Whether you’re scrolling through Instagram or venturing into your local city, you’re likely to have heard of, walked by, or even frequented a food truck establishment. According to the Census Bureau, the number of operable food trucks in the United States doubled from 2013 to 2018 with expected growth well into the future. When many restaurants struggled to maintain operations during the pandemic, food trucks provided additional flexibility and revenue to remain successful.
You may find a food truck nearly anywhere — at various work sites, downtown street corners, college campuses, festivals, street fairs, and more. Depending on the business strategy, a food truck operation may serve as a standalone operation, an extension of a catering service, or a popular outpost for people on the go — providing an easy, quick, and delicious meal in a compact portable format.
For high-end restaurants, a food truck arm introduces more expensive cuisine in a down-to-earth setting with smaller portions at slightly lower prices. This strategy aims to attract new customers to the physical restaurant for the extended menu mix — building brand awareness and developing a loyal customer base. In any case, a food truck is the ultimate mobile food operation that both young college graduates and seasoned professionals love pursuing.
No surprises here — entrepreneurs in the foodservice industry find the idea of launching a food truck business appealing, despite the initial and ongoing challenges the pandemic continues to present. When you talk to your friends and family, you may hear that many are eager to return to normal life — visiting their favorite businesses and restaurants and creating new memories. As businesses reopen and we, as a society, begin to venture out, the time is now for savvy upstarts to consider this opportunity — developing a food truck business plan.
Ready to start a food truck business? Develop a comprehensive and thorough business plan, including a market and competitive analysis, menu offering, financial projections, among others. A crucial component of your business plan is your marketing plan — how you intend to build your brand, attract and retain your target audience, and build loyalty.
Develop a Strong Food Truck Marketing Plan for Your Food Truck Business
To develop your business acumen and skills within the foodservice industry, consider earning your degree in food and beverage entrepreneurship. With a degree, you position yourself for success in your new venture with a comprehensive understanding of business planning, management strategies, and marketing tactics.
Next step? Significant planning — from an executive summary and clear marketing plan to extensive financial projections and requests for funding. Within your marketing plan, you must outline how you plan to promote your business, menu items, and availability — physically and within set time periods — for your customers to line up and enjoy your delicious offerings. Awareness is a key component to success — creating loyalty and a returning customer base — coupled with delicious food options and memorable experiences.
Let’s review a few elements to consider in your food truck marketing plan.
With more than 4,000 food trucks across the U.S. as of February 2021, you can expect to face some competition in your area. Conducting a strong competitor analysis helps you gain valuable insights about the existing market in order to differentiate your business and stand out among the crowd. Learn as much as possible about your competitors by asking these questions:
- Who are your competitors?
- What are their strengths and weaknesses regarding food quality, marketing strategy, social media marketing, promotions, and more?
- Which food truck businesses in the area have the strongest performance?
- What are the market opportunities and potential threats?
- Are other food trucks selling the same cuisine type that you plan to offer?
- Who are your competitors’ target audiences?
- What are customers saying? How are your competitors’ reviews?
- Do they have advertisements in local papers, on popular websites, and on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter? Do they share regular photos on Instagram and place themselves as industry influencers in your area or nationally?
- What are their SEO and keyword strategies?
- Where do they set up for business? Do they have a regular daily location, or do they set up for special events?
Learn as much as possible about your competitors to become one of the 85% of owners bringing in between $100,000-150,000 annually.
Establish Your Brand
- Once you have learned as much as possible about your competitors, it’s time to establish your mobile food service brand. As you develop your brand, consider these core components: What type of food or cuisine do you plan to offer?
- How will you appeal to your target audience’s appetite and lifestyle? Do you need vegan, vegetarian, low-cab, or omnivore dietary options?
- What equipment will you need to support your business plan? For example, a grill, freezer, range, fryer, etc.
- Does your financial plan allow you to implement your intended brand?
- Does your brand and menu pricing align with your target audience’s budget?
While these considerations might lean toward the mundane, they offer insights into what is possible for your business, your brand, and your marketing goals. According to The Balance, your brand helps you deliver a clear message, confirm credibility, connect with prospects on a meaningful level, motivate hungry customers to stop by your food truck, and convert your first-time guests into loyal repeat customers.
Build a Website
If you’re launching a mobile food truck separate from a physical restaurant, you need to build a website to provide centralized and reliable information your customers need to find you. Some food truck businesses also build a Facebook page, among other social media channels, to serve as a ‘website’ — however, you increase your chances of success when you build an official website with a branded domain.
