With the rapid growth of the mobile food industry, we are constantly asked for alternative locations food trucks can be located to garner additional business for the owners. Farmers markets can be awesome weekend work for food truck owners for many reasons.
They give local small businesses a venue to sell their fantastic food products at, which allow them to interact directly with an entirely different consumer base than they are accustomed to finding on the streets of their city during the week. This opportunity allows truck owners to become an even larger part of their local communities, not to mention, they can be fun to participate in.
For anyone who is looking to get into selling their food truck products at farmers markets and wants to know how, we’ve put together this article to show you everything you need to know.
Planning For The Farmers Market
When determining what your farmers market menu should look like, visit your local markets to see what other vendors are selling. You may be the only food truck at a market; however there may already be other vendors who sell items similar to what your truck sells. Be sure your menu is unique. Pay attention to what items you feel are missing from the markets.
Markets want to offer a variety of unique and wonderful products. Specialized and/or organic items will always do well at farmers markets, because customers can’t find them anywhere else or they know farmers market products are local and usually better quality. Whatever you choose, be sure it’s high quality and that you know your menu ingredients like the back of your hand. People not only go to markets for great local products, they expect to be educated as well.
Finding A Farmers Market
Due to the growth of interest in farmers markets, nationwide, many markets have less space to accept new vendors. The vendors they do have usually have been participating in the market for seasons, if not years, and have gained long-lasting relationships with the market and their weekly customers.
Research all of the markets in your area and surrounding areas. Every market is different. Some will be more appropriate for your food truck than others. Think about the distance to each market, size of the market, rules and regulations the market has and the type of customer it attracts.
Once you have a market you are interested in joining, contact the market manager to inquire about applications and entry forms. It is best to apply at the beginning of the market year (during the winter season, depending on where you are located).
Expect the application process to take up to a few weeks, or even a few months. This timing will depend on the amount applications they have to review, whether or not they have a board to review and vote on applicants and/or the size of the market. Some require an interview, application fee and/or one time, weekly, monthly or yearly fee to participate in the market.
Farmers markets are becoming more and more competitive. As said before, markets want to offer a variety of products, so be sure your product is one they need and/or will diversify the market. Consider applying to more than one. Never take a rejection seriously. In fact, if you don’t get accepted into a market, you should always apply the following year.
Farmers Market Tips
- Never forget your necessary licenses, permits and proof of insurance. Inspectors show up at the most inconvenient times to check to see if you have these.
- Have shopping bags available for your customers. You can choose whether you want to use simple plastic shopping bags or pretty paper bags. Another fantastic way to market your business is to have “green” reusable shopping bags created with your logo and food truck information on them. Selling these items at or near your cost for them will get your brand advertised as they are carried around the market, or other locations the customer chooses to use it.
- If you are sampling, you must provide disposable single use utensils for distribution of samples to customers. If you have a product like peanuts, where people have to break the shell open, to get to the inside, we recommend having a small container for the shells (waste). Be sure to clearly mark your containers. You don’t want people to mistake the sample container for the waste container. It happens all the time.
- It is also very important to keep an eye out for children. A lot of times children walk around the markets on their own or with friends and will ask for samples. We recommend never letting a child have a sample without the permission of a parent. You don’t know what type of food allergies they may have and it is respectful to the parent to ask first.
- Always arrive on time, if not early, to farmers markets. Managers are not fond of having to deal with late vendors. Sometimes, markets are small and if you arrive late, you will not be able to enter the market area to park. Customers don’t appreciate coming to the market to get your products, finding that you are not there or are busy setting up, when everyone else is prepared and ready. Give yourself enough time to get to the market, set up and even get there early, so you are situated and ready for those early and anxious customers.
- Be sure to approach every farmers market with energy and enthusiasm. Be prepared to offer tips, recipes and other educational information to your customers. Get creative and come up with conversation starters (i.e. tell them a great story that has to do with your product). At the same time manage your time with customers. Some of them take their time through markets and are interested in the experience, others want to get in, get what they came for and get out. Don’t let a line build up.
- Memorize your regular customer’s names. They will most likely remember yours if they come to you each week. Educate yourself about the other vendor’s, where they are located and what they sell, in case someone asks.
We hope this article gives you an idea of how to begin the process of your food truck becoming a successful farmers market participant.
If you are a farmers market food truck veteran, we’d love to hear about your experiences. You can share them with us via email, Twitter or Facebook.