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Dont-Start-A-Food-Truck-Business

Most aspiring food truck vendors imagine creating a truck that will feed and entertain their local community. Some vendors are lured by the joy of cooking, others are simply looking to get rich.

Here’s the problem; just because you have experience working the line of a restaurant or have an awesome recipe for cupcakes, doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be able to take the heat on those days when your cooking staff calls in sick or the truck breaks down.

Despite the fact that starting a food truck business can be a tough road to travel, there appears to be no stopping some. So if you are one of the unstoppable here are 10 reasons that might make you want to reconsider.

Not A Get Rich Scheme

People think that if they open a food truck, they will immediately begin drawing a paycheck. But unless you are actually doing the cooking, managing the accounting, working the service window, don’t expect a check at the beginning. Sure over time, your truck may take in a lot of money, but if you want to run the business from back in the office you’ll be spending most of that money on your labor costs.

Family Time

Do you enjoy your weekends, holidays and attending family birthday parties? Do you eagerly anticipate your two week vacations? Sorry to break it to you but chances are you will be working in your food truck during those times. Operating a food truck means you will be at work while your customers have all the fun.

Experience Required

Not everyone who succeeds starts out with experience. If you’ve never opened or operated your own restaurant or food truck, you may want to consider hiring a food truck consultant. With a good consultant by your side, you can avoid making costly mistakes that can deflate your dream faster than driving your truck through a spike filled pot hole. Ask other some of the truck owners in your area for recommendations, join your local food truck organization or search the internet.

Best Concept Ever

No one in my area makes Native American fry breads. You purchase your truck and you’re off and running. Business is great. Then, a few months in and you read the headlines of your local newspaper food section, “New Food Truck With Best Fry Breads I’ve Had Opening Soon.” Then you realize the article isn’t about your truck.

Trends Can Fade

What may be delicious to you may not be something your customers will pay to eat. You may think that your fry breads are awesome and may have some loyal customers, but in the long run, most people look for variety, familiarity and predictability even if the food is great.

The Unexpected

You load enough supplies to feed 40 and 100 people show up, or worse, the reverse. A snow storm or downpour hits your area and suddenly your customers decide to stay inside. Are you ready for having a mob of hungry people all show up on that day you sent the staff home early? What about truck malfunctions, traffic jams you weren’t expecting and staff no shows?

Reliable Staff

If you’ve never worked in a food truck or a restaurant kitchen it may be hard to understand how volatile it can be. Whether it’s the fighting between staff members, others that are missing in action or the health inspector that just knocked on your service window when you have a line with 10 people in it…as a food truck owner, you need to be able to handle every situation. Oh yeah, and don’t forget that food service workers tend to be a transient group. Just when you think you have them trained to an acceptable level *poof* they’re gone.

But Can You Trust Them?

Be assured, there is a good chance that someone on your staff is going to steal from your mobile food business. Once stealing begins it can become epidemic and over time, can have devastating financial consequences.

Profits…Huh?

For a mobile food business, a profit and loss statement is a powerful tool because the key to controlling profits is knowing when you have a financial problem. Many food truck owners have made the mistake of handing over their accounting to a friend, family member or try to do it themselves.

Dealing With The Man

Between varying regulations, government imposed fees and costs you cannot control; you can only guess what your profits will be. Laws governing minimum wage, overtime, benefits, health and safety, licensing and operations and, of course, taxes make each city you operate in your new silent partner.

For those of you who still feel that venturing into the mobile food industry is the right move…just remember that even if your rolling bistro turns out to be one of the successful, you will still have to run it. Make sure that this is what you really want to do and love to do. Running a food truck takes time, passion and energy, however if done right, it might just be one of the best decisions you make in your life.

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The Walking Dead is currently one of the most successful cable shows on television. The show follows a group of survivors living in a zombie filled apocalypse.

Food Truck Lessons From The Walking Dead

There is a lot to be learned from this world over taken by zombies. Some might even say its a survivors guide to the real world.Here are 5 lessons we feel this program can teach mobile food vendors.

You Need A Good Team:

Rick is the leader, Daryl the hunter, Glen is the go to guy for gathering things. All the members of the group have specific jobs depending on their skills. As a food truck owner, you need to identify the strengths of your staff. This will help you keep everyone engaged and doing what they do best.

