5 Mistakes That Are Costing Your Food Truck Business

You'll be rolling in more dough if you can manage to avoid these.
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Even if your truck doesn't start serving until noon, showing up hours before will give people time to see your truck and smell your food. (Photo: nenetus/Shutterstock)

Running a food truck business is hard work. Don’t make it harder than it has to be.

Eric Weiner, president of FoodTrucksIn.com, a search website for mobile food trucks, shared five of the common mistakes owners make and how to avoid them.

Limiting the ways people can reach you

Being busy is no excuse for being inaccessible to customers — and potential clients. Many food trucks don’t post a phone number on their website, presumably because there’s no one to staff the phone. But a missed call could be a missed opportunity.

Try opening up lines of communication you’ve avoided. At the least, list your phone number and an email address on your website, along with links to your social media accounts.

“In today’s business world, especially if you’re running a small business and you’re trying to be active on social media, you must be prepared to communicate with people however they communicate with you,” said Weiner. And that includes social media. Remember, a response to a Facebook message could lead to more business.

“Even trucks that decide during peak season that they can’t handle communication multiple ways will find themselves with a lot of extra opportunities if, when they do have the time and they’re not busy, they open up to as much communication as possible because there’s that many more opportunities for people to contact them.”

Related: 4 Ways to Prepare Your Food Truck for the Busy Season

Not having a business plan

Many trucks, said Weiner, hit the road with just a rolling kitchen and a menu. But those he’s seen who spend the time and energy to write a business plan tend to be the most successful.

“You need to put some thought and effort into your branding and your marketing,” he said. “It’s better to try to do as much of that market research while you’re planning and starting your business before you actually get the truck on the road.”

Picking poor locations

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Communicate with other food truck owners to discover or develop known food truck locations. (Photo: alexfan32/Shutterstock)

“There is a sense that, if I have a great truck and great food, obviously I will have a great business. It’s really not that simple. Trucks really struggle with figuring out where they should park and where there are enough customers.”

As part of the research for your business plan, dig into the locations you’re considering. “Meet with other owners within the food truck community to understand if there are groups or associations that are helping trucks find locations.”

If you want to cultivate a new spot, be patient. It won’t become “known” right away. “You can’t go to a new spot that you think’s going to be good and expect to have a profitable day on day one. Sometimes it can take six or eight visits, or even months, to develop a new spot,” Weiner said.

Ignoring jobs that don’t meet your minimum

Operating a truck costs more than just the price of ingredients. Not calculating out how much it’s going to cost to send a truck out and operate it for a three or four hour lunch is a big mistake, said Weiner.

Or maybe you know your costs perfectly well but make another mistake: Not returning the emails or voicemails of people wanting to hire your truck for an event because their bid is too low. Many owners “just kind of let that opportunity sneak by and don’t do anything about it,” said Weiner. But it’s worth responding.

If the minimum payment you need to turn a profit is $500, explain that to the potential client. It’s possible he’ll be able to meet your demands.

“This comes up a lot when you start talking about holiday parties and small corporate events,” explained Weiner. “A lot of those companies have the budget to spend whatever your minimum is.” So if you call back and communicate that minimum, you may be in business.

Related: How to Cash in on the Food Truck Wedding

Arriving right on time

The final mistake: Not making the most of your time on location.

“A lot of times,” said Weiner, “if a truck is trying to be somewhere for 12:00 for lunch, they may not show up until 11:00 or 11:30 to set up.” Arrive earlier, he said, “especially at the beginning while a new truck’s trying to get to know a new location. If you get somewhere at 9:00 in the morning and you’re prepping on the truck, that’s an extra two or three hours of people walking by, seeing your truck and smelling your food.”

Another tip: “If you have three people in your truck and you’re not busy, get one of your employees to stand outside the truck and say hello to people who are walking by or offer them samples of your food.” A simple “hello” can “begin a conversation and get customers to stop and try your food.”

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