If you only use social media channels, you don’t actually own your brand — at least in the eyes of your customers and prospects. When looking to venture for new cuisine, customers may struggle to find businesses without branded websites — making them wonder if they really are in business. Additionally, keep in mind not only your target audience, but who their friends and family are — not everyone uses social media as a primary source of information for new businesses. When you use a social media channel as your primary website, you may isolate new customers who do not have accounts to access the information they need.
Keep in mind that your website allows you to define your brand in an attractive and unique way for your customers, while showcasing brand personality and voice.
Additional website considerations include:
- Focus on SEO, or search engine optimization, to drive traffic to your website by developing strong and meaningful content through a blog. Ensure that your business comes up when visitors search for keywords specific to your business strategy in your area, such as ‘the best burgers in Providence’ or ‘top breakfast food trucks in Charlotte.’
- Rely on Google My Business to help drive customer engagement locally, regionally, and nationally. With over 200 million searches daily and ranked as the number one search engine, Google allows business owners to create a business profile for individuals to identify and visit your site.
- Announce key events and partnerships with other local businesses, while also advertising on social media channels.
Once you determine how you plan to differentiate your business from your competition, who your target customers are, and how to develop a website, you’ll need to create an advertising plan — informing new customers of who you are and what you offer in the places they reside and frequent.
Essentially, your advertising considerations must answer this question: How do you plan to attract new customers and develop a loyal customer base who may otherwise visit your competitors? What advertising and marketing tactics will you implement to create awareness and conversion to your food truck? Entrepreneur shares that strong advertising relies on your creativity to inform others of your business, management, personality, and the type and quality of food in a clever manner. When you ask others about food trucks, they often speak about the quality of food and the experience. Otherwise, they might pack a lunch that serves their dietary preferences in a budget-friendly manner.
- A few advertising considerations to keep in mind include:
- Choosing your name wisely and with a touch of whimsy to ensure memorability. Examples include Be More Pacific in Austin, TX, specializing in Filipino cuisine, and Serial Grillers in Tuscon, AZ, specializing in classic American fare.
- Establish a social media presence on various platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Depending on your audience, you may also consider Snapchat and TikTok as well. Understand the audience, usage, and engagement differences for each channel. For example, Instagram users are more likely to utilize specific hashtags to find new influencers, brands, and restaurants, whereas Facebook users are likely to ask for recommendations in a post. On LinkedIn, you can provide a more straightforward profile of your business among fellow entrepreneurs. On Twitter, you can conduct games and contests to facilitate quick and easy engagement.
- Consider hiring a professional food photographer and videographer to develop an “evergreen” library of content to utilize.
- Consider launching giveaways or contests, encouraging follower engagement, to create excitement and attract new customers.
- Research food influencers in your area on Instagram and create new relationships. Today’s consumers value the opinions and experiences of their peers — research shows that influencer marketing often yields higher results than branded marketing.
- Consider festivals, concerts, and other events your target audience may visit — ask about sponsorship opportunities to improve awareness.
- Create an event plan for your local area — look at your competitors’ event histories as a starting point.
Brand Loyalty Program
There are brand loyalty programs for nearly every type of business — food services are no exception. Brand loyalty programs encourage and reward customer retention with incentives, such as a free meal or beverage after 10 visits. Consider creating stamp cards or a digital wallet option, like Google Pay or Apple Wallet, and to see happy faces return to your food truck counter.
Consider Online Ordering or an App
Once you’ve established awareness and a loyal customer following, consider online ordering or a mobile app as an alternative option for your customers. There may be times where your customers cannot venture to your food truck, but are hungry for your delicious meals. You might worry about how much time it will take to manage online ordering via your website or a mobile app while servicing customers at your truck, but consider the importance of such services in light of the pandemic. Many of us are online for a large portion of the day and appreciate the value and convenience of online ordering. As you build your business, providing this service to your customers will add to your marketing value and position — keep this in mind during your journey.
The presence and success of food trucks will continue to grow over time, but a solid business strategy and clear marketing plan are essential. Ready to launch your success in this growing area? Earn your bachelor’s degree in food and beverage entrepreneurship to learn more about starting your own food truck, or earn your bachelor’s degree in marketing to sharpen your marketing skills. Complete the Request Info form, call 855-JWU-1881, or email [email protected].