The strength of your mobile food menu depends on the quality of your food truck suppliers. It’s the vendors responsibility to handle customer needs, comply with government regulations and standards, and provide quality meals, all while keeping their budget under control. Without a food supplier you can trust, your food truck brand has no chance of getting off the ground.

There are a lot of suppliers to choose from for your food truck supplies and food truck equipment. Figuring out which one you should go with can seem pretty daunting.

Here are a few things to think about when choosing your food truck suppliers:

Product availability

Your food truck is about much more than just food. Some suppliers provide only food and beverage; some are limited to a single product like seafood or poultry, and some are providers who can supply everything your mobile food business needs from fresh produce to kitchen cleaning supplies. Whether to choose individual suppliers or a single food truck supply company is the first decision you’ll need to make.

Supplier reputation

Check online and with your local Better Business Bureau to find out if the supplier has any serious, unresolved complaints. Speak with other food service operators in the area to find out if they have dealt with the company. You can also search news stories to find out if any companies in your area have been responsible for negligent quality issues.

Checking company history can provide you with extra information. Most companies have an “About us” link on their website with information about the company and its history. How long a company has been in business, and how they present themselves, adds to their credibility.

Compare prices

Request a price quote or catalog from the suppliers you’re interested in. Then compare the goods you’re most likely to order. While it’s not a good idea to make a decision based solely on price, it should certainly be included in your evaluation. Compare prices on the items you’ll need most and look for cost effective solutions.

Will butchering your own meat provide you a costs savings…and are you and your staff up to the task? How about cakes and breads? Are you better off baking from scratch or buying ready-made? Do you have storage space to hold items you can’t use that day?

What are current food trends?

With price lists from your local providers, you should be able to find a food supplier who offers everything you need. But do the suppliers you’re considering offer what’s hot in current food trends?

If the national obsession with items like ghost peppers and mango based sauces gives way to, say, pretzel buns, and your customers start asking, will you be able to get them? If not, your customers will be tempted to find another food truck restaurant for their cravings. In most cases suppliers who offer whatever’s hot today will offer whatever’s hot tomorrow.

What else do they offer?

The relationship you are encouraged to forge with some food truck suppliers is more like a partnership than a delivery service. Supplier success depends on their clients’ success. Because of this they offer tools, information, reports, recipes, and cost calculators to help you manage your mobile food business, control costs, and track inventory. Information is a powerful business tool, so use them.

Ask additional questions

Now that you think you have a grasp on local food suppliers and you’ve narrowed your selection down to a few viable suppliers who carry or deliver the goods you need to your commissary or commercial kitchen. You’ve considered selection, price, and availability.

Before you make the final decision, find out about their hours of operation if you do the shopping yourself or their delivery schedules, food safety standards, ordering and billing practices. The right food supplier will have answers to fit your needs and offer advice and support.

RELATED: 4 Steps To Effective Negotiating With Your Suppliers

The Bottom Line

Choosing the right food truck suppliers is absolutely critical in your mobile food business success. The success of any food truck depends on the quality, safety, and value of the food they offer. There are always other considerations such as customer service, parking location and how well you understand the local customer base, but the bottom line is in the food you serve. If your food is outstanding, fresh, and hits the customer’s price point, the consumer will return.

If you are a food truck and have a great supplier, or are a supplier looking to get food truck business, feel free to add your business to our new Food Truck Supplier Directory.