can’t afford to buy a vehicle to deliver food to your customers from the beginning of this business, you can hire cab drivers, tri-cycle riders, or power bike riders to help you in delivering food to your customers, also when you start growing you will need more hands in the kitchen and in the delivery process. Note also, for you to get the best services from your staff, make sure you don’t owe them salaries or wages because if you do you won’t get the effectiveness and efficiency you want from them and this will definitely affect your business badly. Pay your staff salary/wages promptly.

Maintain Good Customer Relationship

Good customer care service plays a great role in the success of your business. It is advisable to play this role yourself, but if you must get another to help you do it then the person you are hiring must be polite, smart, passionate and respectful.


If indeed your intention of starting a home and office food delivery company is to grow the business beyond the city where you are going to be operating to become a national and international brand by going into franchising, then you must be ready to spend money on promotion and advertisement of your brand.

No matter the industry you belong to, the truth is that the market is dynamic and requires consistency,  brand awareness and brand boosting come promotion to continue to appeal to your targeted market. If you discover that your business has grown to a certain level, you can decide to set up another location where targeted demand is many and flowing.


Maintain and keep your surroundings in good condition; otherwise, you might run the risk of having your licenses revoked. Do a daily inspection and checkup, making sure to clean the floors, appliances and surfaces with soap and disinfectant solution. You must keep all associated fixtures, fittings and equipment clean and in proper working order. There should be no form of fumes, smoke or foul odours. No waste water or garbage should go beyond a day, and they should be disposed of without threat to the environment.

Local Government Food Permit and Business Permit

 A food/business permit must be issued from the Environment Service Department of the LG/LCDA where the food truck is domiciled. Food trucks and facilities are inspected by health officers for safety and health concerns. Once the permit is approved, business operations can commence. Please note that if you decide to change locations (move to another Local Government Area), a new permit will be required to operate.

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Other Local Government Fees/Levies:

Confirm with your local government if you require any other permits to operate within the area.

Evidence of Tax Payment:

The payment of tax by all businesses is a requirement of the Lagos State Government. Ensure you have photocopies of any tax payments ready for presentation when approached by authorities.

Waste/Trash Consideration Arrangement:

It is important to dispose of your waste properly.

Challenges in Doing Business

Business Cost:

The business is capital intensive. A small-sized motorcycle mobile food truck costs about N1 million on average.

Disturbances by Local Government Authorities and Lagos State Task Force:

Most business owners complain about disturbances from the Local Government Authorities and the Lagos State Task Force. This should not be a cause for concern if you have the required permits and documentation to operate.

Disturbances from thugs and unauthorised personnel:

This may greatly affect business operations. Ensure safe locations are chosen to minimise risk and exposure. Very little is known about mobile food consumption in Nigeria despite being a sector which could generate numerous employment opportunities and provide an accessible source of food to a large population. We recommend that this industry should be adequately supported to ensure its sustainability to become an alternative form of employment for the youth population.

How to succeed in the business

 According to Adisa, having a unique selling point is key.

“If they are able to come up with a unique selling point; it’s going to help them. For instance, KFC has a unique recipe. Nobody knows their recipe. If you taste the chicken in KFC, it is different from others, and that has kept them in business for decades and they are still doing well.

Secondly, she advised prospective mobile food vendors to come up with unique marketing strategies.

“They need to work more on both virtual and physical strategy- anything that can help people to locate them. They can brand their trucks, and use signage, fliers. Marketing unfolds them to customers and helps them make more money,” she said.

Again, she explained that priorities need to be given to their customers.

“If a customer is coming to buy food from you. It is because they can’t cook in their homes. It is because they are looking for something unique. So, they must get their food right in terms of taste, the ways you relate and treat customers and will encourage to come back”.

After applying the above, Adisa assures that the business would continue to grow and expand.


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