Running a food truck is never easy, but thriving during food truck festivals — that’s a whole other challenge. These events are a terrific opportunity to generate revenue, but they also put stress on your menu, systems, and employees. Let’s explore some ways you can set yourself up for success at the next big festival.
Food truck festivals aren’t your typical events. The people who attend them are food truck savvy and can easily spot when a truck isn’t serving an efficient menu. To ensure that you appear skilled and professional, and to maximize efficiency and revenue, take a careful look at your menu and ask yourself these questions.
- Should I scale down the menu? Extreme circumstances can call for extreme measures. Even if your slowest items aren’t actually that slow to make, they may still be worth trimming to help you maintain high speed during the rush. It also keeps things simple for customers and enables you to bulk-buy ingredients for greater discounts.
- Are my items priced strategically? Food truck festivals are exhilarating for foodies partly because there are so many foods to sample. By having a couple low-cost items, you lower the barrier of entry for people hopping from one truck to the next.
- Can I offer an event-exclusive menu without losing efficiency? Exclusivity sells, but if you sacrifice efficiency for a couple special items, you’ll lose the gains those items brought you when customers walk away from your long line.
Striking a balance between price, diversity, and simplicity isn’t easy, but it’s not something you cannot afford to take lightly. Give yourself a couple hours to run the numbers, evaluate the speed of certain items, and create a strategic menu.
Once your place in a food truck festival has been established, it’s time to dig deep into the promotion phase. When the festival begins, you’ll be surrounded by other trucks trying to lure in customers, so even a small amount of proactive marketing weeks before the event can go a long way.
Social media is the obvious way to get your name in front of potential festival foodies. Every business will go this route—and you should too. Here are a few ways you can stick out on social media when it comes to promoting for the festival specifically:
- Use relevant hashtags for the festival
- Engage with regular people who are excited about the event
- Post pictures of your menu beforehand
- Promote event-exclusive items
- Tell people your trucks’ location during the festival
Another way to give yourself an edge before the event is to partner with another attending food truck. Similarly to how you may cross-promote with different retail locations in a way that’s mutually beneficial, partnering with complimentary food trucks at the festival provides you both an easy, inexpensive way to attract new customers.
To understand the best types of businesses to collaborate with, you need to know your target market. Once you know who your audience is, what they like, what they buy, and where they go, you can start brainstorming other ventures that may attract the same type.
For example, cross-promoting your burrito truck with an exotic churro truck a few spots over can create a dish-dessert combo that resonates with customers and contributes to the growth of both businesses.
Chaos in the kitchen is the fastest way to kill productivity, extend lines, and lose customers. Scrutinize every step of the customer journey, from line waiting and menu reading, to ordering, to receiving the order. Wherever you find a bottleneck in the system, do something about it—or face the consequences come the next rush.
Here are a few common problems you can avoid with a bit of foresight:
- Orders not getting passed to the cooks smoothly. Pen and paperwork when things are slow, but during the chaos of a food truck festival, it’s safer to pass orders along automatically using a digital screen. This keeps everything in order, eliminates the risks of bad handwriting, and ensures no orders get lost underneath the stovetop.
- Customers wondering if their order’s been forgotten. Give your customers a way of knowing when they can expect their food to be ready. This often means giving a quick verbal time estimate, but the best way to keep customers patient, especially at big events, is to use an automated numbering system.
- Promising food you don’t have. The person at the register doesn’t always know exactly what’s left in the cooking area, which can lead to upset customers if you’re not careful. A POS system that tracks inventory keeps you from accidentally promising what you can’t deliver.
- Losing internet and not being able to accept credit card payments. Large events tend to make WiFi and cell service inconsistent, and losing your ability to accept credit cards can alienate customers by the dozens. Find a POS system with an ‘offline mode’ for these stressful circumstances.
Accounting for these potential issues one-by-one is possible, but the most efficient way to make sure you don’t fall into one of these traps is by adopting a POS system designed for food trucks with all these solutions already incorporated.
If you’ve slimmed down your menu, you may be able to capitalize on some bulk discounts. We suggest leaning hard into those discounts. Don’t just buy extra. Buy far more than you think you could ever need, because running out of ingredients or supplies can mean thousands of lost dollars in revenue and hundreds of potential customers not reached. If possible, find someone who can be available that day to make last-minute runs to the store—just in case.
The big day’s coming up, and you really don’t want to be caught unprepared. You spent hundreds of dollars on your reservation, may pay a small percentage of sales to the event organizers, and are going to be in front of hundreds or thousands of hungry people. Do as much prep-work as you can the week leading up to the event and set yourself up for an efficient festival day.
The usually incorrect “make it and they will come” adage isn’t exactly wrong in this scenario. At food truck festivals, customers actually do come to you. However, when there are dozens of options to choose from, you still have to make your business stand out.
- Get eyes on your menu. Have someone pass out menus to folks in line or wandering close to your food truck. Make sure your signs and prices are readable from far away.
- Don’t be afraid to get vocal. Call out your menu, declare your specials proudly, and engage with passersby. The more attention you bring (without becoming irritating), the most people will consider your truck.
- Don’t settle for normal. Plain trucks can serve delicious food, but they don’t generate the attention that more wild, weird, and colorful trucks do. Play noticeable music. Dress up in eye-catching costumes. Give all your customers bracelets—whatever it takes to drum up attention.
It’s your moment to shine (and make some serious cash). Make the most of it.
Minor logistics problems turn into big headaches when you discover them on festival days. Here are a few things you should check up on before the big day:
- Up-to-date insurance and an additional certificates for the event organizers
- Proof of food service training and food safety compliance
- A full tank of gas + extra gas for your equipment
Double-checking shouldn’t take too long and will keep you from setting up shop only to discover you’re not approved for service.
Preparing for food truck festivals can be stressful. The pressure’s on, customers have high expectations, and big money’s on the line. But all things aside, you need to make sure that customer satisfaction is your #1 priority.
The easiest way to keep your customers happy is to carefully tailor every step of their journey, from ordering, to waiting, to receiving food. And the easiest and most affordable way to accomplish all that is to use an integrated POS system that’s specifically designed with food trucks in mind.