How to Handle Your Food Truck’s Overnight Success
You might think that having your food truck getting discovered locally or even nationally would be every food truck owner’s dream come true. Yet, too often, overnight success can quickly become a mobile food businesses worst nightmare. A food truck that lacks the capital, staff or the operational infrastructure to handle local or nationwide publicity can promptly get crushed when its menu becomes a hit.
Even though every company should have a strategic plan in place before the big day arrives, most food truck owners are so busy just trying to survive that planning usually gets put on the back burner. That’s why we’ve have put together this guide to help you think fast and react quickly when you wake up one morning to find the world beating a path to your truck’s service window.
Take a deep breath. Don’t max out your credit cards, splurge on a big bottle of champagne or do anything crazy. While it’s only natural to want to celebrate the good news, remember that long lines or great press doesn’t mean dollars in your bank account–at least, not today. So hold off on that tropical vacation. Also, remember that the additional sales you ring up will probably require you to lay out more money for people, materials and overhead–and may require you to borrow additional capital as well.
Map out a strategy. Make a to-do list, crunch the numbers and marshal your human and operational resources. It’s always easier to fight a battle on paper (or a computer spreadsheet) than to shoot first and ask questions later. No matter how much pressure you’re getting from your customers to deliver the goods right now, you need to take the time to sit down with your partner or staff to map out a plan of attack. A food truck operation will have to estimate how many additional employees will be needed to service the expected influx of new faces taking orders on a daily basis.
Get the money. Before you go on a hiring binge, it’s important to figure out how much working capital you’re going to need to meet the market demand. If you’ve got an existing business with good credit, your first call should be to your bank to set up a credit line or increase the one you have. Suppliers may also be willing to extend the capital and/or credit you need to fill the order. And don’t forget about credit cards. Because your personal credit record is at risk, credit cards should only be used to finance a reputable purchase order, not to fund the business as a whole.
Reach out for help. Call on suppliers, personal contacts and the Internet to find extra hands to help you. If you think you can do it alone, think again. No matter how hard you work, there are only 24 hours in a day and you’ve got to sleep during five or six of them. That’s why it’s important to reach out to people who can help you.
If you already have employees, ask them to put in extra hours to help you get over the hump. If you’re a one-person show, you can reach out to friends and family members to help you or, if they don’t have the skills you need, you can post ads on the Web to find skilled cooks. But beware: Your overnight success may not last forever, so don’t commit to hiring full-time employees with payroll taxes and benefits until you’re sure your food truck’s good fortune is here to stay.
Communicate with your customers. Communication is the lifeblood of any business relationship, but it’s even more important when your food truck business suddenly takes off. The biggest mistake a truck owner can make is failing to warn customers of delays due to long lines until it’s too late.
Invest for the future. While it may be tempting to reap the profits from your hit menu right away, it’s important to re-invest some of those profits to help your business grow. Whether this means paying down debt, buying a second truck, hiring another employee or opening brick and mortar location, don’t pass up this opportunity to make your money work for you. It’s always cheaper to put your own cash to work in your business than to borrow money from a bank or give up equity to an investor.
Learn from your mistakes. After the excitement of the initial sales rush has died down, take some time to sit down with your staff to figure out what went right, what went wrong and what you think you could do better in the future. This will help you put a strategy in place for the future.