Don’t let the first day you open your service window be your official grand opening. Instead, consider holding a soft opening to work out the kinks.
A reader of Mobile Cuisine is a friend of a food truck owner that sells different coffees and gourmet breakfast sandwiches. Because of their excitement to get open as soon as possible, they pushed up their grand opening 2 weeks earlier than they had originally planned. Unfortunately the food truck owner has virtually no experience running a business. They have never taken inventory, run a cash register, or even opened an Excel spreadsheet.
Today we’ll discus the importance to a soft opening and how to do it right.
Why It’s Important To Have A Soft Opening
Everyone has heard the old saying practice makes perfect. Well, it’s just as important for your food truck as it is any other aspect of your life. If you plan to open a new food truck, consider hosting a series of soft openings, to give your staff and kitchen equipment a test run before officially opening your service window to the public.
It is always recommended to have a soft opening a week or two before you make your grand entrance into the market. During that time you have a chance to adjust your menu by eliminating or adding items, take customer suggestions, or even rework the operational flow in the kitchen if its needed.
You can let people know you’re open but don’t do any marketing or advertising. This will result in a small steady stream of people who will already be familiar with you and your staff personally. Basically this time will allow you to work out the kinks on a very forgiving customer base.
The Invitation List
A soft opening can differ from one food truck to another. For some, it means quietly opening their service windows without any advertisements or fanfare. For others, it’s hosting a Friends and Family Night that provides valuable practice before opening to the general public.
While you may be tempted to jump straight to the streets or show up to a huge food truck event, reconsider. Friends and family are much more forgiving in the event of rough patches during your initial opening. A crowd of familiar faces will give you constructive criticism, offering insight while being aware that this is in fact a test run. And by inviting people you know, it’s easy to follow up with them for critiques. This allows you to assess your strengths and weaknesses to make those final tweaks before opening to the public.
The type of opening really depends on the time of the year, where you are located and who you are. If a soft opening doesn’t work into your plans, find another way for your staff to practice, like having half your employees serve the others.
Soft Opening Pricing
Pricing for a food truck soft opening is up to you. Some vendors offer completely free food, a discounted menu, or a meal selection limited to just a few options. If you plan on charging full price, be sure to include freebies as a thank you for guests’ input.
The Bottom Line
You get ONE opportunity to make a good first impression. Don’t mess yours up by bringing in the local customer base on the first day you open your business. You may never get the chance to bring some of those customers back again.