Have A Plan:

Strategy is what has kept the survivors alive for the past four seasons. Similarly, without a business or marketing strategy for your food truck it will be difficult to succeed. Plan ahead; understand your team and what your limitations are.

Be Noisy:

At those times when you don’t feel like developing a new menu item or promotion, remember that if you make enough noise, the dead will come running. If your mobile food business is sitting in park or spinning in the mud, nothing will happen and the zombies with simply stumble past your truck. If you want to get their attention and get more business, make some noise. Without action, your mobile food business will remain stagnant. Take positive action to achieve positive results.

Be Faster:

Just like running from the dead, getting ahead in the mobile food industry is not complicated; just pick up the speed. What do your competitors really have over you? It’s not nearly as much as you might think. Look around; many of the existing food trucks in your community may have more resources, but they also have many more zombies in their ranks slowing them down. If you put the time in, add some focus, make some noise and run a little faster, you’ll get ahead, fast.

Stay On Your Feet:

If you want to succeed as a food truck vendor you cannot let anyone keep you down. Running a food truck is tough and some of your competition or local business owners will be lined up to knock you down as soon as you open your service window for the first time. Whatever happens, get back up and keep moving forward.

Although some might dismiss this popular program as another way television executives have tapped into a pop-culture fad, we see it as a show that provides valuable lessons for any food truck owner. To survive in the fast growing mobile food industry, vendors must learn to adapt or suffer the fate of many on the show…death.

These are only five lessons that food truck vendors can learn from The Walking Dead. What other business lessons have you learned from the show? We’re eager to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

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When you create a Facebook account for your food truck business, you are assigned a random ID.  This used to be no big deal and probably not something a food truck owner would even think twice about.  But in today’s age of SEO it’s imperative to keep up with the ever changing digital world in order to stay on top of the competition.  Here are 3 reasons you need to claim your custom Food Truck Facebook URL as soon as possible.

Custom Food Truck Facebook URL

Marketing

You should be doing as much marketing as possible.  When you need to use your FB URL on your truck’s wrap or printed advertising, which you often should, you don’t want it to say, facebook.com/pages/My-Food-Truck-Name/909442628111.  It just doesn’t look right and nobody is going to take the time to write down or copy that lengthy behemoth.  Changing it to facebook.com/MyFoodTruckName is much easier on the eyes and something that will not only help your branding efforts, but make it much easier for people to refer others to your page.

Competition

Chances are you aren’t the only person out there who has thought of “My Food Truck Name” for a food truck name.  While this may keep you from claiming the domain, MyFoodTruckName.com, you may still have a shot at claiming it on Facebook as, facebook.com/MyFoodTruckName.  So get online and do it!

Search Engine Optimization

The search engines, like Google, place a high value on URL’s when determining rankings.  If your URL isn’t exact match, or very similar, for what you’d like to be found for, (such as My Food Truck Name), you aren’t going to rank very well.  By claiming that exact match URL you have a great shot at ranking highly for your mobile food business Facebook page.

Now that you understand why it’s so necessary to claim a custom URL, here is how you do it:

NOTE: You only get to make this change once so watch for typos before you save the change.

  1. Login to Facebook under your administrator account for your food truck business page.
  2. Go to your Facebook business page.  (be sure you’re signed in as your food truck page and not your personal profile)
  3. Click “Edit Page” at the top right.
  4. Click “Basic Information” on the left sidebar.
  5. Change the username to your liking.

After you change the username, you should be able to see the new Facebook url in your browser’s address bar like this:  facebook.com/MyFoodTruckName.

Here’s a few more tips for changing your Food Truck’s Facebook username and getting the most benefit from it:

  • Make it short.
  • Make it memorable.
  • It should match the common name of your food truck or be very similar.
  • Capitalize the first letter of each word to make it more readable.
  • No spaces or special characters. Only a-z and 0-9 are allowed.
  • Double and triple check for errors before you save because, YOU ONLY GET ONE SHOT.

Bonus Tip: Try to match your FB food truck username to your Twitter, YouTube and any other social media usernames. Consistency helps with branding.  Also, if the name you want is already taken, just choose the next best option and something that still closely represents your brand.  The goal is to have your food truck’s name in there and have it match (as closely as possible) to the actual name.

