“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it, keep looking. Don’t settle.”- Steve Jobs
Last week we spoke about the requirements of obtaining your permits in order to make sure you are safely cruising the streets and serving customers with out hassle. But before you can get out there and spread the love, first you must decide on your concept. There are a lot of questions to answer when you’re trying to decide on the type of food you are going to serve. Here are the most important ones to keep in mind when deciding what kind of food truck you are going to run.
First thing is first, what do you like? – What would you do all day, every day, even if you didn’t get paid to do so. Well first, I would hope that your first answer is to run a food truck. If not, then we need to take a step back and reevaluate your passions. The next thing that should come to mind is, “What kind of food truck you would like to run every day?” What menu can you pour your heart and soul in to? What kind of restaurant fits your personality and character? What’s your favorite kind of food that you know better than anyone else you know? Do you have a culture from a different country that you can incorporate in to your menu? Find out where your passion burns so deep, that you’ll stop at nothing to keep going.
Is there a demand for it in your area? – You can have the best concept in the world but if no one is looking for it in your area then it will all be in vain. Make sure that you know what kind of people are around you and what they are looking for. For example, if you are doing shave ice, then you are going to want to be around schools, day cares and parks. You wouldn’t want to be in an industrial area or a street that is known for having the best bars in town. I know this from experience. My own personal truck is a Hawaiian Shave Ice truck. We were once offered a free spot in front of a car wash in the middle of midtown Houston on West Gray Street. This street is known for it’s bars and lounges. Every day that we spent there was just as bad as the last. Our only target in that area was to hopefully catch a drunk who for whatever reason wanted some shave ice after having a few beers. Needless to say we moved else where in less than a month. We studied our target market and decided to follow them. This leads me to my next point.
What is your customer demographic? If you are already dead set on what kind of food you are going to serve, then you must think about who you are trying to reach out to. Too many people make the mistake of thinking “Everyone is going to buy my product. I’m going to market to everyone!” This is a huuuuuggee mistake. The reality is that not everyone will be looking for your product but you can do some research to find out who is. This will help you channel your time, energy and resources on people that will yield you the highest return on your investment. You also want to make sure that you are as specific as possible! Don’t leave out any detail. Describe your ideal customer as much as you can. Find out what they like. Where they typically hang around. What kind of words would attract them to gravitate to your truck. What kind of magazines they read (you can use this to possibly promote yourself in those magazines down the road if they are local magazines). What kind of music they like (if there is a concert in town with your customers favorite artist you might be able to attend as a vendor). You should also find out income levels, sex and marital status of your ideal customer.
Why is yours different?
Onolicious Hawaiian Shave Ice | Follow on Facebook
In the restaurant industry there are hardly any new ideas. You will most likely be starting a concept that someone has already thought about and is currently in business. This is perfectly fine, however, you want to add something to make you different from the rest of your competition. For example, here is what sets my shave ice apart from everyone else ” Here at Onolicious we don’t sell snow cones or your average shave ice. We sell an organic and gourmet style of shave ice brought to you from the islands of Hawaii. Our ice isn’t like your usual snow cones. It’s as soft as the snow that you would find on the summit of Mauna Loa, dressed with our hand crafted syrups which are made from freshest organic fruits we could find. Not only will every bite make you feel like you are in paradise but you can be sure you are getting the highest quality syrups to resemble the healthy life style that is lived on the islands. Onolicious Hawaiian Shave Ice is a bit of Hawaii brought to you and a taste of heaven in your mouth.” Try to come up with a description just like this to explain what sets you apart from your competition and make this your mission statement to live by!
How can you keep it as simple as possible?
One of my favorite entrepreneurs to study is Steve Jobs. What intrigues me most about Jobs is his uncanny gift of being able keep things simple but better than anyone else. This is exactly how you want to run your food truck. Find a way to keep your menu short but make every dish better than anyone else and then find a way to take it a step further to make it stand out. A common mistake that many new food trucks make is to try to have a huge expansive menu and not be able to perfect any of them because they tried to appeal to too many people. Find your niche of people you are trying to serve and simply become the best at doing so. Another reason to keep things simple is for storage space and shorter wait times. As big as food trucks look, many people don’t realize how small the kitchen is. This means that you will have limited storage space for all of your ingredients and kitchen tools. A huge menu can make it very hard to keep enough ingredients on the truck which means that you want to make sure to only make room for what sells. Wait times are also very important. Street food is still considered fast food which means that customers will want their food…well…fast. If you keep your menu simple and make your items easy to cook you will be able to handle more customers in a shorter amount of time which will result in a larger reach and faster growth.
“The path to success is to take massive, determined action.” – Tony Robbins
Now that you have answered these questions, here are a few actions steps to take, in order to get one step closer to your dream business.
- Make a List- The best thing to do first, is to brain storm by just writing it all down. Jot down every item you would like to serve and highlight your favorite ones. Keep in mind that you don’t have to go with anything typical. You can get as creative as you want. Write down some dishes that you yourself have come up with and then write down some classic dishes that you could improve or prepare differently.
- Put the Pieces Together- Find out what goes together and what goes with the BRAND you are trying to build. I emphasize the word BRAND because this should be your overall focus. The goal is never to simply build a product but to create a great brand that people can fall in love with. Find the common factor between all your dishes and layout one brilliant puzzle with each dish being a small piece of it.
- Study the Competition- As I stated before, there is probably someone out there who is already doing something similar to what you are doing. Take advantage of this and go visit them while taking notes. Find out what they do best and what they need to improve on. Exploit their weaknesses, use the information to dominate and become numero uno. After all, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”
- Analyze- When deciding what items to keep on your menu, ask yourself a couple of questions:
- How much can you keep in your food truck?
- Will you need additional storage to keep food elsewhere and if so do you have the budget to pay for that every month?
- How fast can you make each item?
- How many items can you make at the same time?
- Can you keep your food cost at 30% or less?
- How much are people willing to pay for your dishes?
- If you created something new, do people actually like it?
- Can you actually prepare these items easily on a food truck?
- How long can your ingredients be kept without them going bad?
- Does these items tie in to the overall brand you are trying to build?
- Create Your Menu- At this step you should be able to narrow down your best items to include in your menu. Use the three P’s to determine which items would be best. You want to make each item as Pleasant, Pronto and Profitable as possible. Choose about 10 items that fit this criteria and go from there.
To me, building a brand is definitely one of the funnest parts of starting a food truck but its also the most critical. You are essentially creating a map to go on one of the most important journeys of your life and you want to make sure it leads to your destination, which is success. Keep in mind that anyone that has been down an unknown road has run in to some dead ends but always found a detour that led them straight back on the road. Don’t be to concerned with perfecting this right now. After all the most important thing is to take action and find out what works and what doesn’t. It is only after we go through much trials and errors that we can begin to perfect our businesses.
“It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”
― Franklin D. Roosevelt, Looking Forward
For a list of Food Truck concepts to get your mind going click here.