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How to start a mobile food truck restaurant business in Kenya – part 1

We own a business, Savage Foodie here in Nairobi Kenya. We currently own three food trucks that operate in various parts of the county. Starting this business was not easy. We did our research and contacted a couple of local motor manufacturers and body fabricators most of whom had no clue as to exactly what we needed.
Our founder is an ardent pursuer of her dreams and finally got one local fabricator, only that it was not a truck but a trailer that cost about KES 1.9M. Together with her partner, they sourced online and came across where there were so many options. After designing the kitchen, scoping with various suppliers, they zeroed in on one supplier who was so determined to customize the truck to what they could afford at the time. This was in Shanghai, China. The truck was small but fit for purpose and total cost for this driven truck was 1.8M. Clearing it at the customs was a hustle as the special purpose vehicle had to be inspected at the country of origin and certificate of conformance produced at the customs via the clearing agent. Currently in 2018, all special purpose vehicles are inspected at the country of destination. Importation is always the bottleneck as the customs is not always a walk-in-walk-out. The advice we give is to source locally. Find a good fabricator who values good workmanship, supervise them well and fabricate a trailer to your liking.

Why trailer? The mobility of the food truck only helps when going for events and sourcing for supplies. Events shall not be frequent and some organizers charge too much vending fees it would not make economic sense to even try. The best option is to have the county council allocate a space for your semi-stationary trailer which you could be paying for daily, weekly or monthly according to agreed terms and public health protocols. If you can, have a smaller vehicle like a Probox or a Station Wagon to feed supplies to these trailers or use motorbikes or public means or have suppliers deliver right to your location.
A second hand Pickup Truck is the best option. This way, your ROI will be less than 6 months. All our trucks are driven and it is from experience that we have found out what works and what doesn’t albeit at a dear cost. A trailer can be relocated easily if you find that the first location doesn’t match or exceed your projections. But it is always wise to exhaust an area by building good customer service, good food and good reputation before throwing in the towel. The Kenyan market values physical locations. The customer wants to find you exactly where you were the day before. As an entrepreneur, always make your money work hard for you, that the money you invested comes back to your pocket as quickly as possible >1.3X for you to channel it back for growth and expansion.

In hiring chefs, get the certificate level personnel who you can train on the job. There is no use for high employee cost but it depends on your cuisine. You will find that for a trailer, there is no need to hire a driver hence less cost. The problem with hiring persons who do not understand the kitchen is that their affinity to high hygiene standards is low. If you can get a clean person, making a chef out of them is easy.
Please keep checking for our next article as we soldier on in this mobility for food business. Like our social media pages and visit our Food Truck in Westlands Nairobi, along Ring Road, Parklands opposite Shell Petrol station.

10 thoughts on “How to start a mobile food truck restaurant business in Kenya – part 1

  1. Hello Savage Foodie,

    I write on behalf a Turkish Events organizer who has won tender to run Turkish Food Festival in Nairobi. We successfully had one in Russia & we want to replicate the same in Kenya.

    We will need a food caravan for 9 days, moving with it from one mall to another & serving Turkish food for FREE to mall visitors.

    I will need a chef, 2 assistant chefs & your caravan for 9 days. Is this something we can discuss ? Could I have a quotation for this ?

    The caravan has to have water, electricity / power on board.

    Are there any kinds of licenses I need to have from County Government for the event ? Note that we will not have it on the roads but only inside malls which we will pay daily fee to.

    Kindly reach out to me on 0725344037


    Alvin AKOKO
    Gigiri Road, Off Limuru Road
    Office: 254 20 712 47 79, 254 20 712 47 78
    Mobile: +254 725344037

    “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” — Mahatma GANDHI

  2. My wife and I are looking into starting a food truck in Eldoret. Somethings different that kenya food. But starts small before moving into a food truck. Who selling a small cheap food truck.

    1. Hi,
      You could start in a small bicycle or motorcycle extended cart. Install solar power for a small refrigerator, fit in a fryer and grill and a gas cooker. this will be a good start.This gives an approximate budget of KES200,000. Image is key. Ensure top-notch hygiene and make sure surfaces for food preparation are made of stainless steel. We are selling a small truck at 1.4M and a larger truck at 5M. Call/whatsapp 0726148672

  3. Hello, thanks for this article.I would like to ask if you have any recommendations for truck’s builders in nairobi.

    1. Hi Arnold, Amazing! You can visit our food truck at our current parking spot in Juja Town opposite Juja post office for a view of how ours has been fabricated. You could borrow some ideas. Otherwise all the best!!

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