Create a Budget for Your Trailer

It takes money to make money. If you are considering starting a trailer, you need to think hard about the costs you will incur. Depending on your ambition and resources, when you first start a trailer you can spend as little as $15,000 or as much as $200,000.

Condense Your Menu

To make the most of your dollars, we suggest starting with giving your menu a cold, hard review and thinking about it not only from a taste perspective, but from a cost perspective as well. Ask yourself What kind of equipment you need. Could you reduce the amount of kitchen equipment, labor and vendor costs by condensing your menu to three or four main items?

Consider Your Costs

Here are some line items to consider when creating your budget:

  • Fixed Costs, or overhead costs that are independent from your output: Typical fixed costs unique to a food trailer include restaurant equipment, furniture and décor, opening party invites, media releases, and other startup marketing needs.
  • Monthly Costs: Rent for your space, staff salaries, supplies, electricity, water, gray water and grease removal, and advertising.
  • Weekly Costs: Things you’ll burn through quickly and need to re-up on a weekly basis, which include food, linens, paper goods, and utensils.

There will undoubtedly be other costs associated with your trailer food business, but those are the basics.

Create Your Budget and Set Up Your Books

Given the complexity of your budget, you need to be organized. At the outset we recommend building a budget through spreadsheet products such as Microsoft Excel, which has specific templates you can download to help with budgeting.

For more information on how to create a budget in Excel, refer to How to Create a Business Budget.

Once you get more experienced, advanced tools like Quickbooks can help you get more organized and detailed about your ongoing budget needs.

For more information on QuickBooks and other accounting software, refer to How to Set Up the Books.


See other articles about starting up a food trailer.

See the full CW Startup Guide, which walks you through each step of starting your business.

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