It sounds great; hitting the road and selling the most delicious food along the way. But is it really all fun and games or is there more to it than meets the eye? Arjan has seen a lot of food trucks succeed, but he’s also seen his fair share of flops. We picked his brain on the dos and don’ts of owning a successful food truck to help you decide whether it’s smart to hop on the truck or let this trend pass you by.
Food truck 101
Let’s start with the basics… “The very first food trucks were set up by people who wanted to elevate food served at festivals,” Arjan explains. “Now, more and more food trucks are popping up at a rapid pace, as people are looking for new eating experiences.” When you look up the definition of a food truck, Google says it’s ‘a restaurant or cafeteria on wheels’. “Well,” says Arjan, “that might be true, but for us it’s so much more. We see it as an experience. That’s why we only work with independent food truck operators who serve fresh, local products and have a good story to tell.”
Time to hit the gas, or not?
Running a restaurant with an extra set of wheels shouldn’t be too hard, right? “I don’t want to discourage people, but making a living out of a food truck is a real challenge. In a restaurant, you can take reservations so you know who’s coming, you have a large fridge at your disposal, plenty of space to store ingredients, and a well-trained team of staff members. In a food truck, you focus on passers-by and your menu should be small and ingredients limited, so you can handle the shift with no more than two chefs in a very small working space. “You have to make a lot of money in a very short timeframe. There’s no time to offer eight different types of meat, fifteen toppings, and six sauces, or to socialise with your customers. You’ll have to push yourself to the limit in order to serve as many meals as possible to level out the costs and make a decent profit.”
Starting with a food truck therefore requires a solid plan. Ask yourself, what do you want to focus on? Do you want to serve festival crowds, work at business events and weddings, or is offering a daily lunch at various large companies your ‘thing’? This depends on the people you’d like to reach and how you want to earn your money. “I always say: you have championship, premier league and champions league food trucks and they all have a different price tag and target audience. Choose wisely.” OK, so we’ve been through the downsides of owning a food truck, but what are the upsides? Arjan laughs: “There are lots, I promise, but here are the four biggest ones.”
- You can use your stock in a smart way. Let’s say you have some leftover curry, which was part of your Wednesday menu. You can now serve this curry the next day as a lunch meal on your food truck. Bye bye leftovers!
- You can offer your staff different shifts. Food trucks mainly operate during lunch and early in the evening. This means that you can let (new) staff work in the afternoon as well. Spreading shifts has never been so easy.
- You can boost your restaurant’s marketing and brand experience. If you look at your food truck as a small extension of your restaurant, you’ll find it’s a great way to showcase your name and delicious flavours to a new audience. Are they enthusiastic? We bet you’ll see them in your restaurant as well.
- You can A-B test your dishes and pricing model in real life. A food truck can be a great testing ground to discover if the public’s taste matches the dishes you want to serve in your restaurant. Your food truck can serve as a kind of lean start-up that gives you great insights. And the same goes for your pricing strategy; is it more effective to work with combo deals or use round prices instead of 99-distractions? Just test it!
The last take away
In the food truck business, the usual home delivery meals work best. Think of fries, hamburgers or pizzas. But what if you want to stand out from the crowd? Arjan works with a truck that makes celeriac kebab and one that only serves flavourful aubergine dishes. Arjan smiles. “That’s what I love; surprising and bold choices, made by specialists who serve unique, consistently high-quality dishes, even after 80 servings.”
Arjan de Hoon
Food trucks are booming but back in 2015, there wasn’t a single food truck platform. Arjan recognised the opportunity and started the food truck hub ‘ToetToetFood’, becoming the middleman for over 400 food trucks in the Netherlands and Belgium.
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