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Concerned about your job security?  Tired of working for someone else?  You aren’t alone.  As a result, more and more working Americans are taking the plunge into the mobile food industry.

 

part time food truck business

Some of those not willing to give up their full-time job have taken it on as a part-time business as a way to improve their financial well-being or to provide a safety net in case of a job loss.  Food trucks can operate as a side business if you only plan to work at farmer’s markets or at large weekend events.

So what if you get caught by your current employer?  Is your current job be at risk? The simple answer, “Yes.”  The primary factor this depends on is your current employer’s policy regarding moonlighting.  So before you get started here are a few things to consider.

Check your employee handbook

Before you start your kitchen on wheels, check your employee handbook to make sure your current employer doesn’t prohibit moonlighting.  You may also check with coworkers who have been with the company for a while.  Sometimes there are informal rules of which you may not be aware.  So ask around. 

Honesty is the best policy

Never try to hide your part-time mobile food business from your employer.  Being secretive about your part-time efforts may cause your employer to become suspicious about you.  Being open and honest upfront can limit problems in the future.

Don’t compete

Never start a food truck business that competes with your current employer. This will apply to those of you working for a food truck, restaurant or catering company.  And it should go without saying, but don’t align your business with your employer’s competitor.  Directly competing with your employer and/or working with a competitor not only could get you fired, but might also create additional exposure to other claims of stealing trade secrets. 

Don’t utilize company time or resources

As harmless as it may seem to make a few copies at work for your food truck, don’t do it.  When you are at your full-time job, stay focused on the work you do there.  Don’t be tempted to make a phone call or send a quick email.

Did you know businesses can legally monitor their employee’s emails?  So don’t make the mistake of using the company’s email system for your food truck business.  It is for your employer’s business use only.

You are being paid to work for your employer.  And utilizing company time and/or resources is a big no-no.

Monitor your job performance

Don’t let your job performance slip at your full-time job.  By adding additional work hours for your mobile food business to your day, you are increasing your workload and stress level.  Make sure you continue to produce results at your full-time job.  Otherwise, you may find yourself without a regular paycheck while you try to get your truck’s brand established.

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Even if you’ve worked in a restaurant kitchen in previous jobs, stepping into a food truck kitchen for the first time can be an extremely scary thing. Each food truck has a culture of its own and way of doing things.

Working in a food truck

 

If you take one misplaced step, you risk embarrassing yourself; not to mention the possibility of ending up in the local emergency room. To help you make a good first and lasting impression, here are ten tips for surviving a food truck kitchen:

Stay Calm

This is easier said than done. Food trucks can be extremely high stress environments and it takes discipline not to freak out. Even if you can’t control your fear and you’re freaking out on the inside, you need to project a calm exterior; this will show that you have confidence in yourself and your abilities.

Move Deliberately & Efficiently

This point cannot be over stressed. In a food truck efficiency of movement is key, want to impress your chef? Cut out any unnecessary movements inside the truck.

Always Ask For Clarification

If you’re not clear on a task that has been assigned to you, ASK! Sure, if you make a habit of this, it will probably piss off your boss because it shows that you’re not paying attention. However, the worst thing you can do is to be unsure about a task or technique and end up preparing the food wrong. Great food trucks are all about consistency don’t stay quiet and send out a meal that may not meet the customers expectations.

Don’t Be A Know-It-All

Don’t lie about your knowledge or experience. If anything, you need to under promise and over deliver. Also, don’t try to impress your co-workers with French culinary terms. If they’re applicable in the conversation, then use them.

Know Your Surroundings

A food truck is a crowded, hectic place. Let people know where you are at all times. Yell “Behind You” when walking behind someone. Say “Sharp” if you’re walking by someone with a sharp knife and say “Hot” if you’re walking around the truck with a hot pot. In time these “call outs” will become second nature.

Do Your Homework

Most food trucks have web pages complete with their menus. Read the menu and do research on any terms or dishes that you’re not familiar with. Also, Google the truck’s name and the owner’s name and read any article or web page to better understand what you’re getting yourself into. This should be done before you even apply for the job. Make sure you’re familiar with the truck, their food, and the owner’s reputation before stepping foot into a food truck.

