Startup food truck owners often worry that someone else will steal their best ideas before they get on the road. That’s understandable, but it’s the wrong thing to be afraid of.
The bigger danger is that these culinary entrepreneurs won’t share what they’re doing behind the scenes with enough people, especially early on in their food truck menu development.
You’ll likely need to examine many promising menu ideas before you find one that you will be able to covert into a successful new food truck business. So your goal should be to examine and discard the bad ideas quickly in favor of the good.
So how do you obtain the information you need to make these decisions? Here are five strategies to pursue:
Interview your market
Find potential customers and ask them about the local food truck industry. Find out what they think is missing from your area and how important it is that this void is in need of filling. And please remember; I said, customers, not just friends or family who might answer your questions in a way that will make you feel great about your concept.
Find people who have or are working in the industry, or who have tried similar ideas in the past. Unless you’re going to be their direct competitors (which most food truck owners won’t see), you’ll be surprised at how many knowledgeable people are willing to give you their time.
Conduct focus groups
These don’t need to be formal events with everyone seated around a table and you behind a one-way mirror, although there’s nothing wrong with that except for the potential expense. By asking several potential customers or others and getting them to interact with one another, you can often learn more than just by asking directly.
If you really want to find out if your recipes are spot on, or fall on their faces…find out. Look for local foodies who will sit down for an informal tasting party. Roll out your menu ideas and watch for the reactions of your guests. At the very least, you can gauge people’s interest in your menu and find out where you may want to tweak things. In a best-case scenario, you might wind up with customers offering you catering gigs before you’ve even invested in your food truck. This is some of the best information you can possibly get.
Ask for investors
Even if you aren’t ready or even planning to take other people’s money to build your food truck empire, people who may invest their money in your concept are almost always going to ask hard questions. Better to force yourself to examine the answers early, before you get started.
Remember, you’re looking for feedback but more than that, you’re looking for feedback that demonstrates that customers in your target market will be excited for your launch.
If they aren’t it is a pretty good indication your best ideas will need to be found elsewhere. This can be discouraging but isn’t better to learn this very early and very cheaply?