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The possibilities are endless when it comes to what types of food you can serve from a food truck. Most food trucks have a smaller menu with hyper-focused specialities to accommodate the capabilities of a smaller kitchen and prep space.
We’ll cover some examples of food truck concepts to inspire you, and then get into some of the other details about running a food truck - finding a location, scoping out competition, finding your customers, and creating a memorable food truck brand.
Decide Which Type of Food You Want to Serve
Here are a few ideas for types of food you could sling from your food truck window:
Barbecue Food Truck
This American standard is a crowd pleaser. If smoked meats and curated sauces are your thing, a barbeque food truck business could be a good idea.
Example: Oink and Moo BBQ
Fusion Food Truck
From Korean-Southern BBQ to Filipino food with a Mexican twist, the world is your oyster. A fusion food truck is a good idea for anyone looking to create a creative menu and think outside of the box.
Example: White Rabbit
American Regional Food Truck
Do you love the idea of perfecting the Philly Cheese Steak or a New England Lobster Roll? There are so many different cuisine styles to inspire you in the U.S. Consider focusing on a regional cuisine and offering a few variations.
Example: Bred’s Nashville Hot Chicken
Waffles Food Truck
Waffles are a well-loved treat that can be served sweet, savory, or both. Waffles are fairly simple to create and you can serve them in a variety of creative ways.
Example: Waffle Amore
Burger Food Truck
Ahh...an American classic. While experts argue about what makes the best burger, you can be certain that a tasty burger is sure to draw crowds no matter what the ingredients. If you want to take a simple concept and make it great, this could be the right food truck cuisine for you.
Example: Macho Burger
Ice Cream Food Truck
Some argue that the ice cream truck is the original food truck. While this is debatable, it's certain that the ice cream truck with its traveling tunes is iconic. With an ice cream truck, you can serve up scoops, ice cream sandwiches, or gourmet popsicles.
Smoothies and Juice Food Truck
Offering healthier options can draw in lots of people. If healthy options are your jam, consider creating a smoothie and juice bar truck. You can offer things like acai and pitaya bowls or stick to the classic smoothie format.
Example: Bowl’d Acai
Pizza Food Truck
Pizza can be made using a variety of methods, and most of them can be modified to be mobile. If you fancy throwing dough up in the air and creating winning topping combinations, a pizza-focused food truck could be the way to go.
Example: Pyro Pizza
Panini and Sandwich Food Truck
There are many different options out there for a sandwich-focused food truck. One popular iteration of this concept is the grilled cheese truck. But, you could find all different sorts of sandwiches to put on your menu — let your creative juices flow and see what you come up with.
Example: Ms. Cheezious
Baked Goods Food Truck
Satisfy your customer's sweet tooth by offering a selection of baked goods. You could do cupcakes, funnel cakes, cannolis, pastries, cookies, and pretty much anything else sweet and delicious.
Example: Mannino’s Cannoli Express
Think About the Market You Want to Serve
Restaurant owners of all kinds find the most success when they focus on a specific market and serve that market well. You may attract customers outside of your market, but your main focus is serving those customers in your target market.
A target market is a group of people with certain characteristics that you can identify as potential customers for your products. A target market helps you make focused decisions when deciding on how you will market yourself, what you'll sell, and how you will separate your business from competitors already in the space.
Consider these factors when deciding on your target market:
Where do you plan to park your truck?
Who lives in the area you will serve?
How would you like to market your business?
Who will be most interested in your restaurant concept?
What will be your main operating hours?
Each decision for your food truck business should be made to please your target market. If the target market wouldn’t be drawn by the idea, then you may want to reconsider.
For example, if your target market is Gen Z college students and you are considering Facebook as your main avenue for marketing, you probably want to think again. According to a study done by Statista, Gen Z and Millennials are more likely to open Snapchat, YouTube, or TikTok first when they choose a social media app. Facebook is the least likely choice for these generations. Make sure each choice for your business makes sense for your target market.
To learn more, read this article on finding your restaurant target market.
One of the key advantages to starting a food truck versus a brick and mortar location — aside from the relative affordability — is the ability to move around. You don’t have to find the perfect retail location because you can change your location regularly.