Keep Quiet

When you first start, try not to talk unless spoken to, or ask a direct question about the food or the current task at hand. Learn the dynamics within the truck before you open your mouth and make a fool of yourself. The easiest way to alienate yourself on the first day of your new job is by being a load mouth.

Stay Clean & Organized

Food trucks have limited space for staff members to operate so always keep your station(s) clean and organized, and be sure to put everything in its proper place before moving to another task. Keep all your product organized around your work station, and try to keep your uniform as clean as possible.

Limit Your Vices

One fact you learn quickly when working in food service, people who work in the industry tend to party a lot. If you’ve spent any time working in a kitchen (restaurant or food truck), chances are you’ve seen your fair share of extremely talented individuals self-destruct because of problems with alcohol and drug abuse. You’ll be surprised how much of an advantage you have over other people in the industry if you’re not constantly showing up to work hung over or drained from other forms of partying.

Have A Purpose

Working in a food truck requires so much time, effort, and energy that you will not last if you don’t have a purpose for being there. Maybe it’s to study under the truck’s owner, or to see how a food truck is managed. Whatever it is, make sure the truck you work in is moving you towards your culinary goals.

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columbus ohio skyline

Coming in at number sixteen in our Top US Cities to Open a Food Truck is Columbus, OH.

The taco truck may have been the pioneers in mobile food in Columbus, but they’re far from the full delicious story. Over the past few years, food trucks have been popping up in town, with over 100 currently in operation.

Columbus is the capital of and the largest city in the U.S. state of Ohio. The population of the city was 787,033 at the 2010 census. Although Columbus was the 15th largest city in the United States, its metropolitan area was 28th largest, with 2,308,509 residents. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Columbus Combined Statistical Area (which also includes Marion and Chillicothe) has a population of 2,348,495.

Due to its demographics, which include a mix of races and a wide range of incomes, as well as urban, suburban, and nearby rural areas, Columbus is considered to be a “typical” American city, and has been used as a test market for new products by retail and restaurant chains. The city has a diverse economy based on education, government, insurance, banking, fashion, defense, aviation, food, clothes, logistics, steel, energy, medical research, health care, hospitality, retail, and technology.

The city has recently opened up their laws to better accommodate mobile food vendors and have made changes in the last year that have helped make it easier to operate year round. These changes are due to a strong food truck organization that represents many of the existing vendors. The Central Ohio Food Truck Association has been and will continue to be a strong advocate for the growth of the mobile food industry in Columbus.

Find the city’s documentation for Starting a Food Truck <here>

Find the entire list of Top US cities to Open a Food Truck  <here>

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san antonio downtown

Thinking about starting a food truck business? Are you looking to stay local or is your food truck business plan open to anywhere in the United States? Recently we were wondering where a fledgling food truck would have the best chances of success.

To begin the discussion we thought to list the cities with the most food trucks, but quickly rethought heading down this path. Due to the fact that cities such as Los Angeles, Portland, Austin and Washington DC have so many well built brands based on just about any cuisine you could think of, a new food truck owner may struggle in building brand recognition.

Not only that but peeling off loyal customers to the long established mobile food businesses may also give a new vendor a more difficult road to travel.

We began the process of determining what cities in the US would be the best location to join the mobile food industry, by developing a formula based on a number factors such as:

  • City population
  • City growth predictions
  • Population demographics (age and income)
  • Weather
  • Current size of the local food truck industry
  • Licensing costs
  • Freedom to operate under existing food truck laws
  • Acceptance of small business entrepreneurs by local politicians
  • Strength of Food Truck Organization

We found that these 20 cities are the best cities to start a food truck in 2014:

Top 10

  1. San Antonio, TX

  2. Tampa, FL

  3. Raleigh, NC

  4. Albuquerque, NM

  5. Indianapolis, IN

  6. Nashville, TN

  7. Lexington, KY

  8. Charleston, SC

  9. Louisville, KY

  10. Sacramento, CA

Find the rest of our list on the next page…

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Before you run out and quit your day job to jump into the mobile food industry, take a moment to think about this major decision. While becoming a mobile food vendor is an exciting endeavor, it’s just not for everyone.

food truck question mark

Remember that this culinary adventure should be looked at as a long-term lifestyle change and commitment. You will pour blood, sweat, tears, and money into your food truck business, and if it doesn’t work out, you won’t be able to recoup that investment.

