Building a successful food truck business takes a lot longer than most people think. It’s not as simple as buying a truck, cooking food and posting pics on social media. It can take almost a year before you actually break even on your startup costs and regulatory fees. And that’s if you’re lucky!
Part of surviving in this business is about being efficient enough to capitalize on the highs and proficient enough to minimize the lows. If you aren’t passionate about the food you are making and the customers you are serving, it can become quite difficult. If you are reading this, it means you are actively looking for ways to grow, so that you are definitely on the right track!
Whether you are a new operator or an established one, you are always looking for ways to continue to grow and avoid long droughts in sales. Two things that you will definitely need are an enthusiastic team to help you carry on the mission and a strategy.
Read on to discover 5 inexpensive ways you can grow your food truck business for the long-term with little to no investment, no matter the economic environment.
1. Start accepting credit/debit cards
Surprisingly in 2019, many food trucks still don’t accept credit cards. I hope this isn’t you. This can be because of the fees associated with card transactions…
…or maybe because there is a fear of getting chargebacks.
But the reality is that less and less people are carrying cash on them.
Your customer is more likely to have a card on them than a wod of cash and you don’t want to miss out on a sale simply because they didn’t bring enough money.
Something you should know: 27% of millenials aged 18-24 have their debit or credit card loaded into a mobile wallet or app.
Plus, counting up change at the point of sale can double the wait time for your customers. It may not seem like a big deal but that means you are serving half the customers that you could be.
Point of sale systems
Their rates are reasonable, in the 3% range, with Square offering the lowest rate at 2.75% for swiped card transactions.
2. Sign up for local food truck directories
Some of them offer a free mobile app or website that can help people find your food truck.
These websites are nationwide but most likely there is a local food truck directory for your particular city or state that you can get listed in.
3. Post your food truck’s location on social media
While this certainly may not grow your food truck overnight, you should at least be posting your location schedule and menu items to your Twitter, Facebook and Instagram profiles. To most people, being active on social media is a sign that your business actually exists so it would be a good idea to post regularly on these platforms.
People eat with their eyes so posting high quality photos and videos of your food can generate interest and sales. Make sure that you are tagging your location and using as many related hashtags as you can to increase your chances of being found in the discovery section. For more ideas for attracting more eyeballs to your posts this Instagram hashtag guide can help as well.
Also, if your food truck has a schedule that it adheres to, posting it every Sunday will give your customers enough time to see it on their timeline and plan ahead of time.
Many food trucks leverage Twitter to post up-to-date location and menu information. Be sure to optimize your Twitter profile for local search to increase your chances of being discovered there as well.
Food truck schedule for this week
Tuesday Schlitz Park 11-2
Wednesday US Bank downtown 11-2 and Whitefish Bay 2:30-7
Thursday Milwaukee Courthouse 11-2 and Whitefish Bay 2:30-7
Friday Chase Bank downtown 11-2
Saturday Whitefish Bay 11-5 pic.twitter.com/wR9FUdersy
— falafelguys (@falafelguysMKE) April 2, 2019
Dyvine BBQ in Motion’s barbecue food truck posts each pop up location as a Facebook event. This allows them to leverage Facebook’s notifications and social proof to get the word out about the truck’s whereabouts.
Keep in mind when posting to Facebook that, on average, under 10% of your followers will see it. So best practice is create an advertisement using your posts that get the most engagement. This obviously is not free, but in order to really leverage the power of Facebook you have to pay-to-play.
4. Partner with local businesses
Another way that you can grow your food truck is by partnering with nearby local businesses. Proximity is power so take advantage of some of the ‘low hanging fruit’ in your city.
Offering to cater for local companies nearby can be a great opportunity to gain loyal customers and gain a high volume of sales. Fooda is a company that allows food vendors to partner with companies that want to provide lunch to their employees.
They allow you to serve lunch in a building full of stressed out hungry people in exchange for a percentage of all the sales that you make. Be sure to have business cards readily available with your website or menu so people see what you have what you have to offer and become repeat customers.
You don’t need an app like Fooda to do this either. You can simply pop in to local offices with a print out of your menu and hand them out. Come up with an exclusive offer to get company owners to partner with you.
This is a service to them because the less time their employees spend on deciding what to eat, the more money they save.
If that isn’t possible, then ask for permission to drop some flyers at the front desk or in a break room.
Food halls are becoming quite popular around the country, especially in cities like Chicago and New York. Think of them as a more modern, trendy version of a food court. Leasing or licensing a space in a food hall can be an affordable and low-risk way to give your food truck business a ton of exposure and sales.
Also consider food parks and office parks as ways that you can increase sales and exposure for your food truck business.
5. Offer mobile ordering
Online and mobile ordering can increase your food trucks sales for two reasons.
One, there is a large segment of your market, at least 69%, that would prefer to order their food ahead of time from their mobile device. 10% of Starbucks’ entire revenue comes from their mobile app and order ahead is a big part of that.
According to this survey below taken in 2017, 8% of the respondents said they definitly would use order ahead restaurants that they visit. And another 25% said that they probably would.
In “technology years”, 2017 was a decade ago and the order-ahead market has matured quite a bit since then. Ordering apps like Uber Eats, DoorDash and Postmates have grown popular in that time.
The second reason online and mobile ordering can increase your food truck sales is that people tend to spend more when they order food using their mobile device. Taco Bell has seen that orders from their mobile app are 20% higher on average than their in-store purchases. Two specific advantages of mobile ordering are that it:
- allows customers to be able to purchase upsells and add-ons on their own
- makes it easy to place an order for a large group without having to talk on the phone, which helps to increase the order value on mobile.
How to get mobile ordering for your food truck
Many of your customers are already using apps for order ahead in places like Panera Bread and Starbucks. Your food truck can tap into the mobile market for free by using an order ahead app like GoPheed.me, which is built specifically for food trucks.
Using an app like GoPheed.me gives you the ability to:
- Show your truck’s location in real-time, allowing you to hit multiple locations in one day without losing customers
- Take online orders immediately once people find you close by so they can actually spend their lunch break eating and not waiting
- Receive each order as a ticket right within your food truck from a free wireless printer so nothing is missed
- Export your tax reports in a couple of clicks so you don’t have to pull your hair out every 6 months (or quarter, year etc)
You can learn more about GoPheed.me here.
Order ahead provides a higher level of service to your customers. They will love you for it and tell their friends all about your business.
So to recap, we talked 5 about free ways to grow your food truck including:
- taking credit cards in person
- signing up for local food truck directories
- getting active on social media
- partnering with local businesses
- offering order ahead
Try to implement at least one of these five free marketing tactics for your food truck in the next 30 days and see how it positivly effects your business.