A MUST READ!: Food Truck Summer Secrets

The Green Truck

By ModernB2B.com

The Green Truck

The food culture continues to be the one to tap, and food cart startups, mobile vendor franchises, and food truck concepts continue to roll out in every zip code in the United States. Tapping into the key demographic is definitely North America, whereas in Europe consumers won’t eat off a truck. The breakdown of labor for a food truck depends on its elite prestige of offerings, the heating/cooking time of menu foods, and the willingness of entrepreneur owners to work hard yet find a quality of life working a food truck they can’t find anywhere else.

A word to those who would be food-truck wise: Don’t come away from a service delivery having learned lessons, get them down before you risk your brand on a bad customer experience.Investigating local ordinances can discover unique loopholes that allow special or permit-only trucks or mobile food vendors per city or locale. Rent out experienced drivers or food truck wranglers until you can operate full on your own, their savvy will pay off in scheduling, parking and helpful suggestions.

Branding and advertisement needs to be up to speed to stay visible in highly dense food truck markets such as New York or Los Angeles. Work the social network for B2B customers and connections. The market niches may be irons in the fire. The food truck should have Yelp reviews and a Twitter account. The website might only be a blog announcing the day’s schedule and menu details. Consider sending out an email flyer or Twitter post that promises a free cup of lemonade or punch with every purchase. On a 95 degree day that offer will be the most popular food coupon online.

One way to get a handle on a unique angle for a food truck is to analyze what people want, and find those consumers and give it to them. Problems with foods for nutrition leave the door open for solution food providers. A veggie specialty foods truck might be just what the School Board wants at their event. An approved-for-diabetics menu food vendor can make money at a seniors event. What about a price break for set menus? Negotiate with local companies for a catering option that gives the Friday company lunch some punch.

Logistics always play a part in mobile food vending. Placement is everything. Will the food park consumers buy from your truck rather than drive away from their workplace to get the “same old thing”? Do you offer multiple options for one person buying for a group of different eaters?  Niches of availability pervade the food truck market. Does the truck visit the same place reliably for regulars? Is a catered-only food vendor? Do they run out everything after 20 minutes? Trucks which can feed 2,000 people in four hours make more margin profits than a specialty truck with premium prices that runs out of everything after 15 minutes and 25 diners.

The food truck market is full of success stories of caramelized chili noodles (Nom Nom) and the Green Truck. Have the “big city” food trucks left a particular neighborhood behind in your metropolitan area? Has swishy fare left middle-of-the-road customers blank faced when all they really want is baked potatoes and burgers? Customer service is important: Are the staff trained and equipped to take credit cards? Can you break a $20 bill? Is there something to drink for a captive crowd?

A prurient warning to would-be food truck operators: don’t overcharge customers for bad or undercooked food. Do a dry run practicing a limited offering of food with regular staff and review how they interact. Customers of a food truck are not blue-collar workers who don’t notice the attitude of the servers and staff. Learned from experience: Pack extra styrofoam or paper cups and napkins, always. Bring enough overflow of a featured item that destination customers don’t walk away disappointed. And periodically conduct “doneness” checks and perform quality control on items to reduce the burn of a bad food review thousands of people will read.

Menu enhancement can be challenging for capable food truck operators and experienced  mobile vendors. Think about the food truck as offering a complimentary attribute to an already fun experience, like a trip to the beach, surfing, camping, and enhance the experience for sidewalk customers. The smell of S’mores or waffle cones wafting from a food truck might bring snackers on the run who didn’t even know they wanted dessert. Food truck items make occasion dining fun, and give your customers something amazing to talk about, like the chocolate flake banana milkshake, vegan burger, or polenta cake with mushrooms and peas.

Every single magazine is full of the challenges of feeding the kids right. Pricing, season, and novelty can go hand in hand. Looking to please Mom? Imagine a food truck next to a hot beach curbside or an outdoor shopping mall that sold containers of lemon slices, carrot sticks, apple chunks, and a small container of cottage cheese with some toothpicks. Open up the mom-approved market and moms (and fitness buffs) will crowd the truck looking for whole foods snacks ready to munch.

The limitations of a food truck can be part of its success. Summer presents higher insect and vermin problems, and line cooks don’t like working with ovens in the heat. Changes in dense dinner fare may be in order. Box meals can simplify production. Create a “cool” summer lunch of tuna sandwich, celery sticks, and applesauce.(Mom doesn’t like to put the oven on in the summer).  Boost the health profile of your business, because everyone wants to talk about eating healthier although few can follow through and measure up.

Consider the optimized convenience of selling lunch fare, and change the offerings per location. Kids at a municipal swimming pool may not understand a beetroot-chipotle salsa, but they can read the prices. Parents who may not fork out money for kids to get fast food will probably spring for jello, veggie sticks, and fruit. (Twitter the menu or leave it on cars in the area.) A lunch truck parked in a shady corner of the neighborhood all summer could break even. A food truck parked every Sunday afternoon or evening could bring pedestrian traffic from customers out enjoying the cooler air.

Weather too hot for two pound burgers and king size burritos? Offer juice drinks or tea and advertise with signage you don’t just sell sodas. Let drive-by potential buyers and neighborhood  people see your repeated parking at a certain place, your company name (dot-com), and your featured summer “budget” menu. Eradicate time-consuming menu items and look for newer technology solutions to the limited space inside the truck or cart.

Labor, storage, weather, and prep time an issue? Review the reward on cost and efficiency of each menu item. For example, carrot souffles require adding, mixing, pouring, baking and cooling to serve and sell. Carrot sticks can be chopped by idle staff between lunch rushes. Don’t lose key staff because curbside schedules are reduced in some areas. Changes in logistics for a summer food truck operations schedule can free up time for some staff and let them work more hours periodically at other employment jobs seasonally available.

Work supply runs into your morning commute. Single-person food truck or mobile vendor operation can be very cost effective. Repeat parking placement may allow a trusted customer or fellow food vendor  to watch the truck while you skip to the restroom or take a break. Trade off driving and setup chores with a partner or spouse. They can drive the truck, pickup supplies and park early at crowded destinations. The primary operator can get the truck open, connected, and set up at the destination while the backup person finishes food prep at home, fashions product for sale, and follows behind in a second vehicle.

Get feedback on how customers experience your product offering. Do potential customers wilt at the sight of stacked potato chip packages and very little real food to eat? Can they get it somewhere else cheaper? Consider specializing in healthy cool beverages for summer like watermelon slushies, peppermint rose tea, sharp lemonade, and/or carrot smoothies. Curious passersby may opt to try something from a food truck that is new and different for them just because the opportunity presents itself.

Entrepreneurs owning or operating a food truck should review the company profile and the look and feel of the customer side of the sales experience. Are more business to business events desired?  Is the food truck ubiquitous and bland, or distinctive, memorable, and catchy? Do the uniforms relate the the website? Does the menu match the name of the business? Asking the hard questions can break open a new market and increase sales volumes. Is your truck easy to find and spot? Are the products too edgy and trendy for general consumers?

The food culture popular in the mainstream consumerism today makes restaurants and food product market margins appealing for startup and investment business owners. And for return on investment, few franchises compare on the thinned operating margins. But keeping menu offerings fresh, affordable, and prepared in a quality manner is what keeps the cash register ringing. The ability to stay competitive while offering what customers want and expect is the main business goal of customer service for the mobile food vendor or food truck operator.

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