How to Sell Tacos on the Street

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Customers add pick their own toppings on street tacos to reduce preparation time.
Customers add pick their own toppings on street tacos to reduce preparation time. (Image: Ciaran Griffin/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

There’s nothing like receiving a foil-wrapped bundle of warm corn tortilla and savory grilled meat from a street vendor, especially when you’re invited to ladle freshly chopped onion, cilantro and homemade salsa atop the bite-sized treat. Street food vendors surged in popularity in 2009, enticing well-heeled customers, day laborers and foodies alike to pause before taco trucks and stands for ethnic foods ranging from schnitzel to tacos. To sell tacos on the street, remember that you’ll still need to adhere to business regulations governing more conventional companies.

Things You'll Need

  • Taco recipes
  • Business license
  • Tax identification number
  • Insurance
  • Taco cart or truck
  • Route
  • Signage
  • Taco platters

Perfect your taco recipe. Street taco offerings should reflect the crowd you’re aiming for. Standard offerings include grilled beef, chicken or fish accompanied with corn tortillas and chopped raw toppings such as onion, avocado or tomato. If you’re dealing with a foodie crowd, include some tempting gourmet extras such as raspberry-chipotle chicken or crumbled Gorgonzola cheese toppings. Vegetarians will appreciate a grilled veggie option.

Obtain applicable licenses and permits. You’ll need a business license, tax identification number, food permit, liability insurance and insurance for your vehicle, if operating from a truck rather than a food cart. You may need to provide plans for disposing of hot grease or collecting rubbish generated from your napkins, paper plates and empty salsa containers.

Set pricing schedules. Because sales tend to be rapid and centered around mealtimes, such as a lunch rush near a corporate office building, consider being a cash-only enterprise. Running cards takes extra time, since you have to wait for receipts to print and capture a signature. Set your prices to include applicable sales taxes to avoid making change. For example, your tacos may cost $3 each including tax.

Create a route if you plan to be mobile. Take office buildings, available parking, one-way streets and pedestrian traffic into account to create a smooth, effective and profitable route. Consider your competitors. If someone’s already making a killing selling falafel, he may not appreciate you crowding onto his street corner. Frame it as a way to generate more profits for both food trucks to boost receptivity.

Market your tacos by sending free sampler platters to businesses along your route. Post attractive, colorful signs featuring hand-painted pictures of the food and prices. Prominently post your health department rating outside the cart or truck; some customers will have qualms about eating food that’s been prepared and sold on the street. Apply to participate in street fairs, farmer’s markets and other special events to boost consumer awareness about your tacos. Offer a free taco to birthday celebrants.

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