“Success is about creating value.” – Candice Carpenter
“Success is about creating value.” – Candice Carpenter
Over the years we’ve touched on topics crucial to running a successful mobile food business such as type of cuisine, parking locations, commissaries and selecting the right platform (truck, cart, trailer etc…) to serve your food from. In this article we’ll cover aspects that delve beyond those obvious concerns.
The key ingredients that matter most to creating an awesome mobile food business are your food, your staff and you. If done the right way, your food truck, food cart or trailer will thrive in the industry and stay on top.
Your food is your food truck business’ identity. You first must portray yourself in a very definable way to your customers so they can equate you as the go to spot for your cuisine.
Failure to define yourself is a huge mistake when trying to separate yourself from your competition.
For example, let’s say that there are a bunch of burger trucks in your area, which means there has to be something about your food that makes it stand out if you too will be serving burgers.
How To Make Your Food Awesome
You need to hire people who have a passion for the mobile food industry, a sense of urgency when handling customers and a willingness to be part of your team.
The service experience is right up there with food when it comes to the top two elements to a great dining experience.
Your staff needs to work in sync because if they don’t, you could end up with reviews that minimally praise the food but ruthlessly criticize the service.
Customers want to eat great food but at the same time, they want to be treated like royalty.
How To Build An Awesome Staff
Food trucks don’t fail, people fail.
As the owner, you are the people. Whatever happens under your watch is on you. This could be hiring a truck manager who under-performs or not training your staff to prepare your awesome recipes consistently awesome.
Ultimately, the responsibility rests on your shoulders.
How You Can Become Awesome
There is no magic formula for successful food truck owners, but most vendors who have done well seem to share the same six personality traits.
At the top of the list for successful food trucker owners is the ability to collaborate with others. Those who can delegate often build strong relationships with their staff and are more likely to click with their customers.
Being self-fulfilled. The best culinary entrepreneurs put a high price on the fulfillment their food trucks provide them, relish being their own boss, and enjoy being in control of their personal income.
They value doing something for a living that they love to do being able to decide how much money they make and being able to have the satisfaction of creating something their community values.
Focused on the Future. Food truck owners who have thrived are good at both short and long-term planning. They’re as likely to have a well thought-out plan for the day-to-day running of their business as a road map for how to run the business for years.
Curious. Strong entrepreneurs are always reading and asking questions. They want to learn everything from why a particular business failed to how to find, motivate, and keep good employees.
Action oriented. Successful mobile food business owners are proactive and always differentiate themselves from their competitors. They are less worried than other small business owners about the state of the economy and more likely to look at adversity as sign to move forward.
Tech-savvy. Perhaps this isn’t a surprise but the best food truck business owners invest time and money on their website and are likely to rely a great deal on technology such as social media and point of sales systems to help make our business more effective and efficient.
Many food truck owners have some or many of these traits, however it’s the food truck owners with all of these traits that seem to have captured the most successes so far.
They are a special breed of entrepreneurs that are highly motivated, caring and curious individuals. They effectively balance their personal and business goals, take advantage of others’ expertise and continually seek to learn the best practices exhibited by their competition.
We continually hear that starting a food truck business is one of the hardest small business can start on limited funds. Often the outcome doesn’t result in a fleet of food trucks, a chain of brick and mortar restaurants or even a company deemed successful. The failure rate that occurs in the food service industry can be attributed to many different factors, but often, it comes down to these three common problems.
The biggest mistake you can ever make as a vendor is to create a menu that doesn’t solve a particular need or fill a void. Once you make an assumption about what your market needs, you’ve already started down the wrong path. One of the best ways to create a concept and menu that people will actually pay for is to involve your prospective customers in the process – from the start.
Do your homework, hit the streets and talk to people about what you intend serve. Ask them if they would eat it. Once you gather enough evidence about the need for your menu, you will spend fewer resources trying to convince people to track you down once you start rolling.
Most of the great food trucks started with menus that the owners were passionate about. Start with what you want, validate and focus on making it awesome.
Related: Why Do Food Trucks Fail?
If a food truck vendor can’t give up on their original ideas when the market requires it and make necessary changes, a mobile food business could be heading for a dead end street.
Most food trucks that we’ve seen fail usually have specific immobile goals they want to achieve. Food service is a fast changing business model and demands that concepts and plans need to be consistently re-visited and altered if necessary. Roles within the truck organization, menus, leadership and goals should be open for discussion and re-evaluation when things don’t go as planned.
How flexible are your food truck’s business goals? Successful food trucks are the ones that can change direction on the fly to adjust as needed. There is nothing wrong with making tweaks and sticking to what sells.
Related: 5 More Reasons Food Trucks Fail
You need an existing market that is big enough or has enough foot traffic to be successful. How big is your current market? How do you sustain growth if you are operating in a town that isn’t growing? You could have a fantastic concept, wonderful food and the best service, but if your market isn’t growing, you will eventually struggle to sustain your business.
We hope this article sheds some light on the issues of food truck failure and shows new food truck vendors how to keep their service windows open for the long haul.
“There is only one success- to be able to spend your life in your own way.” – Christopher Morley
“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” – Colin Powell
When a customer walks up to a food truck that is a smooth running mobile food operation, they may not notice how efficient it really is. On the other hand, step up to a truck that isn’t managed properly, and there will be multiple times during the transaction that it’s inefficiency shines through.
