Providing a comp meal is the act of providing a customer a food or beverage item for free. While this is a common practice of food truck owners, a comp meal should only be used in certain situations. By comping your food or beverages, you are training your customers to expect it. Then when you don’t, they’re disappointed for not getting something they wouldn’t have gotten at another food truck anyways.

Times When You Shouldn’t Provide A Comp Meal

A customer that simply orders something they end up not liking, not because it was bad, but because it doesn’t suit their taste, is never someone who should be given a comp meal in our opinion. Along with other complaints from customers who eat most or all their meal, or do not have enough of an appetite to let you make them something else, you should be offering these people some sort of bounce back offer instead of a comp.

Your first approach should always be to try and replace the food with something they do like. Even if you have to make a dish twice, as long as you collect the money for it, you still have some gross profit left to contribute. When you give a comp, you not only don’t get the money, but you also incurred the expense of preparing the food. The difference between collecting a reduced gross profit, and actually paying your customer to eat from your truck is huge.

Other options

If you can’t replace the food, and the customer’s complaint is reasonable, offer them a coupon or gift certificate and promise to make their next visit better. By comping the meal, you can’t guarantee that the customer will even come back. When you give them a discount for their next visit instead of a comp, there is a very good chance they will return, and they likely won’t be alone. You’ll have the opportunity to make a better impression and win a regular customer for your food truck.

The other issue with giving a comp meal is that it is often one of the most common errors in the financial statements of food trucks is the incorrect recording of food and beverage comps.  And if you have a lot of comps, your income statement will be greatly distorted if they are not handled correctly.

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The Bottom Line

The biggest impact is in the calculation of cost of sales. When calculating cost of sales, it’s essential that you only include the cost of products that contribute to revenue… not amounts for which no payment is expected or that do not represent sales to guests. In other words, sales and cost of sales must not include the retail value or cost of comp meals.

When do you give comp meals? We’d love to hear your thoughts. You can share them below or on social media. Facebook | Twitter