Running a food truck is not easy – the permits, the staffing, the regulations and so many other things are challenges. However, if you like to get up close and personal to your customers and enjoy the mobility of running a business – a food truck could be a great option for you.
NCR Silver spent some time with Happy Belly, a food truck in Atlanta and documented their day in this video.
Here’s a few tips from NCR in running a successful food truck business:
Know your regulations
Many local governments want to see food trucks succeed. But it takes time for laws that were written decades ago for brick-and-mortar restaurants to catch up.
Adjacent cities and counties can sometimes have different rules on safety, parking and more. Fees can also vary widely.
“Be sure to know each city’s and county’s rules first,” said Justin Hotard, president of NCR Small Business. “Compliance can sometimes be so time-consuming that it may be best to dedicate one person full-time to handle licensing, permitting and other regulatory requirements during the initial few months.”
Get creative with parking
With a mobile business, location is everything. To combat parking restrictions in certain communities, many food truck vendors are generating additional income by offering catering services.
The industry also is seeing an increase in free market options, such as “pods” in San Francisco, where trucks can park in public spaces and not worry about breaking local rules.
Bottom line, know the market options in the communities you serve – some are better than others – to minimize parking hassles and maximize customer reach.
Build – and maintain – your brand
The most successful food trucks have unique brands, which include everything from the menu and logo to truck design. Given the mobile nature of food trucks, letting fans know where you’re going each day is crucial. Social media is a prime vehicle for this, as well as overall customer engagement.
Loyalty programs also help. It’s beneficial for a loyalty program to work seamlessly with the checkout process – automatically tracking rewards with each sale, so customers see what they’ve earned, and have added incentive to come back. Loyalty integration eliminates punch cards and disparate programs.
“You need several ingredients to run a successful food truck – good service, amazing food and passion,” Hotard said. “The element tying all of this together is your brand. Staying consistent with your brand and continually engaging customers increases your likelihood of long-term success.”
For more industry stats and insider views, check out “#GetRolling America: 2014 Food Truck Facts” infographic and “Rolling with Happy Belly Curbside Kitchen: A Day in the Life of a Food Truck” video.