You love cooking and always have wanted to run your own restaurant, but are hesitant about how much it takes to get a brick and mortar restaurant up and running. Is owning a food truck a good first step?
It is kind of like the chicken and egg scenario: which comes first? Some in the food biz open a brick and mortar restaurant first and then decide to bring in extra customers with a food truck, but others prefer starting out with a food truck to iron out all the wrinkles before investing in a full-fledged restaurant.
Whether you have some restaurant savvy or not, the food truck industry is its own animal and you should make sure you have done proper research and planning before jumping in. And I am not just talking about what you need to get on the road, but what you need to keep running your truck every day.
Here is a Beginner’s Guide to Running a Food Truck:
Always be prepared for the unexpected
In the daily running of a food truck business, your motto should always be to “be prepared for the unexpected”. Just like with a brick and mortar restaurant, each day is filled with its own set of challenges, but some of yours will be a little more unique. Have a contingency plan for everything from the truck breaking down to running out of food to problems with finding locations to park. Time is money so you can’t afford a lot of downtime when you are not selling your products.
Commit to long hours and hard work
Any food truck owner will tell you that if you are looking for a business where you can make your own hours and only work when you want to then the food truck business is not right for you. With all the food shopping, prep, marketing and paperwork you have to do, there is so much more to the food truck business than the time spent on the truck cooking for customers. Be prepared to commit to doing what needs to be done so that you can have a long-running, successful business.
Carve out the time you need for all aspects of the business
You could hands-down spend all day, every week just with the food prep and cooking, but if you ignored the other parts of your business you could end up with outdated permits and bills left unpaid. To make sure that you are getting everything done that is essential to your business, you should carve out time for specific duties. There will be time when you will have to be in your home office doing unglamorous things like paying bills and returning phone calls. It can all be a little overwhelming so make sure you hire additional staff to help share duties as your business grows.
Cultivate a following through social media
Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are great ways to reach out to potential customers and spread the word about any promotions you are running or special dishes you might be trying out. It is a lot cheaper than traditional advertising and it helps keep people talking about your food truck, which is of course what you want, right?
Keep in mind though that social media can also turn into a nightmare if you don’t handle your message correctly. Always be honest in how you present yourself and think carefully about what message you are sending it and how it will be received before hitting the send button. Other important tips include making sure your bio is completely filled out so people can find you when searching for food trucks and always respond to both the good and bad comments your customers may post. Cultivating customer interaction is very important for the success of your food truck.
Don’t lose your love of food
With all this juggling of the different hats you have to wear as a food truck owner, it can be hard to hold onto your passion for food, but you must. It is what drew you into this business and is what ultimately keeps your customers coming back for more. Make time to still play around in the kitchen to perfect your dishes and create new ones. Never lose the heart of your business.
Be a people person
Besides a high quality product, the other key element in any successful business is good customer interaction. Think about how you go to the same shops or restaurants over and over because you know you will get quality products at a reasonable price and that the staff will be friendly and helpful. This is what you need to do as well as a food truck owner. Get to know your regulars really well and chat with them as you prep your food and always stay cool even when a customer complains or you are just having a bad day. Being curt or snappish with a customer will only drive them away.
Always be on the lookout for new locations
Finding good locations to set up shop whether for a few hours or all day can be challenging. You need to make sure that you have all permits and follow all regulations and on top of that you want to make sure that you will have enough customers to make that location profitable for you. This can be a tall order so you need to be constantly on the lookout for new locations. You can never have enough possible locations lined up because you know some of them are bound to be a bust and you have to weigh the odds in your favor.
Look for catering jobs too
A lot of food truck owners also cater events to help supplement your income. This is a great way to introduce more people to your quality food and service and it can help you survive any lean times you might have on the truck. This is especially a good idea if you plan to operate your food truck in the northeast part of the country where winter weather might keep customers away.
There is a lot that goes into running a food truck, but with the right vision and a lot of hard work, you can make your dream a reality. Good luck!