9 Tips for Starting a Food Truck

From souvlaki to dim sum, BC’s streets are filled with vendors waiting to expand your palette. Thanks to a growing foodie culture and the desire for quick, affordable, and delicious eats, food trucks have become a hot business option for savvy culinary entrepreneurs. 

Without the need for a permanent brick-and-mortar location, food trucks are a more affordable and viable path for many entrepreneurs. But there’s more to it than serving great food. Just like any business, there’s also marketing, bookkeeping, and management that’s involved. Before you take the plunge, here are our nine tips for starting a food truck.

1. Have Unique Branding

Strong branding your customers can identify with will put you ahead of the competition of other food trucks and restaurants. Aside from your menu, think of what sets you apart from your competitors and lean into it.

If you ever visit Tofino, you’ll quickly discover a local secret: a small food truck just off the highway that sells amazing fresh fish tacos. The company, Tacofino, has now expanded into the streets of Vancouver with sit-down restaurants and another food truck. 

Your plans may be small now, but should you have the opportunity to franchise or expand your business in the future, it’s essential that your brand is cohesive. From the design of your truck to your logo and social media pages, you want to appear unique, consistent, and professional.

2. Pay Attention to Detail

Customers notice the little things. The decor, menus, uniforms, and signage all contribute to the enjoyment of a restaurant or food truck. You want to make your customers’ experience memorable and exciting. If you have a great product and make an impact on a client, they’re much more likely to return and recommend it to others. Keep this in mind when starting your food truck, and you’ll be a step ahead.

3. Embrace Social Media

Social media has become increasingly important to food truck vendors since it’s usually how customers find your location. EatStreet and the Street Food App also allow you to check in to locations and share customer reviews with the world. 

Like any other business, it’s also a way to interact with your customers and advertise daily specials. And the best part? It’s free.

4. Find an Angle

Find something that sets your business apart, and you’ll gain loyal customers. A classic example is Vancouver’s Mom’s Grilled Cheese Truck. They put a spin on the classic grilled cheese sandwich with a variety of bread, cheese, and topping options. Who’d have thought grilled cheese could be so interesting with choices from sourdough to marbled rye, Havarti to lactose-free cheese, and meatloaf to caramelized apples?

When you find an angle no one else has, you can use statements like “the one and only” and “best selling” to your marketing plans to attract more attention.

5. Build a Strong Foundation

You still need to manage your business like a regular restaurant. This includes controlling your portion sizes and the cost of food you’re sourcing. Even though your margins may be better than a permanent restaurant location, you still need to keep your costs under control. 

Like any start-up, it’s essential to build a strong foundation early on when starting a food truck. Then, you can begin to develop your customer base and build your reputation.

6. Keep it Simple

Keep your menu items simple so you can assemble them easily and buy ingredients in large quantities. To keep things interesting, offer variations of the same menu items.

For example, if you offer burritos on your menu, provide a selection of different meat you could put with the same tortilla, salsa, beans, and so on. Not only will it save you time while preparing the dishes, but it will save you money as well.

7. Be Prepared

Being on the go can create hurdles, like maintaining food freshness or heat levels for cooking appliances. If you get a lunch rush and have a line-up waiting for your delicious food, but the generator fails, how will you avert a customer service disaster?

In preparing for unexpected malfunctions, go through possible scenarios like losing power, having a gas leak, running out of produce, or engine failure, and put backup procedures in place. This way, you won’t have as much to worry about in moments of unforeseen chaos.

8. Budget for Bad Weather

Rain, wind, and snow can all cause a decrease in foot traffic on what would usually be a busy street. It’s important to budget for these slow days in your forecasting. You are familiar with your local area and the type of weather it’s prone to. Use this knowledge to predict how many slow days you may have and account for them in your business plan.

9. Think Beyond the Truck

To help combat the impact of slow days on your revenue, think outside the truck. Could you provide office or party catering? What about gift cards or branded merchandise? Not only are these extra streams of revenue, but they’re excellent advertising opportunities for your business.

How Small Business BC Can Help Your Business

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