While I have yet to open my own food truck, I have been watching the industry for a long time now. I have kept an eye on many of the food trucks that have opened since 2010 and watched as many have succeeded beyond their owners wildest dreams. At the same time, I have seen many food truck operators flounder. Running a food truck is not an easy road to follow, but if done properly it can be the most rewarding venture you will ever enter into.
Here is a list of 8 tips new food truck owners can use to help them do it right:
Focus. Many first-time food truck operators feel the need to jump at every “opportunity” they are approached with. Opportunities are often wolves in sheep’s clothing. Avoid getting side-tracked. Juggling multiple ventures will spread you thin and limit both your effectiveness and productivity. Do one thing perfectly (your food), not 10 things poorly. If you feel the need to jump onto another project, that might mean something about your original concept.
Know what you do. Do what you know. Don’t start a food truck simply because it seems sexy or boasts large hypothetical profit margins and returns. Do what you love. Mobile food businesses built around your strengths and talents will have a greater chance of success. It’s not only important to create a profitable mobile venture, it’s also important that you’re happy managing and growing it day in and day out. If your heart isn’t in it, you will not be successful.
Say it in 30 seconds or don’t say it at all. From a chance encounter with an investor, a curious customer or even a local news crew, always be ready to pitch your food truck. State your truck’s mission, service and goals in a clear and concise manner. Fit the pitch to the person. Less is always more.
Know what you know, what you don’t know and who knows what you don’t. No one knows everything, so don’t come off as a know-it-all. Surround yourself with advisers and mentors who will nurture you to become a better mobile food vendor and businessman. Find successful, knowledgeable individuals in the food truck or restaurant industry with whom you share common interests and mutual business goals that see value in working with you for the long-term.
Act like a startup. Forget about fancy offices and fat expense accounts. Your wallet is your company’s life-blood. Practice and perfect the art of being frugal. Watch every dollar and triple-check every expense. Maintain a low overhead and manage your cash flow effectively.
Learn under fire. No food truck business book (although Running a Food Truck for Dummies comes close :)) or business plan can predict the future or fully prepare you to become a successful food truck operator. There is no such thing as the perfect plan. There is no perfect road or one less traveled. Never jump right into a food truck business without any thought or planning, but don’t spend months or years waiting to execute. You will become well-rounded when tested under fire. The most important thing you can do is learn from your mistakes–and never make the same mistake twice.
Be healthy. Owning a food truck is a lifestyle, not a 9-to-5 profession. Working to the point of exhaustion will burn you out and make you less productive. Don’t make excuses. Eat right, exercise and find time for yourself.
Don’t fall victim to your own B.S. Don’t talk the talk unless you can walk the walk. Impress with action not conversation. Endorse your business enthusiastically, yet tastefully. Avoid exaggerating truths and touting far reaching goals as certainties. In short, put up or shut up.
While there are many more tips that I could have given, this list is a great starting point. If you have additional tips, please feel free to share them in the comment section below.