Here are a few reasons why starting a food truck may not be right for you:

Passion Without a Plan. While passion is requirement for a successful food truck business, it’s simply not enough. You also need to determine how you’ll make money and grow your business. If the idea of developing a business plan bores you or stresses you out, it might not be a good fit.

Not Enough Passion. Looking back at our first point; you have to be passionate and excited about starting a food truck business. You should be able to see yourself building your mobile food business for years to come. You need to be willing to do whatever it takes (work 80 hours a week, see your family less) to realize your dreams of food truck ownership. If you’re not, then it’s just not worth the pain of starting a food truck business to find that out.

Short on Money. Starting a food truck is not going to get you rich quick. It can take months before you turn a profit, and in the meantime, you’ll need enough cash to pay your daily personal and business expenses.

Big Changes. Maybe you just got married, or had a baby. If you’re in a transitional stage in your life, starting a mobile food business will add to the already high levels of stress you’re experiencing. Starting your food truck should probably be put on hold until things slow down.

You Just Want to be the Boss. If the appeal of not having an overbearing boss to answer to is your driver for starting a food truck business, consider this: your customers will be your new bosses. They’ll dictate much to what you do and how you do it. If they don’t like your menu, they won’t buy it.

You’re the Breadwinner. Shifting from one salary to support your family to an erratic, mobile food vendor’s paycheck is one many families can’t handle. If your family finances will suffer if you quit your current job, wait until you have six to twelve months of living expenses in the bank.

No Experience. Although you’ve worked in a white collar job for years, you’ve dreamed of opening a cupcake truck. If you’ve got mad baking skills, that might help you survive, but if you have no experience in, finding locations to park a truck, buying baking supplies, and managing staff, you may find yourself struggling.

You Want to do What you Love. Why would this be a reason to not start a food truck? Unfortunately, few people do that thing they love 40 hours a week. In the previous example, you may find that, while you really enjoy the baking portion of the work, you’re actually doing very little of that in between the administrative tasks a food truck owner is responsible for. You’ll be busy creating employee schedules, making deposits at the bank, keeping up on social media and dealing with your suppliers. Someone else may have to handle the baking.

Knowledge of the Business Side of Things. While you don’t need an MBA to be a food truck operator, it helps to have a basic understanding of marketing, accounting, management and finance. You can take continuing education courses at your local community college, read books and websites (hint: mobile-cuisine.com), or simply teach yourself

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Do you spend much time doing preventative maintenance on your food truck? If not, why?

food truck being towed
image from evgrieve.com

Your food truck is how you are able to deliver your fantastic menu to your customers. If it won’t start or is stuck at the auto repair shop, your mobile food business is closed until you can get it back on the road. In this article we’ve compiled 50 tips full of advice, surprising tricks, and vehicle care tips to prolong the life of your kitchen on wheels!

Drive with care every day

Drive with care every day and your food truck will reward you with longer intervals without repair.

  • Do not race your engine during start-up. This is a quick way to add years of wear to your engine, especially if it’s cold outside.
  • Accelerate slowly when you begin your drive. The most wear to the engine and drive train occurs in the first ten to twenty minutes of operation.
  • Warming the engine by letting it idle in the commissary parking lot is not a smart idea. The engine doesn’t operate at its peak temperature, resulting in incomplete fuel combustion, soot deposits on cylinder walls, oil contamination, and ultimately damaged components.
  • Put less strain on your engine and automatic transmission by shifting to neutral at red lights. Otherwise, the engine is still working to push the truck even while it’s stopped.
  • Avoid driving at high speeds and accelerating quickly, especially when it’s very hot or very cold outside. Such driving behavior will result in more frequent repairs.
  • Extend the life of your tires with careful driving. Observe posted speed limits. Avoid fast starts, stops, and turns. Avoid potholes and objects on the road. Don’t run over curbs or hit the tire against the curb when parking.
  • When turning your steering wheel, don’t hold it in an extreme right or left position for more than a few seconds. Doing so can damage the power-steering pump.
  • Consolidate your short driving trips. Most of the wear and tear — as well as the pollution your food truck generates — takes place in the first few minutes of driving.

