Today mobile food businesses are booming in popularity with both entrepreneurs and customers alike! The flexibility a food truck, food cart, or even food bike offers in terms of being able to go to where customers are as opposed to waiting for customers to come to them, is just one of the reasons why cooks, chefs, and passionate entrepreneurs are taking their food on the road.
For those with a standalone business, they can also become another opportunity to generate revenue and even be used to fulfill catering needs. Turning a mobile operation into a success requires a unique recipe. Many operators learn this the hard way, but you can benefit by avoiding the pitfalls of others simply by following some simple tips:
Research and Build a Solid Business Plan: Speak with mobile food operators and ask questions. Most operators are willing to speak about their experiences and will note the pitfalls to avoid. How did they get started? Where’s the best place to find financing and insurance? How much will it all cost? What permits will you have to have? How many sales will I need in order to turn a profit? How will you market yourself and get the word out about your operation? Who can assist you with your design and build needs?
The Menu: The menu is the ultimate key to success for all mobile operations. Food cost is a vital part to the equation, but so is the perceived value to the consumer. There are already many taco truck operators out there. Simply becoming another can be the nail in the coffin even before you begin unless you serve something truly different. Serving food quickly is another key to the success of mobile operations – part of that success comes by offering a limited and somewhat simple menu that is quick to prepare. Depending on the marketplace, another key element is being able to serve that food with a story. Is your food organic? Is the menu truly freshly prepared? Find a way to tell the story and what makes your operation unique.
The Heart of the Operation: Creating a mobile kitchen from which to serve from can be a challenging process if you’re not experienced. Many municipalities require operators to secure a commissary kitchen or a place in which to prepare your food and clean your food. Whether you’re starting with an existing food truck or trailer, buying a new one or attempting to navigate the waters of building your own mobile operation, many of the elements required in a mobile operation parallel that of a traditional establishment. Aside from the local code requirements that must be met, you must also consider plumbing, electrical systems which need to be inspected are important to safely operate a mobile operation. Equipment that can operate efficiently can be vital when operating in a mobile environment. The design must account for proper weight distribution and location of all the systems. Consider how you intend to operate the truck. Do you want the ability to run the truck off a generator or shore power? How long will the propane tank provide fuel to the equipment before it needs to be filled? Don’t forget to brand your operation: A plain truck just won’t cut it. Consider wrapping or painting the mobile operation with bright colors in order to bring awareness of your brand to capture the attention of the customer.
Location, location, location: In order to serve great food, an operator must find an audience in which to serve. Be certain to survey for locations that can be frequented by a solid and reliable customer base. Some cities have established or zoned areas in which this can be done, but forming a partnership with a local business or repair shop with all that traffic that goes by down the street could be good for everyone provided zoning allows it. Mixing up locations on different days may become a necessity in order to remain fresh. Consider industrial parks that may already employ a high number of employees and see if they have a need for fresh and fast food. Catering special events such as fairs or even weddings has been increasingly sought after.