No matter what the economy looks like, people need to eat. Operating your own food cart business can be profitable, especially if you set up shop in an area with heavy foot traffic, such as at a park or along a city street. One of the great things about owning a cart as opposed to a sit-down restaurant is that if foot traffic slows down for whatever reason, you can always set up shop somewhere else.
Find a Niche and Fill a Need
In order to run a successful food cart, you have to find a niche to fit it. This means you need to identify a need that people have that is not being met. For instance, on a hot summer's day, what do people want? Something cold. Set up a cart selling ice cream, slushies, water, soda or snow cones, or at least sell it along with your main fare. Make sure to be willing to adjust your prices to match the current demand. Only increase costs a little at a time, or you risk alienating regular customers. Also make sure to keep regular, predictable hours to get repeat business.
Be Mindful of Your Surroundings
Just as you would check the weather to see if you need an umbrella before going out, make sure to consider your environment every time you set up shop. On days that are unseasonably chilly, make sure to sell something hot, like hot cocoa, even if it is just for that one day.
Don't keep a lot of cash on hand at any given time. If you are working with at least one other person, arrange to do a money drop every few hours. Keep cash in a drawer or envelope out of sight. If you are working alone, have a secret place in your cart to keep money you don't need to make change.
Know Your County and City Codes and Ordinances
Many cities and counties won't let you just set up shop whenever or wherever you like. Some require special permits and paperwork and some have special rules that you have to follow and certain zones where you are allowed to set up shop. Always do this research first and obtain any licenses or permits before you obtain your equipment.