However, you will need to choose an area or region where you can operate. And, some food trucks do decide to have permanent locations in something like a food truck pod near an office space or public park.
When choosing the area in which to operate consider these questions:
Are there places where you can legally park and operate your food truck business? What's the permitting process like for those spaces?
Is there enough foot traffic to sustain your business?
Where will you park your truck when you are closed?
Where will you do prep work? Many states require prep to be done in a commissary kitchen, but check your local laws before you proceed.
What will your fuel costs be?
Does the area have enough people in your target market?
Consider all the factors of various locations to determine a region or location that will be best for your food truck business. You can experiment with different places to open up shop in that region, but you should have an idea of an area you want to operate in.
For any business, including a food truck business, attracting and retaining customers is one of the most important factors. If you don’t have customers, your business won’t last long.
Think about different types of customers you could serve. It’s helpful to think about this in conjunction with your location and target market. Do you see yourself serving late-night college students? Corporate employees in business parks at lunchtime? Tourists in a downtown area?
Plan out who you would like to serve. Determine where you need to be and at what time of day to serve them. Consider also what type of customer your menu might serve best. Greasy burgers and fries might not be best to serve the lunchtime gym-goers, for example. As mentioned above, figure out where to reach these customers and build that into your food truck marketing plan.
Once you've established your food truck business ideas, you’ll want to spend some time thinking about the competition. A competitor is any business offering a similar product or service to you. Your competitors could be other food trucks operating in the same area or brick and mortar restaurants.
Let’s say you decide to open a taco truck. You could be competing with two other taco trucks in town, a taco window in a nearby area, and multiple nearby Mexican restaurants. All of these businesses offer something that is the same or similar to what you offer with your taco truck.
Business owners of all kinds find it helpful to research competitors and how they do business. Having competitors doesn't mean you have to give up on your business idea. It simply means you need to find a way to differentiate your business from similar businesses in your area.
Knowing your competitors, along with your target market, will both be part of your food truck business plan, which will be your north star throughout the whole process.
Consider Your Food Truck Branding
Your unique brand is one thing that will help you separate yourself from competitors operating in the same space as you — it’s a big part of your food truck marketing plan.
A restaurant brand is the unique name, color scheme, look, and any other characteristic that distinguishes your business from other similar businesses.
You can take your branding in many directions with a food truck. A food truck generally has a more relaxed vibe due to the nature of the business. Here are some components to consider in your food truck business branding:
Type of food truck (i.e. retro van, box truck, bicycle cart, etc.)
Voice and tone of marketing collateral
General vibe and culture
Whatever you decide when it comes to your branding, be sure to make a plan for what you want your branding to communicate to your customer. Make sure that each component you customize for your brand communicates the message you would like.
Make It Unique
Your branding is one component that can help your business stand out among competitors, but what else can you do stand out among the crowd? In other words, what is your niche?
Let’s go back to your imaginary taco truck as an example. There are a lot of things you could do to make a taco truck unique. Here are a few ideas:
Vegan taco truck
Taco fusion (i.e. Filipino tacos)
Unique taco construction (i.e. All of your tortillas are stuffed with cheese)
Build your own tacos (no set menu, customers get to design their own taco creations)
Get creative and think of ways you can set your food truck business apart. Just remember, you want to make your business unique in an appealing way. Combine an understanding of your target market and your competitors to find a unique factor that will draw more people in. This will help you attract more customers and build a strong business.
Check For Availability
Once you have established all these components for your food truck business, you will need to do the administrative work too. Choose a business name and check to see if it's available. You also want to determine if the website domain and social media handles for your business name are available.
If your desired business name or its corresponding website is not available, you may want to play around with different names. For marketing purposes, you want to have a name that easily connects to your website and social media so that potential customers can find you online without a hassle.
Have These Food Truck Ideas Got You Thinking?
If you're feeling ready to take the leap, read our thorough guide on how to start a food truck business. And if you'll be building your own truck instead of buying one, read on with How to Build a Food Truck. Finally, once you've thought it through and decided it's time to get your equipment set up, choose a food truck POS system that's portable, easy to update, and will help you get started on the right foot — and help your business grow and thrive.
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