Food truck owners across the country are always looking for ways to increase their mobile food business revenue, catering out of their food truck kitchen can be a very lucrative activity for them. When done correctly your sales and profits will increase. There is added exposure to the general public through the individual or organization that has hired you.
Everyone that attends the event can be considered a prospective customer. In the slower seasons or down times it can provide a needed source of income, keep the employees busy and productive and cover your fixed costs. It also allows the cross utilization of product and creation of new items that may be used as specials or permanent additions to your menu.
Catering: An Underutilized Resource For Food Trucks
Before you start catering
Before deciding to get involved in catering from your food truck you need to assess your resources.
- Do you have the personnel to start catering?
- Do they possess the skills needed for catering?
- Are you organized enough to complete the catering job while still running the daily business?
- Do you have the space for storage and additional prep work?
- Do you have the tools and equipment for catering?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you are ready to take the next step.
The next steps
There are several approaches you can use in order to develop your food truck catering business.
Start with your regular customers. Begin with your regular food truck customers. Let them know through a sign at service window or a flyer you can hand out with each purchase. Existing patrons will be the most enthusiastic and approachable clientele. The customers visit your food truck because they enjoy the food and have confidence in your abilities. Decide if you will go beyond just offering food. Will your services include providing servers, entertainment, and beverages?
Reach out to local business organizations. Another method of attracting business is through professional groups. Attend local Chamber of Commerce meetings or join local business groups. Let them know that you are starting to offer catering in addition to your food truck business. Finally, you can advertise in the local papers and social media.
Once you have been approached for your first catering job, be sure that you treat it with all the same professionalism that you use for your daily operations. Interview the prospective client, gathering all the relevant information, including number of people, budget, day and time, help needed, length of the event, and type of affair.
Prepare a quote and submit it to the client. Include the need for a down payment that you can use toward the food cost with the remainder to be paid after the event is over. Remember that a catered event is typically a very special affair for the client so be sure to give it all of the attention it deserves.
Now the real work begins
Once you have a contract in place, it’s time to get to work.
- Start by creating a master work schedule. This will allow you to plan everything from when the prep will start to what time you leave for the party.
- Create your to-do lists. Create the list of food you will need to purchase. Do not forget to plan when you will have the food delivered and how it will be stored. Set up a labor schedule for what food will be made on what days leading up to the event. Prepare a list of all the equipment you will bring to the party. Decide what food will be finished at your commercial kitchen and what will be finished at the event (in your truck or in a kitchen provided at the location).
Note: Be sure to visit the site of the event beforehand so that you are familiar with the equipment and layout of the kitchen as well as the flow of the party. Check things off your list as you accomplish them to keep you organized.
The day of the event
- On the day of the event, double check the list for everything that you need to bring. Often if you forget something the customer may have it, but this can seem unprofessional. Be prepared. All party personnel should either follow you or be given detailed directions to the site along with time of arrival.
- After arrival seek out the owner or host to let them know you have arrived. This is the time to discuss any last minute changes. Find out where to unload and where to park the staff vehicles. If you are not serving from your truck, get the food inside, consult your master list and get underway. Keep in mind the importance of this event to the host as well as to your future business possibilities. Be available to speak with the hiring party.
- As it gets close to the party go over assignments with kitchen staff and servers. Check to be sure they are professionally dressed and understand their roles. Catering often creates the need to have several responsibilities and party personnel should understand this. During the party be sure to check with the client to assure that all is going well or if there are any changes to the plan. Depending on the event, remain flexible, adjusting to late arrivals, toasts and speeches.
- As the event winds down use the time to begin cleaning up and breaking down. Perhaps the best advice would be to clean as you go, especially if the event is in a home where the cooking takes place in the kitchen. During this time all staff should have an assignment or they should be sent home. Garbage, kitchen cleanliness and house maintenance must be taken care of. Leave the facility cleaner than when you came. Before leaving collect the remaining money due or make arrangements for receiving the balance. Thank the client or host. Be sure to check the area for equipment, jackets, and food you may have left. If you are leaving food for the host make sure to leave instructions for reheating with expiration dates.
A food truck catering event, be it sandwiches for ten or a wedding reception for 400, can be extremely profitable. You can expect returns of anywhere between 50 and 75% of your food cost with labor cost and wait staff paid separately.
When everything is over
After the event assess what went right and where you can improve. Keep a journal of the food you created, the prep list and master work schedule. These will make your next catering job easier. Enjoy your new business venture. After all, you are a professional, and a professional should take full advantage of all of resources available.