All food trucks depend on building a repeat customer base. One of the keys to doing this is by keeping your menu fresh, but making wholesale menu changes can create chaos all around your food truck. From your commercial kitchen to the service window to the back office, the first day of a new menu item can be crazy.
As important as it is to offer new dishes from time to time, many customers who come to your truck come for their favorite menu item. Make sure you carefully think out the process before changing menu items on your food truck.
Developing a new menu item for a food truck is a much more complicated task than you might think. There are a number of variables that a food truck vendor needs to consider before pulling a menu item or presenting a new one. When considering the introduction new food truck menu items include these points.
What to consider before introducing a new menu item
- Quick prep time.
- Consistency of preparation.
- Food cost.
- Ingredient availability.
- Keeping with the food truck’s concept.
- Maintaining variety in the menu.
- Dealing with customer reactions.
Once you have developed you’re your new menu item form an informal focus group to give honest opinions about the dish. This group should include truck management, key employees and some of your most loyal customer. There are huge payoffs for creating this focus group. When it comes to your staff, you are showing their opinion is respected but also, as they are being included in the decision-making process and their commitment to its success is nearly guaranteed.
When you use your customers in a focus group, you are able to gather outside information about the atmosphere of your truck and if the item meets the expectations your brand concept has created.
Once you have gotten sign off from your focus group (even if it takes multiple meeting s to get it right), the next step in presenting a new menu item to the public. The best way to do this is with offering it as a daily special. Look at the dish’s debut as a special as a dress rehearsal before its big unveiling.
Implementing the new menu item
- Make cooking staff aware in advance.
- Make window servers aware (offer a pre-shift tasting).
- Make back office aware of necessary changes.
All the aspects of a well-prepared food truck menu item should include balance of flavors, textures, eye appeal. By soliciting the customers’ honest opinions and responding to them, a dish can finally claim a spot on the menu.
Evaluating the new menu item
- Use your POS to track the sales of the item.
- Monitor customer feedback and adjust as necessary.
REMEMBER: Just because you’re tired of seeing the same old menu shift after shift, it doesn’t mean that your customers are. Even your best customers might track your truck down once a month. Even though you’ve prepared an item 500 times a month, your best customer has had it once, and this may be the reason they’re so loyal. It’s a hard lesson to remember that what’s important is what your customer likes and not necessarily what you like.