Catering for holiday parties, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and community events generate great opportunities for mobile food vendors to grow their business. Food truck catering offers opportunities for attracting new customers, extending your reach into your community and increasing profits, but vendors also face some challenges as well.
Food truck catering involves some different skill sets than your everyday food truck staff members normally use. These include greater people skills, planning abilities and the ability to use kitchen equipment outside of your truck that is safe, hot and appealing.
When determining how to approach catering for your truck, consider these food truck catering difficulties:
The Various Forms Of Catering
Food truck catering can consist of the simple packaging of your truck’s standard menu or include special party platters, custom menus, food deliveries and custom off-site menus for private parties. Simple carryout packaging of regular menu items is the easiest way for a food truck vendor to cater, and handling private parties at an event venue using the regular menu is only a bit more difficult.
- Creating a catering menu that extends the regular menu without disrupting regular operations.
- Off-site catering generates the greatest challenges to produce successful events while keeping regular restaurant service at its usual level of quality.
- Choosing one or more staff members to communicate with catering customers and coordinate bookings and service can help to facilitate handling inquiries, but someone on duty should always be available to talk to prospective customers.
Catering On-site or Off-site
Off-site catering (jobs where you cook your menu at your commercial kitchen and end up bringing the food to the venue) generates some unique challenges. Planners must choose foods carefully because some dishes don’t travel well or hold up in chafing dishes. Some foods dry out, and others only taste best in those narrow periods when foods are perfectly cooked.
- Seafood items become overcooked in chafing dishes and produce unappetizing smells when held. Always try to grill fish at the venue to order.
- Fried foods become cold, greasy and soggy. Fry food on-site for best results.
- Pastas dry out or become overcooked when held in chafing dishes for very long. Try casserole dishes, or boil pasta and add sauces on-site just before service.
- Red meats grow cold if they rest too long and overcook if held in heated pans. Try cooking meats slightly underdone and let chafing dishes finish the process. Another option is to grill meats at the site.
Soups and chili, salads, fruit dishes, and braised foods work well for catering menus. Chicken dishes reheat well, and raw oysters are fantastic appetizers that are perfect for travel. Also consider creating a boxed lunch package for corporate lunches.
Special Diets for Event Guests
Accommodating special diets correctly has become an increasingly common challenge not only for catering but also for daily food truck operations. Make sure that staff members understand the right definitions of various special diets and prepare meals accordingly. Misinformation or staff mistakes could have serious consequences for your customers and your mobile food business.
Pricing and Planing for Food Truck Catering
Regardless of format, your staff will need access to basic equipment such as ovens, griddles, fryers, holding cabinets, steamers, refrigeration, and hot boxes to transport foods at safe temperatures.
- Clear communications and careful scheduling prevent overworking your regular truck employees and risking a lack of staffing at a big catering gig.
- Planning menu prices involves adding extra expenses such as delivery costs, mileage, equipment wear and tear and insurance.
- Don’t take on projects that are too large for your truck or staff to handle.
- Tiered pricing is a strategy that drops the cost per person as guest counts rise.
- Custom pricing analyzes each project by its unique criteria to determine the price for each customer.
- Fixed prices charge set prices for certain quantities of each dish. Prices might also charge by the head count.
- Extra fees might include cake-cutting fees, delivery fees, server fees and set-up or take-down fees.
Food truck catering offers a great way to increase income and strengthen a truck’s presence in their community, but choosing the right strategy is critical to make a profit and prevent conflicts with your regular day-to-day food truck service.