Buy gas at reputable service stations

Ask whether the gas you buy is filtered at the pump and if the station has a policy about changing the pump filters regularly. If you get a song and dance, find another gas station. Some stations don’t have pump filters, making you more vulnerable to dirty gasoline. Other stations may not mix alcohol and fuel properly — or worse, water down their product. Find a station you trust and stick to it.

Don’t fill up if you see the tanker

If you happen to see a gasoline tanker filling the tanks at your local gas station, come back another day or go to a different station. As the station’s underground tanks are being filled, the turbulence can stir up sediment. Sediment in your gas can clog fuel filters and fuel injectors, causing poor performance and possibly necessitating repairs.

Lighten up your key chain

Does your food truck key share a chain with a dozen or more other keys? That’s a pretty heavy load hanging off the car key when it’s in the ignition. The weight, combined with bouncing while you drive, can wear out the tumblers inside the ignition and eventually lead to ignition switch failure. To add years of service to your ignition switch, purchase a lightweight key chain that allows you to separate your ignition key from the others. Drive with only the ignition key in your ignition. If your ignition key “sticks” when you try to turn on the truck, it’s a warning that your ignition switch is about to fail. Replace it before you get stranded.

Keep an auto log

Keep a pad and pencil in the glove compartment and use them to record your gas fill-ups and mileage. If you notice that your gas mileage worsens, mention it to your service man. It may be an early warning sign that something is wrong with your truck.

Preserve your truck during long-term storage

If you are not going to use your truck for more than a month, store it properly to prevent unnecessary damage and repairs upon your return.

  • Fill the gas tank to help prevent condensation from accumulating in the gas tank. Add a fuel stabilizer and drive the car around a bit to distribute the additive to engine parts.
  • Place a vapor barrier on your garage floor. A 4-mil polyethylene drop cloth will do.
  • Disengage the parking brake to help avoid brake corrosion.
  • Put the truck on jack stands to take the weight of the vehicle off the wheels and tires.
  • Disconnect and remove the battery to keep it from draining. Place the battery on a trickletype charger. Or periodically drain the battery, using a small light bulb, and then recharge it with a low-volt charger.
  • Plug the tailpipe with a rag to prevent moist air from infiltrating into it.

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Cutting your food truck’s food cost can be a tricky proposition. While food costs are always on the minds of food truck owners, most think more about the quality of the food they are serving their adoring customers.

Cut Your Food Truck's Food Cost Without Sacrificing Quality

Since its birth, the food truck industry continues to grow, but at the same time food truck operators cannot risk alienating their existing customers by skimping on their food quality.

The menu of a food truck is the most powerful tool to manage this tedious balancing act. What is sold from your truck is what drives your revenue and costs. Your food truck brand is almost entirely based around your menu. If you don’t have cost-effective, highly profitable signature items on that menu, it needs to be updated.

The key is not to do any price cutting that your customers can see, and never use the words, “cut or reduce” when explaining the changes with your staff. Rather, it should be, “improve, revise, enhance”. It’s a matter of perspective, but it’s hugely important in terms of protecting your brand.

Here are 10 ways to reduce your food truck’s food costs, not quality:

  • Breakdown and analyze costs on every one of your food truck’s menu and be flexible enough to react. It’s one thing to know your costs, but if you’re locked into your menu it’s useless information.
  • If you don’t already have them, create new high-appeal/low-cost signature items.
  • Avoid coupons and discounts. Instead sell combo meals. Mix and match items in a way that makes sense and gives customers great value.
  • Build new revenue streams, such as catering or late-night dining. Generate real growth in your food truck business; don’t just get artificial growth through inflated menu pricing.
  • If at all possible, buy in bulk. While it may be difficult to find proper storage of the extra food items, the food cost savings in the long run could equate to great savings.
  • Consolidate suppliers and negotiate. Instead of spending $150 with each of four distributors, spend $600 with one and increase your leverage on price.
  • Buy seasonal. This is your most cost-effective menu approach for controlling your food truck’s food costs.
  • Try alternative proteins. Value-added beef cuts off the round or shoulder, like hangar and flatiron steaks, can save you as much as 20 to 30 percent.
  • Always use weights and measures to ensure portion control.
  • Talk trash. Let your food truck staff know that you’re watching what gets dumped and follow up by using clear garbage bags, weighing trash and/or restricting dumpster access at your commissary.
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