Food Trucking in the Pandemic - What to do now?
The food truck business is split in half right now. There are some out there who will claim that there has never been a better time to be in business. The other side will tell you that they don’t know how they’re going to survive. Half of the market is choosing to look at the positives of food trucks: mobility, not having to worry about their dine in business, and literally offering curbside takeout. The other half is wondering what they’ll do as 100% of their revenue previously relied on walk up traffic.
This post is for food trucks around the country looking to persevere through a national pandemic and continue to build great businesses. By learning from other food trucks who are weathering the crisis, you can absolutely thrive in today’s world.
If your truck is sitting idle right now, the first thing you should do is equip yourself with a contactless ordering solution that fits your brand. Customers are demanding an ordering experience that has zero touchpoints besides actually picking up their food. For their safety and the safety of your staff, you should demand it too. A mobile ordering solution will limit the interactions with customers as much as possible, including order taking and payment.
It’s important to let guests quickly place their order via their smartphone. Customers have to be able to order in advance as well as when they’re walking by. Ideally, your ordering solution should automatically update your guests on their order status while it’s being prepared.
It sounds like a lot but we can take a look at a successful food truck launched by Wayfare Tavern in SF to see what they’re doing. They’ve set up a contactless text-to-order system using the Texthood where the customer can simply text a number to place an order. Judging from their website customers are flocking to it, and they’ve been selling out the past several Fridays and Saturdays.
In the food truck game, social media is crucial. Leveraging location based technology and creating engaging content that allows you to interact with your audience is key. This transparency and engagement will build loyalty and make customers seek you out to support you during these trying times.
If you’re on the road, you should be posting your location everyday. Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat all have location based posting where you can make a post that reaches an audience within a mile of where you’re setting up for the day. Everyone’s at home with nothing to do. Give them a reason to get out of the house.
If you’re not on the road keep engaging content going. As an example, look at Mexicue food truck based out of NYC. They run quarterly contests where they give an ingredient and ask customers to submit recipes. Then they have everyone vote on the best submissions and the winner of the contest not only receives a hefty gift card, they get bragging rights by having their dish on the menu.
Neighborhood Delivery Service
If the crowds aren’t coming to you, go to them. To compensate for a drop in catering and events business, dedicate yourself to delivery. I’ve seen a lot of food trucks offer this but not in the traditional sense. They are taking preorders for delivery before they even get to the spot and are able to make preparations in advance. During the shift they have staff drop off the orders.
It’s great exposure, provides a lot of good will in the neighborhoods you’re serving and can keep the crowds controlled which is important right now. Most of these delivery food trucks coincidentally also have family meal deals which results in higher average tickets. On top of that, customers appreciate the effort which will be reflected in the gratuity. Doing the delivery yourself without going through a 3rd party app if you can is much better for your bottom line, since you won’t have to give up 30% of your ticket.
Your new health policies have to dispel the old image of a food truck with people crowded around ordering and waiting for their food. Make sure you have clear and visible signage about social distancing when picking up food. Make sure your staff is wearing the necessary PPE, all surfaces in and out of the truck are spotless, and that you increase the frequency of regular cleaning.
These are trying times for everyone in the industry, but with careful planning, smart strategies, and perseverance it’s possible to survive and even grow during the crisis. We’re rooting for you!