While speaking at the 2013 ROAM Conference this weekend, during the afternoon breakout session, I was asked a question that I felt needed to expand on for our readers.
Food Truck Branding…What is it and why does it matter?
Marketers have debated about what exactly makes a brand, it’s one of those buzz words that everybody knows or has heard about, but it can be really difficult to explain.
For the sake of this article I’m going to define brand as the name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one food truck’s food or service that differentiates it from those of other food trucks or restaurants. I would also add that a brand is also the feelings that are associated with that food truck, which also helps it be distinct from other food businesses.
You need to do the branding, not the consumer
One of the major mistakes that food truck owners make even before their launch is that they don’t take time to carefully think about what their brand is and worse yet, because they don’t know how to articulate it, the brand ends up being controlled by the consumer instead of the mobile food business owner.
Restaurants aren’t in the business of providing food. They’re in the business of providing a branded experience. Eating is an experience of the senses. Customer service with a smile should be part of every restaurant’s brand experience. But how do you exactly know what your brand should be, and why is it so important?
Why branding your food truck matters
It can make you money. A brand may not mean much to food truck if your food is excellent, but if your plans are expand the business a few years down the road, your brand is worth a lot.
If you have a very clear brand identity for your food truck, then when you need to open another truck in your region or in another state you have a solid idea on the theme of the truck, the level of service that is expected and to be able to explain clearly what your brand is to the new market.
The beauty of branding is that when it’s done right, it made all future communications so much easier. Food truck owners ask themselves, “Is what I’m trying to communicate fitting into what we want our customers to perceive us as? Is the music we’re playing conducive to attracting the people we want at the truck? Is the information we provide on our website focused on the brand message?”
By having a strong brand, not only does your communication remain consistent, but it also helps guide your customer service. How many employees in your food truck know what your brand is really about?
So what’s in a food truck brand?
The Name of Your Food Truck
The name of the food truck is vital. This is a given. Based on what you’re trying to achieve it’s important to think about the name and how it reflects the goals of your mobile business in the present and the future.
Not every food truck will have their own logo, but it’s pretty much unheard of that any of the most successful food trucks don’t have one. A good solid logo shouldn’t be changed unless absolutely necessary and there’s public approval. You will know your brand is strong when people don’t want to see the logo changed.
Slogan, though not always necessary in the business, a good slogan can help strongly differentiate you from your other competitors. A slogan really intensifies and forces you to focus on what your mobile food business is all about, or how you want the public to perceive you.
Color Theme of your Food Truck
Colors are extremely important and some colors (like warm colors) are designed to stimulate hunger. The colors and the design of your food truck wrap play a major role in the feel of how your restaurant is. Knowing what you want customers to feel when they step up to your truck will help guide you in the branding of your business.
Dress and Attire
The way that you employees dress are vitally important. Just imagine them all running around looking like customers.
What do you want your customers to experience? What do you want them to feel? This is all part of the branding strategy as well. Once you know how you want your customers to feel, your servers will be able to have some clear guidelines on how to act so that they deliver the food truck’s brand promise and brand image.
For some, branding a food truck is very easy, because their concept is very sticky. For a truck that focuses on Chinese cuisine, you’ll need to give some deep thought on what your brand is and how that becomes part of the overall long term strategy and goals of your food truck empire. After all why not play classical music at every Hard Rock Cafe if branding didn’t matter?