Hot Tips for Food Truck Owners

Do you own/work in a food truck?

Would you like your food truck to be more successful?

We generally define a food truck business as a market stall on wheels producing street food on the go.  A small business that primarily trades at outdoor events, or provides on site catering for functions, parties and festivals.  It has all of the advantages of a market stall operation with less time spent on setting up and packing down.

Even if your business doesn’t fit that description exactly, read on as there will still be valuable insights anyway.  Additionally head to our other hot tips for business owners articles to get any other info more closely related to your business type.

Food truck businesses are great because:

  • They provide the flexibility of working when and where you want rather than being locking into a particular location/rent.
  • They require less staffing and other general resources than a bricks n mortar business.
  • You can make significant income in short periods of time if you know what you’re doing.
  • You get to work at interesting events/locations instead of the same old spot every day.
  • You can often use different festivals and events as a working holiday for the family, making money while also getting some down time.
  • Costs like food licensing, insurance, electricity and cost of goods sold are all comparatively lower than a traditional food business 

But they can also be really challenging to run because:

  • It can be hard to find the right events for your specific offering.
  • It can take time to build the relationships with organisers of the bigger events and festivals as well as a loyal customer following.
  • Weather can sometimes play a cruel role in your profitability on any given day.
  • Because they require less staff they are also dependent on their owners being fit and healthy as often as possible, otherwise the business can’t run.
  • The time value of travelling to and from distant events may sometimes outweigh the profit/outcome.

That’s why we’ve developed this list to help you navigate running a food truck.

Event selection:

Choosing which regular and occasional gigs to prioritise is crucial to making a food truck a success.  It’s best to aim for a balance between some regular weekly events and periodic cultural events as well.  The weekly events should be things like night/day markets or food truck nights.  The other events should be school fete’s, cultural festivals and music/arts festivals.  It’s important to choose wisely as there can be many different events on each weekend in a busy town or city.

Think about the location of each event and whether it is surrounded by residential or commercial density, access to free/cheap parking or public transport.  These things will all impact how many people end up walking past your business and potentially buying something.

Competition:

Know your competition! In the food truck business its important to be offering something relatively unique but interesting to everyone.  Some of the most successful food trucks we’ve worked with specialise in serving coffee and sweet potato chips or coffee and donuts ONLY.  Whereas others will promote the unique cuisine of their homeland and find great success.  Choose something that will play well at most events rather than be highly suited to just a few.

Do your research first.  Make sure you’ve spent enough time at the different locations and events around town to know whether you will be the 4th truck selling hot dogs if you attend a certain event.

Find ways to compete directly and indirectly with the other food trucks you see.  Things like meal deals can help you serve a beverage with your meal rather than your customer going elsewhere for it while they wait.

Strategy:

One of the easiest ways to out compete to other local food trucks is to corner the private function market.  Put time and effort into your website and facebook page.  Pay a small amount each month to run google ads for party/function catering.  By catering events like these you lock in all of the profit from the start and run less risks like over ordering ingredients or choosing the wrong event around town to attend instead.  You can quote people based on a flat rate to attend or per head served or simply let each person pay as you usually would (only makes sense for larger parties).

Food truck strategy is all about managing your calendar to maximise the number of profitable days and minimise the not so profitable one’s.

Menu:

Have options so that you can adapt your menu to each occasion without totally overhauling everything.  Offer larger full meals or smaller entree sized dishes depending on what the crowd wants.  Designing your menu so that most of the dish is ready to go before its even ordered is a great idea.  Cooking everything fresh for each order will only slow down your service and cut into your profits as your less patient customers go next door for whatever they’re selling instead.

Service:

Speed is most important.  The biggest mistake we see in settings where food trucks reign is slow service.  Having a long line can make you appear like the best choice but if that line isn’t moving then people are just going to go elsewhere.  Take cash and card payments with a payWave option as well.  Anything that speeds up the ordering and serving process is paramount to your success.

Packaging:

As expected, we have a few recommendations here.  Keeping your costs low is important but so is finding the best products to fit your menu and business branding.  The aim is to provide a sturdy tray/plate, a napkin and cutlery that are quick to grab and easy to use without making your customers feel they need to balance everything so they don’t spill it everywhere.

Containers – A tray, plate or bowl to serve your meals in.

Many of our food truck customers prefer to use our BioCane and BioBoard takeaway containers, especially the trays and bowls.  In the BioCane, there are square, rectangular and round bowls.  All of these products have lids avail to fit for customers looking to takeaway and eat later.

For more compact dishes or side serves we have paper bowls and chip cups in many sizes as well as sauce cups for condiments.

There are also BioCane and BioBoard clamshells available for take away service but in most food truck settings these are overkill.

Cutlery – Something your customers can use to tuck in if you’re not serving finger food.

Our favourite is the wooden spork, its cheap and a great all rounder for all types of meals.   If you’re looking for something more specific the rest of the wooden cutlery range is the best value and includes cutlery packs and chopsticks.

If you prefer the look and feel of plastic cutlery we have both 70% Bioplastic and 100% bioplastic cutlery available as well.

Napkins – To clean themselves up with afterwards.

For food truck operators we recommend the single saver dispenser napkins.  They work just like a tissue box and are much cheaper than lunch or dinner napkins and the dispensers can be co-branded with your business logo/message upon request.  We don’t really recommend the tall/compact style of dispenser as most people find them hard to use and wasteful due to tears and rips of the smaller, less effective napkins.

Hot / Cold Beverages – If you are serving any beverages out of your food truck, we’ve got you covered.

Hot drinks are best in either our single wall paper cups, or double wall paper cups if they are going to be very hot.

Cold drinks work best in our clear bioplastic cups but can also be served in our single wall paper cups with cold drink lids.

 

Additional Resources

Preventing Food Truck Failure for Dummies

How to Launch a Food Truck Business in Australia

How to Start a Mobile Carting Business

Five Questions You Should Answer Before You Start a Food Truck

Here’s what they don’t tell you about running a food truck

5 Food Truck Efficiency Tips To Drive Up Profits

8 Start Up Food Truck Business Tips

61 Owners Share Secrets to Starting a Food Truck Business