In most food trucks there is no one person that impacts the day-in, day-out profitability and success like the person who manages the truck’s kitchen. Whether the truck is managed by the owner, or someone who they trust, there are certain lessons that can be learned from each of them.
We’d love to hear how you feel YOUR food truck manager measure up to this list. While not every successful truck has a food truck manager with all of these traits, but through our experience, the trucks that have not been successful, seem to have food truck managers with very few of these traits.
Is it possible to build a successful food truck if you don’t love with what you need to do on a daily basis? Can you push through even if you don’t have a burning passion about running a food truck business? I know a lot of people reading this may argue with me, but the answer is, yes.
Please don’t get me wrong, passion is a great thing to have when starting in the mobile food industry, but it can’t be the only reason you open a food truck. Let me explain with a simple break down I learned from Mark Cuban.
When you work hard at something you become good at it. When you become good at doing something, you will enjoy it more. When you enjoy doing something, there is a very good chance you will become passionate or more passionate about it. When you are good at something, passionate and work even harder to excel and be the best at it, good things happen. Don’t follow your passions, follow your effort. It will lead you to your passions and to success, however you define it.
The point he is making is that you don’t necessarily have a burning passion about your food truck as a prerequisite for success. You do, however, have to be motivated to put in the work and to get the help, answers, and other support needed to turn your concept into a successful mobile food operation.
Will having passion about your food truck business itself right at the beginning help you to grow it? Absolutely! If you love making food, serving the public and all of the tasks required to run a food truck, it will be easier to put more effort into it, especially when you are trying to get through those first difficult stages of growth. The problem with passion alone, is that it can quickly fizzle out as time goes on and obstacles stand in your way. To push through, you really need to be motivated by other factors such as wanting to have a successful food truck business, wanting to be in control of your own income, or wanting to positively impact the community you operate in. These are all motivations that are not directly connected to your food truck, yet they can help you stay focused during the down times. This is such an important idea, yet many, culinary entrepreneurs seem to miss it. In general, we tend to be more successful at the things that we care about. But the biggest and most effective way to get yourself to consistently care about something is to invest yourself in it. This can be an investment of time, effort, and money. Once you do so, you will have a vested interest in carrying on and getting good at what you do, and that can ultimately make you feel more passionate about it. So, the bottom line is if you are very clear about why you want to start a food truck business, and you are motivated to carry through, don’t worry about the passion part at the beginning. If you put in the work and you have the right attitude, you can really build a successful food truck empire and the passion will come later on.
If you believe everything you see on the Internet, food truck owners must work every moment you’re awake, survive on staff meals, and live out of your food truck to become a successful mobile food business owner.
Although that may be the route to success for a few food trucks, not everyone follows the same path to greatness. To gain some insight into how some actually spend their precious time, we asked what some do on weekends.
Contrary to popular belief, food truck vendors aren’t all constantly focused on the job. In fact, the majority of them have told us they prioritize spending time with their families and recharging their mental batteries on the weekends they don’t have booked for food truck events or catering gigs.
Here are some of the things that some food truck owners say they spend their Saturdays and Sundays doing.
Recreational activities related to business — Food truck owners start their businesses because they’re passionate about the food they create, so it makes sense that what they do for fun relates to their mobile food business. Some take time to take classes to improve their cooking techniques or learn about cuisines they aren’t familiar with.
Getting some exercise — Working sunrise-to-sunset on weekdays doesn’t leave a lot of time for exercise, so some vendors try to catch up on the weekends. Whether its spending their weekends biking or kayaking. Being alone on their bike or boat gives them much needed alone time where they can think about the week ahead.
Catching up on administrative work — Of course, many vendors do work on the weekends, at least for a few hours. Weekends are an awesome time to get stuff done without being interrupted: Employees aren’t asking questions. Suppliers aren’t calling..making for a much more relaxed time to get the things done that aren’t possible with all of the weekday distractions.
Finding balance — From those who told us that they don’t work weekends, they did tell us they do take time to think about their business, learn something new, or strategize for the next week.
Setting boundaries — One owner said that he has two rules for weekend work. “I can work, but it has to be planning related, and it can’t involve sitting in front of my laptop.” This allows him to spend time with family while working.
Redefining “weekend” — When you run a mobile food business, “weekends” aren’t always Saturday and Sunday or even two consecutive days. The gift and curse of a food truck owner’s schedule is there are no set hours. Everything depends on the workload you have corresponding to each day.
Being flexible — Although it would be nice to take every weekend off, successful food truck owners are prepared to work when the right opportunity comes along. Clearly, everyone would prefer to be 100 percent about leisure on weekends, but the demands of a growing food truck business at times can dictate otherwise.
How do you spend your weekends? Feel free to share your typical weekend in the comment section below.
We are continually asked by our readers what the keys are to a food truck’s success. The answer we give is often rather vague and for a specific reason. There is no set list of rules to operating the perfect food truck. Their are a lot of common traits held by successful food truck owners and many of them run their businesses in similar ways…but there has yet to be a list of best practices that anyone can pick up and use to become successful.
In this article we have gathered 15 keys that many of the most successful food trucks use as a basis for the business decisions they make.
One thing you may have noticed while reading this list is that none of these keys are related to the food food trucks serve. Don’t be alarmed by this, since any successful mobile food business needs to provide their customers great food. The keys we provided are related to how you should approach your mobile food business and the business related decisions you will have to make on a consistent basis.